Brentford's owner shares his pre-season thoughts and ambitions
With the 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship season less than four weeks away and the pre-season campaign underway I wanted to share my hopes for the year to come.
We want to be in the top six and we will see where we can go from there. I saw all the games at the end of last season. I was excited by the wins, the performances and the style of play. The likes of Scott Hogan coming back and looking incredibly sharp is promising for the season to come. Several of the new players found their feet as well. For players like Konstantin Kerschbaumer, especially, last summer was a difficult time to come to Brentford. This time last year there wasn't a lot of direction or organisation. I don't blame anyone, it happened. The team had been tight and it was difficult for new players to come in. Until the last few weeks of the season, Kerschbaumer didn't play in his preferred position. It was difficult for him. We are confident we can take the form from last season in to this season.
What we learnt from last season. It is always difficult when there is a huge amount of turnover. A lot of it last summer we couldn't help. We had to sell players to ensure we didn't breach Financial Fair Play rules and a lot of players wanted to leave, they were made well aware of what they could earn elsewhere. We did change too much at once as well but I like it a lot that it's stable this year. Sometimes you can't help it when players leave late in the Transfer Window but that didn't help us. Loads of clubs in England like to wait until the end of the Transfer Window. There isn't anything you can do about that. It helps when it is quick like when Jake Bidwell left this summer. We know where we stand now.
New signings. We have signed three really good players. Signing the best players from the lower leagues has served us well over the years. They are high-quality players, young and hungry and for all three there was unanimous backing from everyone in the recruitment process to sign them. When you sign players you want it to work from as many angles as possible. Dean telling us Romaine was fantastic to coach as he had worked with him before when they were at Walsall was great for us.
Plans for the rest of the Transfer Window. I don't think July and August will be busy transfer-wise. There will be one or two in and one or two out but not much more than that. We need a left back and maybe a wide player, we are not sure. We will monitor that over the next few weeks. The change in the loan system and ending of emergency loans means your squad has to be a little bit bigger and we are planning for that.
Dean Smith. I have an excellent relationship with Dean. It is the best relationship I have ever had with a Head Coach. We are able to speak frequently and frankly. Dean has great leadership and personal skills and is very open. He is easy to deal with and happy to delegate, we are very happy with him. With managers and players, you never really know what someone will be like until they get in the building. You can talk about processes and do research but you don't know until they arrive. By all accounts the atmosphere at the Training Ground is good, there is a lot more unity than there was last year. I am optimistic about our future.
The current squad. Lots of the players excite me. I don't want to pick out names but we have high quality players that can play in the Premier League one day. I am pleased that the fans are excited as well. Not every transfer will work out, all personnel is like that, but as long as the majority do you will be OK.
Dealing with bad luck. There are certain clubs, I won't name them, have more injuries than the norm, year after year. For us last season was largely freakish, there were contact injuries which you can't do anything about. [Former Head Coach] Marinus Dijkhuizen pointed to the foreign lads coming in to an intense style of football and maybe there was something in that but it was probably a freak. Foreign players usually take six months to approach their true form. The odd one hits the ground running. Maxime Colin for us looked good right away but most of them you won't see the best of for the first few months as they get used to such intense football and three games a week.
Brentford B. It was a great shame that we had to close the Academy. It is a competitive area, there are lots of academies in London. The risk is you have a great player but he defects at the age of 16 and you get peanuts in return. In theory the player builds up loyalty to the Club but in practice there are other factors and the parents have an influence. It is different in Denmark, FC Midtjylland are in the middle of nowhere. When a player leaves they would have to move a couple of hundred kilometres. They find it easier to keep hold of players. There is an unbalance towards smaller clubs running academies in England. I like the idea of keeping things simple so I liked the idea of the B Team. EPPP made it difficult to run an academy but also there is only so much the Club can focus on. The First Team has to be the main focus. With the First Team and the new stadium, the B Team seemed like a simpler and more attractive option. Overall it seems to be difficult for smaller academies to keep hold of players. The fixture list, so far, looks really attractive. There are players that can make the step up. It's hard to know, we have all seen players at 18 who we think have no chance that have done well and others that disappear without trace. There are players with a strong chance.
Exciting Fixtures. Games against Newcastle and Aston Villa excite me, especially when you add them to games against Fulham and QPR. I looked out for those games when the fixtures came out, also for Bristol City away as that is where my parents came from. It is great to have these teams at Griffin Park and to go and see Brentford in some of those big grounds away from home as well.
Brentford Community Stadium. The new stadium is progressing well. All these things take longer than you hope, that is inevitable. We are close to taking another big step forward. Hopefully there will be news in the next few weeks. Moving will be with a heavy heart though, there is part of me that wishes we didn't have to move but we need a new stadium to progress. I have some great memories of Griffin Park. The best memory was when we won promotion against Preston two years ago.
Brentford Fans. The atmosphere at Griffin Park has been great since we came up. The QPR game last season is the stand-out one for me in terms of an intense and hot atmosphere. My relationship with the fans is pretty good indeed. So far I think I get a decent ride. I don't like it when fans sing my name though, I wish they would stop. It's not for me.
Hope to see you at Griffin Park this Saturday,