Brentford technical director Lee Dykes’ office at the Robert Rowan Performance Centre is exactly what you’d expect it to be.

A view that looks directly on to the training pitches, a television screen with sport on for however long Dykes is in there - which at this time of the year is indefinitely - and, perhaps most interestingly, a tactics board with every Bees player lined up, staring back at him.

And with the January transfer window looming, Dykes hints that he may be adding to the current crop of magnetic heads that adorn the wall, adjacent to his desk.

“I think there could be a few interesting opportunities for us to do some business,” he reveals.

“We have had a few injuries, as people know. Rico [Henry] is unfortunately going to be out for a long time, so we may look at that position as a position of interest, as an example.

“But then you have got to think about the fact that Rico will be coming back - what’s the plan, what’s the pathway for that player?

“So, there may be new opportunities. There normally is because you will always have injuries; you will always have interest in new players; you may have to take a player now as opposed to the summer because they will have a spike in their performances that you didn’t anticipate.

“We might have to rush through a signing because we think that if we wait another six months then this could go beyond our reach.

“I would say, as a whole, I think that January is a seller’s market, not a buyer’s market, and a market that we don’t tend to want to work in too much. We don’t believe that the valuations that are placed on players are as realistic as in the summer.

“But we always need to be active in the market, and sometimes you need to do something because you have an injury, or a particular situation has cropped up.”

This is Dykes’ fourth transfer window in his current role, and his 10th at the club, since he moved to west London from his former club Bury in 2019.

Bury won promotion from League Two in his only season at the helm, before they were expelled from the Football League due to long-standing financial problems - something which Dykes was forced to work around during his time at Gigg Lane.

He first took the job as head of recruitment in west London, as co-directors of football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen liked his coaching background (which involved spells as a youth coach at Rotherham United and assistant manager at Carlisle United earlier in his career), as well as the fact he had developed his own algorithm to identify players - finding a solution with numbers will always get you the seal of approval here.

Being chucked in the deep end is something Dykes is familiar with when you consider what he had to do during his time at Bury (his only summer transfer window at the club saw him sign 23 players), but his first summer with the Bees was going to really test his buoyancy.

“Matthew [Benham], Phil and Rasmus were saying, ‘Look, there’s a 24-month window here where we will have an opportunity to get in the Premier League. If we spend wisely and get the right players in, we should be in a really good position’,” Dykes recalls.

“We’d already had some really positive discussions about the fact that the whole squad couldn’t be young players, there had to be some real solidarity around the squad with some experience, and then the young players will come through.

In that summer of 2019, we had bids in for Sergi Canós, a bid in for Neal Maupay, bids in for Saïd Benrahma, bids in for Ollie Watkins, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, okay! How are we going to replace all of these?’

“But we signed Pontus Jansson, David Raya, Ethan Pinnock, Mathias Jensen and Christian Nørgaard in that window and then, as well as already having Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard.

"That allowed the attacking players to go and flourish because they had all that experience behind them.

“I felt big pressure because I walked into a function where I was trying to take forward some of the good work that had already been done.

“Coming into Brentford, I’d never really spent a lot of money. I’d always worked at League One and League Two level.

“The most I’d spent was £50,000 on a player, and then six weeks later we are paying €5 million for Bryan Mbeumo.

“So obviously you start to think, ‘Wow, this is big money.’ But, at the end of the day, it’s just different money, same process.”

As well as the transfer fee, there was another part in that process to sign Mbeumo that Dykes wasn’t too familiar with, as he planned a trip to France to negotiate with the player, club and agent, which he tees up superbly: “If you speak to Rasmus Ankersen and say, ‘What’s the funniest moment you’ve had with Lee Dykes?’, he’ll tell you this…

“We were figuring that there was a possibility to sign Bryan. We had cleverly sourced that information, having been told that he wouldn’t entertain the Championship.

“It became quickly apparent that we had to get in and out of France in a day, because Thomas had his training commitments as well, because it was near to the season starting.

“Where the meeting was going to take place, there was no airport close enough we could find from London or a route to do in one day, so we didn’t know if we could make it work.

“I remember Rasmus just calling me up saying, ‘I spoke to Matthew and he said he’ll fire up a jet and we’ll get over there’ - at that point, I was just thinking ‘Wow!’.

“But that’s when I started to feel the pressure - I’d lined it all up with Troyes, as well as the agents that were involved, so me, Thomas and Rasmus got on this jet.

“We got there, it was one of the hottest days of the year, it had reached about 43°C when we landed. It was a 60-minute journey and the air conditioning wasn’t working in the taxi we got in - a good start.

“We had the meeting, spoke with the player, the club and the agent, but the deal broke down. So, I had convinced everyone to fly over to France to get this deal done - I thought it was going to get done - but it had broken down.

“On the way back, and I’m not a good flier, in general, the pilot turned to us and said, ‘It’s chaotic weather in London… it’s snowing, there’s thunder, there’s lightning'. I was thinking, ‘What? It was 43 degrees when we left France’.

“And the journey back was horrendous - I could see the pilot avoiding the dark spots on the radar. I was bricking it!

“But, fortunately, we landed safely and, more importantly, managed to turn around the deal a few days later and eventually sign him.

“So, Brentford fans must know that I risked my life to sign Bryan Mbeumo!”

Dykes lives to tell that tale, before admitting that “if we had waited another window for Bryan, then maybe it would have gone past us. It was really important to strike when we struck”, and that he was “sought after around Europe by some top clubs.”

The Bees won that particular transfer battle, but it’s an element of Dykes’ job that is becoming more challenging: “It’s become difficult in the Premier League because there’s a lot of focus on Brentford now, compared to what there used to be.

“We used to sign players and the first time anybody would know about that signing would be when we actually announced them!

“Now, you don’t get away with that because the clubs that are selling the players want a bigger transfer fee, so they may release a bit of information - or the agents might do the same to get a better deal.

“Football’s a small world, so people speak, which means it’s a bit more challenging now.

“We are really mindful of the fact that we won’t be the highest payers compared to the majority of Premier League clubs. So, if it does get out there into the press, it lessens our chances of signing the player. So, we try and be as confidential as possible.”

With Brentford unable to compete financially with the biggest clubs in the world - which is a sentence that most Bees fans will chuckle at when they remember the club was in League Two just 14 years ago - Dykes is forced to be more creative when attempting to secure a deal for an in-demand youngster, which is highlighted in another of his endless anecdotes.

He explains: “There was a really interesting one where we had identified a player in our recruitment operation and we actually went out to watch him at the Under-20 World Cup.

“We were quite impressed by him and we already had a couple of conversations with the relevant people - we had done some really early work on him.

“I was sat in a cafe with an agent who I didn’t know was working on behalf of this player, because I was in touch with the direct agent.

“He happened to mention he was working on behalf of the player and, in the next 10 minutes, he was on the phone to Juventus!

“So I used that connection well and, in the end, we managed to convince the player that Brentford was a better plan for his development and manage to sign him… Ji-soo Kim.”

Ji-soo Kim, who was brought into the B-team set-up from South Korean side Seongnam earlier this year, is one of many talented young players who have moved to west London.

Along with Ji-soo, Keane Lewis-Potter, Aaron Hickey, Mikkel Damsgaard, Kevin Schade, Nathan Collins, Yehor Yarmoliuk and Ethan Brierley, all 23 or younger, were signed over the last two years and have since been involved in first-team squads.

Dykes reiterates that the club’s philosophy is to “get them as young as possible if they have got top Premier League potential” - but how young is young?

He answers: “I think 16 is the kind of age where you are looking at the moment, where you are going, ‘Right, this player maybe has Premier League potential.’

“There are some 16-year-olds out there that could play for our first team. It’s just about if we have the pull, the finances, and then the timing all correct to acquire that player.

“The good thing is that Thomas is open to acquiring a young player and playing them - he comes from a development background.”

As the conversation continues and there’s almost nothing on the agenda apart from the inner workings of the transfer market, it makes sense to delve a little deeper into the secrets behind how Brentford identify a player and make their move to sign them.

Dykes explains: “Well, there are seven stages of recruitment that we operate within.

“The first stage is narrowing down the 85,500 players that we cover to our 16 positions on the pitch, with the criteria that we set per position. That happens from an objective perspective, from data, and also subjectively from all of our scouts around the world.

“Then you start to go into the second stage, which is the lead scouts working with the data around the world, in certain territories and regions, and putting down what they believe their top four players per position could be.

“Phase three is, from those top four per 16 positions, what’s the priority position we are looking for? And who are the ones that we’re really interested in?

“Stage four is me and two key members looking over that, comparing those players, and coming up with the best two or three players in all of the 16 positions.

“Then you start working towards stages five and six, where we’ll look at those specific positions and players, and decide which is our priority.

“Then Thomas will be involved in those conversations, giving his thoughts and feelings. The other coaches - Claus Nørgaard, Kevin [O’Connor] and Justin [Cochrane], or Neil [MacFarlane] and Sam [Saunders] - will be asked to assess the players, find out their opinions, and get their buy-in.

“And, finally, stage seven will be a final conversation between myself, Phil and Thomas, where we will go, ‘Right, this one, this one, and this one’, based on playing ability and potential, but also financial availability.

“Between me and Phil, we’ll decide who takes each individual deal forward, and we’ll try and recruit that player.

“In the end, it will be Matthew’s decision with close guidance from Phil. He is a fantastic owner who generally backs us and trusts the process, but he does like to look at the information himself and give his opinion too.”

And then it’s about agreeing personal terms, which is a process that almost every player seems to be blown away by when they sit down with Dykes and Giles.

Mbeumo said he was astonished when the club went into the intricate details of his strengths and weakness, while Lewis-Potter was baffled by the number of games they had been to watch him, which even included Hull City Under-21 games.

Some people might assume that this is done just to flex their impressive knowledge and understanding of each player they sign, but Dykes is quick to dismiss that: “It’s a responsibility from myself, Thomas and Phil to really go deep on the detail.

“It’s also really cool if you can sit in front of a player and nail their strengths, nail their development areas, and they align with that.

“We then talk to them about their role with us and how we see it going, best case, and where their future could be.

“Maybe after two or three years with us, they could go on to a higher level. But, equally, we can go on a journey together; we have lofty ambitions as well.”

It might seem strange to discuss a player’s potential next moves before they’ve even put pen to paper on a deal with Brentford, but that’s the way this football club works - and to great success.

But let’s be clear: while “there’s always a willingness” to a deal, it will only be done if the time’s right for Brentford.

“Phil will lead on the sale side of things and speak with Matthew,” says Dykes. “It also has to be right with Thomas.

“We won’t sell a player unless we are ready to sell. We will make sure that the team’s okay and the club’s okay before we even entertain situations like that.

“But a sale might also may be good timing for a player pathway situation inside the club, or a new acquisition.

“We sit in front of every player and say that, if your career goals are above and beyond us, at the right time and if your valuation is met, then we will be open to listening to the numbers. But it’s got to be right for all parties.

“There’s a lot of thinking and planning that goes into a sale of any potential player at your club. It’s not just a case of, you get a bid and say, ‘Oh, that’s nice, we’ll accept it’.

“We look at how it’s going to affect the club, the team, the morale around the place, new acquisitions, player pathways underneath from the B team and the academy.

“There’s always a willingness from Brentford to do what’s right. So if a deal is there to be done, then we are more than willing to play ball, which the club have proved with Ollie [Watkins], Saïd [Benrahma] and David [Raya].

“But, equally, we will try and hold on to players so that we maximise their potential with Brentford. We will know when that point is.

“Clubs often make an enquiry at the wrong time for us, the wrong time for the player, and we don’t strike deals.”

With outgoings now the topic of conversation, there was one player in particular who, for once, hadn’t been spoken about yet.

Behind Dykes, Ivan Toney and the rest of the first team jog in from the training pitch as another session comes to its conclusion.

And the technical director, with a grin on his face, enthusiastically speaks about the centre-forward’s ban coming to an end on 16 January.

“I am so excited for Ivan to come back because I see him out there in training and he is some player; it looks like he’s never been away,” he says.

“There’s a real ambition from him and I can see in his eyes that he’s going to be better than he’s ever been; I really believe that will be the case.

“Yes, there will be lots of interest in Ivan in January. Naturally, there should be.

“He was the third-highest Premier League goalscorer last season - one of them [Harry Kane] has gone to Germany now, so he’s up there as one of the best strikers in the division. He is in the top five in the world, in my opinion.

“So there should be interest, and maybe the time comes very shortly that Ivan moves on to another club.

“But they will have to pay a decent transfer fee to acquire his services because he is some talent.”

The players coming in from training and the smell of lunch wafting up from the kitchen downstairs is probably the cue that this nearly 90-minute chat is coming to an end - despite the fact that Dykes’ stories and never-ending football knowledge meant it could have continued for a lot longer.

But, especially this close to a transfer window, free time doesn’t exist for Dykes, which he admits makes it difficult to get a healthy work-life balance.

“It’s impossible during transfer windows, but you need to take time for your family because they are the ones supporting you and making sure that you can do a good job,” he says.

“It is challenging but you have got to put importance on your family and your health because they are the most important things.

“There’s always another call to take, there’s always another game to watch, there’s always another player to assess, there’s always another staff member to speak with, but sometimes you do just need to turn the phone over for a few hours.

“There’s a been a few parents’ evenings and sports days that I’ve had to duck out of! But I will always prioritise putting my family first.”

Well, at least by the time the transfer window closes at the end of January, Dykes can enjoy some well-deserved downtime until closer to the summer?

“Myself and Phil will be having regular conversations about what the priorities for the next window are,” he says.

“We try and work three or four windows in advance, so it might be something that we need to be on for the next one.”

Maybe not…