Written by Joshua Jenkins
After ending as what must be considered a respectable campaign in finishing 9th and the stability entrusted by Dean Smith to go with it, Brentford had all of the foundations laid to add another fine layer of niche acquisitions to a team that by the end of the season truly looked capable of going toe to toe with any opponent in the Championship.
The summer window the season before had appeared nothing short of calamitous at the time, with Mark Warburton’s departure being confirmed and the appointment of unknown Marinus Dijkhuizen also announced, Brentford fans – like myself, were fearing for the worst and after captain Jonathan Douglas was ruthlessly shown the door, the bees were quickly becoming a laughing stock to rival fans and even to some of their own. I’ll try not to bring too much back from 2015/2016 season as bar a few derby wins and March onwards, there really wasn’t much to shout about. Two overwhelming positives from last season was the signing of Ryan Woods from Shrewsbury who has turned many heads since his move and continued to do so this term, really blossoming into a true dictator of play and a real joy to watch. The other being the rejuvenation of Nico Yennaris. Looking like a castaway at Brentford , the ex-Arsenal youngster looked out of his depth and a move away from Brentford seemed the only logical solution. However, after a few loan moves and managerial changes, Nico finds himself firmly in the engine room of Brentford’s midfield; partnering the aforementioned Ryan Woods and to stellar effect. In a box-to-box role that adds bite, quickness and an incredible knack of being in the right place at the right time, not to mention his sheer determination which is evident in his nature after striving to fight for his place in the side, he is like a new signing in his own right.
In a complete contrast to 2015, the summer window of 2016 has left Bees fans feeling that the controlled and very shrewd intake of signings outnumbers and more importantly weighs the effects of players that have departed which included captain Jake Bidwell to QPR and ‘keeper and former fan favourite David Button to Fulham. These two moves would usually leave fans seething, especially when it’s considered that they have both moved to West London rivals but with arrivals such as Daniel Bentley from Southend who has already replaced Button as ‘England’s number 1’ in the eyes of the fans of the terraces at Griffin Park, his potential exceeds the highest of limits. Jordan Pickford is a prime example, a young yet exceptional talent made his name on loan at Preston away from the glamour of the Premier League and has this year found himself as not only Sunderland’s first choice but also received his first senior England call up for Gareth Southgate’s side. Romaine Sawyers may appear to be settling at a slower rate but he has certainly shown glimpses of his brilliance in the 5-0 demolition of Preston and the perhaps more noteworthy 4-1 defeat of Reading. John Egan has established a sturdy partnership with Skipper Harlee Dean who seems to have been given a new lease of life with the captain’s armband given to him. Although signed during the hectic and almost chaotic summer of 2015, Andreas Bjelland had only appeared once in his first season, lasting 45 minutes on his debut against Oxford before being withdrawn due to an injury relating to ankle ligaments. Bjelland was and still is Brentford’s record signing and his ability to slot in at a perhaps unconventional left back position going into this season has really solved a selection problem for Dean Smith after Jake Bidwell’s departure. A more long term and perhaps logistical recruitment was eventually made in the shape of starlet Rico Henry from Walsall, who has drawn comparisons to Ashley Cole and future surely lies somewhere in the Premier League.
It couldn’t possibly be a Brentford article without even a mention of Scott Hogan. The 24 year old had been blighted with injury problems since early into the 2014/2015 season and after overcoming setback after setback, he has firmly established himself spearheading the attack for the Bees. After returning to the team in April 2016, he has since gone on an incredible run of 14 goals in 14 games, with 6 goals in 5 games in September including a first Brentford hat trick against Reading in a 4-1 win which saw him rightly earn the Championship player of the month.
If you weren’t already impressed by Brentford this season, then consider this: their turn in fortunes has been done without last season’s runner up in League Player of the Year voting, Alan Judge who is still recovering from an injury from a horror tackle suffered against Ipswich Town in April. If the team are already proving to be as potent of an attacking threat as they already do, then who knows what beholds the fans come Judge’s timely return.
In the middle of the October international break, Brentford lie in 7th place, looking into the play off spots and with what many would perceive the hardest game of the season to be in Newcastle at the superb St James’ Park, most would assume a drubbing would be on the cards in favour of The Toon but Brentford will be fired up and be with every confidence that they can get a positive result out of the game, with the same attitude they take every week, if anything Brentford love being written off (Ian Holloway had predicted Brentford to finish 23rd this season) and almost laugh at the tag line of ‘Little old Brentford’ that is commonly associated with the club. As a fan, I’m happy for other clubs to call us small, irrelevant, tinpot and whatever else they come out, actually Villa fans described us as a ‘Pub side’ after we found ourselves disappointed to have only taken a point from Villa Park. I’ll agree with small and tinpot, but irrelevant and pub side do make me laugh, we play most teams off the park in this division and in terms of future, with a new stadium around the corner I’d say ours is very much a positive one than a negative and a very positive one at that.
Brentford fans, how far can you go this season? What has impressed you most this season? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Tom