A Brentford fan’s view of Latics’ visit to Griffin Park

The bookmakers William Hill are offering odds of 13/8 on Brentford being promoted, a close second to the favourites Leeds United at 6/4. They quote Wigan Athletic at 8/1, making them seventh in the rankings. Both teams have made a good start to the season, with the Bees just a point ahead of Latics.

But bookmakers’ odds can soon change so early in a season with just 6 of the 46 games having been played so far. Brentford have won all three home games up to this point, with Wigan winning one and losing two on the road.  But Wigan Athletic have a good record against Brentford, having won 19 times, drawn 9, losing 7 since they first played each other in 1982.

Brentford came up from League 1 in 2014 and have consolidated themselves in the second tier. Much of that is down to owner, Matt Benham, who has not only made a huge financial investment, but also shown vision and belief akin to that of Dave Whelan at Wigan. But when Latics were back in the Championship, buoyed by parachute payments, after eight years in the upper tier  they could afford a wage bill exceeding £20 m, reaching the playoffs in 2015. Since then the club has suffered two relegations and the paruchute money is no more. This year’s wage bill will probably be nearer to £10 m.

Although Brentford manager, Dean Smith, might dream of promotion to the Premier League this season, Paul Cook will be primarily looking at consolidation. But who knows what might happen? Cook’s team plays with the kind of belief that suggests they can upset the bigger names in the division.

On their relatively modest budgets, can Brentford, or even Latics, overcome the financial odds against them and punch beyond their weight?

Despite the scintillating football we have seen up to this stage by Latics, results have lagged behind performance.  Cook has adopted an attacking philosophy that suggests his team is afraid of no one in the division. “Soft goals” in the closing minutes have widened that performance/result gap, but Cook deserves great credit for his positive approach. Will Brentford be in for a surprise on Saturday?

It promises to be a fascinating encounter. In order to get a Brentford fan’s view on Saturday’s match we contacted Billy Grant. Billy writes, podcasts and blogs for Beesotted (@Beesotted) the Brentford Fanzine (beesotted.com). You can catch Beesotted’s post-match podcast from around 7pm on PrideOf West.London – talking to both Wigan and Brentford fans in the pub after the match

Here are Billy’s responses to the questions we put to him:

Brentford have got off to a good start to the season and the bookmakers are reckoning your team are candidates for promotion. Is promotion a possibility for a club that works on a smaller wage bill than the likes of Leeds and Middlesbrough?

It’s been a great start to the season but to be honest, last season we played wonderful football but couldn’t buy a win for the first couple of months. It was I think 8 matches before we got our first victory despite playing a lot of teams off the park. So I put last season down to a learning curve and this season we haven’t fallen into the same trap – thank Horatio.

 We have been trying to keep below the radar so its a bit annoying that the people are starting to back us. We love being the team that no-one knows about. When we came into the division, we were the laughing stock. The team who ‘dumped’ Warburton (which wasn’t true). They laughed at our use of stats to find obscure players that no-one had heard of or thought would cut it in the championship. Players like Jota. And Andre Gray. And Scott Hogan.

 Four years later and we’re turning down bids for £10m plus for players who have played barely 30 matches after graduating from our B-team. Theres a stat that says that we have made a profit of £50m plus on players since we came into the Championship. I wince a little bit at that as it’s not all about selling players for the sake of selling players. But we apparently have a knack of selling when the player becomes overvalued. We cash in and buy a better player for a fraction of the money. So as much as I would LOVE for us to stick with a team and a squad for a period of time, it’s not going to happen. Because other teams have realised that we are successful in finding talent and do the olde vulture job.

 So the question. Is promotion a possibility?

 Ask that to Huddersfield a few seasons ago. Or Brighton even (although they had a big budget. People just don’t know it).

 The answer is of course.

 One of the keys to success is that the club is run properly from bottom to top. It’s taken a few years for Brentford to sort itself out. And pull together a management and coaching team who believes in the long term vision of the club willing to pull together in the right direction. We did great in that playoff year but unfortunately not everyone working at the club was pulling in the same direction so eventually it would have gone belly up.

 The owner – Matthew Benham – is a very smart man. A Bees fan from when he was a kid. And he says “when” we get promoted and opposed to “if”.

 So it will happen.

 Sometime.

 We have seen a vast difference between our club now and three or four years ago. Strength in depth. Players who want to play for the club. No nonsense politicking. That has all come about from experience of problems in the past.

 No we haven’t got a huge budget. I think it is just over £10m a year. Compare that to the likes of Villa and Birmingham and Leeds and Boro and even West Brom, Swansea and Stoke, its chicken feed. It’s still a lot of money. But when it comes to competing, we have to ensure that we spend that money wisely. No QPR-style p!ssing it up the wall or Forest-style spending £13m on one player.

 I’m actually proud that our record signing is £2.5m. We bought Ollie Watkins for £1.8m last year. Neal Maupay for about £1.5m i think. Erzi Konsa this summer for about £1.5m again and Said Benrahma for around the same. These players are all quality and will easily quadruple the price we paid for them in the next two years at least.

 So now who’s laughing?

What tactical formation does Smith employ and what kind of football can we expect?

To be fair, we don’t (or can’t) flip to a more aggressive direct style of football as we haven’t got the players for it. We’re pretty much 4-3-3 or if you want to get more intricate 4-2-3-1. We play it out from the back most of the time (not always). We have developed the team over time so that every player is comfortable on the ball – even the centre backs.

We pass the ball a lot. Like a ridiculous amount. We get a stupid amount of chances. Last season Im pretty sure we had the most chances in the whole of the league. Ben from @Experimental361 – a renounced statistician – labelled Brentford ’energetically wasteful’ in one of his many colourful graphs describing how each team was performing meaning we created endless chances but delivered only a fraction of them.

So there will be a lot of passing.

Who are the Bees’ key players?

Cliché time. But we play as a team. Yes we have key players. But we have also realised when they come out of the Brentford ‘ecosystem’ many of them do not perform as well. Jota was brilliant for us because of what was around him. The players played to his strengths. And weaknesses. And don’t under-estimate the mental cotton-cuddling we would give him. He’s gone to Brum and the fans want to run him out of town.

Personally, I saw Benrahma play in a friendly against Watford and I said to Laney who co-runs Beesotted “Blimey … he’s quality”. And he is. It normally takes our foreign players 9 months to acclimatise to the UK. But he seems to be doing very well – talking the p!ss at every possible opportunity.

Have to give a mention to Chris Mepham who – alongside Erzi Konsa – forms our central defence with a joint age of 40 years. He’s got a lot of hype on him at the moment having gone from Brentford B-team to Wales team 1st-on-the-sheet within 12 months. He’s played less than 30 games for us but we’ve already turned down £10m plus bids from the Bournemouth for him. He’ll go for sure. Ryan Giggs loves him. And the club know that.

But if he does go – and we hope he doesn’t – we’ve got Julian Jeanviere waiting in the wings. He was Reimes player of the year for the past two seasons and apparently he’s meant to be mustard. He’s played two Carling Cup matches when we put out a second-string (well A minus) side and he scored two goals.

Will he play against Arsenal?

Now that is the question.

Ryan Woods – our midfield quarterback – left for Stoke a couple of weeks ago. He was great. We thought we would miss him. But to be fair, Josh McEachran – who we signed from Chelsea three years ago – and Lewis McLeod have stepped up to the plate. Most fans had written them off to be honest as they seemed to be permanently injured. And when they came back, they had one good game out of four which wasn’t good enough.

How much money do you estimate Mathew Benham has put into the club so far? Is he reaching the break-even target where outgoings are met by revenue? What is the news on a new ground?

Matt Benham has spent in excess of £100m. To me i would be cacking my pants if I had spent that type of money but he is a professional gambler (from a statistical background) and he is not phased in the least. After losing £10m to £15m each year, this last year the club pretty much got on an even keel – losing just under £1m if I remember rightly. The though is with the future transfer dealings, Brentford will operate on an even keel for the foreseeable future – meaning that Benham won’t be pumping large chunks into the club any more.

If (when) we get to the Premier League, he will get his £100m back. If we don’t I am of the understanding that he will write it off as a bad gamble (maybe not literally). That’s how confident he is of us being promoted sometime.

Lionel Road is our new stadium and it is in full flow. It’s 15 mins walk from the current ground right beside Kew Bridge Station. If you check the Brentford Drone you can see videos of it’s construction.

It’s not a huge ground. 17,250. But it looks impressive. The thought is – the club would rather it is smaller and compact and buzzing with atmosphere rather than scrabbling around trying to fill 30k fans every week in a morgue of a stadium. And fair play.

Up to 3000 away fans. Safe standing in both ends (assuming approval which I believe will happen by 2020). Loads of pubs in the immediate viscinity.

No it won’t be Griffin Park. But hopefully it will be buzzing.

Move date has been moved back to Summer 2020. Which is great. Means we have another two seasons at Griffin Park – Im very happy with that.

What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Since the World Cup, where I was really reserved with my predictions and enthusiasm – despite spending pretty much three weeks out in Russia – I have tried to reel back on the expectations. It’s hard seeing how classy the side are at times. However, I realise there are so many factors which determine how you get on in this league. One of them is luck. Another is injuries. And another is attitude.

In principal, I believe that we are not going to take Wigan for granted. Something that we may have done a few seasons ago. If so, I reckon we should win 3-1. Mainly because we are due a few goals after a fairly barren spell (compared to chances created) over the last few weeks since we trounced Rotherham 5-1.

 

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