“We have an unbelievable atmosphere at Jersey Road. Being happy in what you do is an important part of life and that’s certainly the case here.”
Into his second summer in West London having been appointed as Assistant Head Coach in December 2016, Thomas Frank is relishing his first role outside of his native Denmark.
The 44-year-old – part of the Club’s management trio alongside Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly – got his big break with the Danish FA in 2008, working with country’s Under-16, Under-17 and Under-19 teams.
In 2013 he took up the managerial reins at Brøndby and led them to finishes of fourth and third in his two full seasons at the helm.
Here, Thomas sheds light on a fascinating career in the game.
Game as a manager
My first game as manager of Brøndby was fantastic. It was the first game of the season against Vestsjaelland on a sunny day in July. The game was postponed by ten or 15 minutes because the crowd – around 20,000 in number – were struggling to get into the stadium. We played quite well and should have won the game, but ended up drawing 1-1. It was a good feeling to take charge for the first time – I was more excited then I was nervous. The club was close to bankruptcy the year before, so we were tasked with building a new side. We were unsure of how the team would perform, but in the end that first game was a nice experience.
First and foremost, you’ve got to look at yourself and understand the person that you are. You can’t connect with the big-name managers from the outside as you only see them through the media and they could be a completely different person once the camera is off. One figure that stands out is Morten Olsen who was the Manager of Denmark between 2000 and 2015. He was a big inspiration when I was a youth coach, and then I worked with him for five years at the Danish Football Association when I was in charge of the Under-17s and then the Under-19s. He had a real passion for the game and paid close attention to the smaller details. His style of play was very offensive, too.
Encounter with Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly
I remember thinking that they were real football people who had a great knowledge of the English game. They’ve both been players whereas I haven’t, but we still share similar backgrounds in that we’ve all worked with younger players in the past. We’ve all walked a similar path to get to where we are now. Besides that, they’re two unbelievably good people. In order to work together, especially in this business, you need to have chemistry as a group. They’ve been fantastic to work with from my first day at the Club. We’re well connected; each of us has different strengths that we bring to the table that will hopefully benefit the Club moving forwards.
Impression of Griffin Park
It smells of football at Griffin Park; it’s a stadium which represents the soul of the game. Football is in the walls, in the pitch and in the atmosphere. I really love Griffin Park – I think it’s one of the best examples remaining of an old-fashioned English ground. It’ll be hard to capture that spirit at the new stadium, but the soul of the ground will transfer with the supporters.
Approach to management
There’s a variety of approaches, I believe there is a lot of ways to manage people. I’d describe myself as easy-going, straightforward and honest. Football is different to other industries; people expect you to hammer players if they’ve had a bad performance, but you don’t need to shout to get your point across.
Thing about your job
I really enjoy being in early every day and working with this group of players - they’re all good characters who want to learn and improve. We have an unbelievable atmosphere at Jersey Road. We have a good plan, a good strategy and good people, and from that we’ve created a good footballing culture. Being happy in what you do is an important part of life and that’s certainly the case here.
Player you’ve worked with
It would be difficult to single someone out. Of course, not every player trains at the same level, but player development is a big part of our identity and we have fostered an environment where players want to work hard and improve. For that reason, we have at least ten players who stand out for their unbelievable attitude and character, both on and the pitch and off the pitch in how dedicated they are 24/7.
Thing about working in English football
The passion for football and the history of the game in this country; as a fan you’re more or less born into a club in England. The focus on the game is so intense here, football is part of the culture. In Demark we have a good idea of what English football is about and I’d been watching from afar for many years, but it’s not until you arrive in the country that you begin to live and breath and experience the game here on a daily basis. You can understand 80 per cent of English football from the outside, but it’s when you become part of it that you learn the other 20 per cent.
Thing about your job
There’s sides of the media that I’m not fond of, but it’s Dean that deals with those duties here. In England there’s a strict rule that the Manager talks to the press on a Thursday and then after the match on the Saturday, but in Denmark the only time when there’s no media commitments is the day before a game.
I work in football because I love the game and enjoy working with people, so I’m lucky enough to have found something that suits me. I shouldn’t moan and I’m not moaning – I could always stop and find another industry to work in – but it’s worth mentioning that this job requires your attention every single day, more or less 12 months a year. Of course you have three or four weeks holiday in the summer, but in English football you’re almost never off.
Period at Brentford
We didn’t win any of our opening eight league games this season, so that has to be a low point. We were performing very well so it was frustrating that we couldn’t get the win. We had a strong belief in the squad heading into the season and based on our performances and various statistics you can see that we should be higher in the table. Of course it’s more than just margins, it’s also about quality in every action and making the right decisions in different circumstances. If we’d got a win during those first few league games then we could have started the engine quicker. Every coach and player will tell you that they can find additional points that should have been picked up over the course of a season, but I’d be being very humble to say that we should have six more points than we do currently. That said, we’re still dreaming and focusing on the next game against Ipswich Town.