The young Bees were on the back of four consecutive wins with a penalty shootout victory over AFC Wimbledon followed up by two wins in Cyprus over Pafos FC and FC Rodina Moscow. The season then ended following an excellent result over their Scottish counterparts on a rainy March evening at Met Police’s Imber Court Stadium.
Neil MacFarlane, who took the Brentford B Head Coach job in May 2019, was about to guide his talented youngsters into the final weeks of the campaign in a rich vein of form, earned by months of hard graft on the training ground and in matches across Europe.
“Nobody could have foreseen the circumstances which arose,” explains Neil as he sits to reflect on his first year in charge of Brentford B which was ultimately curtailed due to COVID-19.
“What we’ve tried to do with the group of players was treat them all properly and make sure that they’ve got the correct programmes to carry out from home. We needed to make sure that they will come back to us at a good fitness level which we can then push. We’ve been able to catch up on Zoom sessions to keep up the interaction with them and make sure that they are all well, both physically and mentally.”
The side were unable to say a proper goodbye to eight Brentford B members in David Titov, Reece Cole, Nick Tsaroulla, Jaden Brissett, Jayden Onen, Cole Dasilva, Jonny Mitchell and Matej Majka, who would all depart the club following the end of their contracts.
Neil has been keen to praise those players that have now moved on to pastures new having been a big part of the side’s success which has seen them claim wins over the likes of Celtic Reserves, AFC Wimbledon and Chelsea Under-23s this season.
He continued: “We’ll miss those that have played a big part for Brentford B last season. The process is, if they don’t quite make it here, then we can help them get clubs and it’s looking like a number of the players are going to get that. For the new signings that come in, they’ll have to emulate what we had last year and strive to get better and better because we must continually look to improve. Those players that will come in will add to a really good core and I’m thoroughly delighted with the group that have re-signed.”
Brentford B beat Chelsea Under-23s 2-0 in February
Reflecting on his first year in charge, the Brentford B Head Coach says he and his coaching staff were left disappointed to not have seen out their season having made such progress.
“It was frustrating at the time, but the biggest priority was to make sure that everyone was safe, well and healthy,” said Neil. “The first team have come back and hit an incredible run, but from a B Team perspective when we finished up against Rangers in March, that was a real period for ourselves where we gathered some unbelievable momentum from the trip to Cyprus. The Rangers night was a real top performance with a crowd in front of us as well.
“The boys were getting to a really high level and you could see the progression through the season which was really pleasing from a coach’s perspective.”
Having begun last pre-season with heavy defeats to the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal’s under-23 sides, the team began to develop their early season form with a win over FC Midtjylland in Denmark before travelling to the likes of Scotland, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus as the season progressed.
Both victories and defeats featured with valuable lessons learned against the likes of Bordeaux Under-23s and FC Liefering on trips to France and Austria respectively. The likes of FC Seoul and FC Astana both provided difficult tests, and wins over the likes of Huddersfield’s Reserves and Beijing Renhe rewarded some battling encounters.
The young Bees in action in Austria against FC Liefering
Reflecting on the many high points across the season, Neil said: “There’s many, seeing the team evolve from pre-season to a within a few months. We played Chelsea in pre-season (7-1 defeat) and you could see how much the team had progressed when we went back there and beat them 2-0. We went to Rangers and lost 4-0, but to come again when they came down here and beat them 2-0 showed the level of progression through the team. It showed that the team was growing all the time, and that’s why it was a bit frustrating to finish the season so early. We’re now looking forward to the new season.”
With the key aim for the Brentford B setup being to supply Thomas Frank’s First Team with players capable of challenging for places amongst the squad, Neil was delighted to once again see Jaakko Oksanen feature, along with debuts for Fredrik Hammar and Mads Roerslev, with the latter earning himself a first team contract.
Discussing the progression, Neil continued: “Performance-wise we were a real team last year and everybody contributed, and certain individuals made their breakthrough which is what we want to see. All of those players did fantastically well, and they’ve all contributed whether it’s been for the B Team or the First Team.
Mads Roerslev was promoted to the First Team after impressing with Brentford B
“What’s clear is that last season I could not have asked anymore from what I’ve seen in the months ahead, the players gave us absolutely everything and they were a real joy to work with day in and day out. Every single one of those players contributed.”
With fixtures against teams from across the world likely to be halted in the immediate future due to the pandemic, Neil believes, though they will revisit the opportunity when the time is right, that he and his staff will be able to turn out against some high-quality opposition across the UK in the 2020/21 campaign.
Neil will be targeting more matches against First Team opponents again next season
“It may do (fixtures be effected), I think it’s a work in progress. What I think will happen is that we’ll get the opportunity to play some really good games, and one of last year’s real highlights was the number of first teams that we played which pushed the boys throughout the season. We played Luton at Griffin Park, Wycombe Wanderers and then when we went abroad, we played against the likes of FC Seoul and FC Astana which were top games. Pushing the boys through men’s football was a real highlight for myself. Teams that haven’t played for a long time will be looking for games and I hope that will give us the opportunity to get some really good games in the initial part when we go back. Hopefully as we move into 2021 there will be potential to expand it.”