Brentford midfielder Nico Yennaris admitted there was a tinge of ‘what if’ as he reflected on the 2017/18 Sky Bet Championship campaign.
Despite not winning any of the first eight, and dropping a number of points to late goals, Dean Smith’s Bees ended up taking the Play-Off race right down to the penultimate weekend of the season before eventually finishing ninth. Having performed well in taking points off everyone else in the race for the top six, Nico felt The Bees would have had a great chance had they made the end of season shootout.
Speaking earlier this month at the Club’s Player of the Year Awards Dinner, which followed a 1-1 draw at home to Hull City, a game in which The Bees again let a lead slip, Nico admitted: “It summed up our season that we dominated and then conceded at the wrong time, against the run of play today. That is something we definitely have to learn from and put right next season. If you look back at the games where we dropped points and conceded goals, it’s been right before half-time or in the last minutes of the game. You look at Burton Albion at home, QPR away; those are all games which add up. They would have been valuable points to put us comfortably in the Play-Offs. With all the teams in the Play-Offs, we’ve either played them off the park and got decent results or played really well and not got the win. We really fancied ourselves because we’ve probably, bar one, outplayed all the top six to ten teams.”
Despite that tinge of disappointment, Nico did feel that there was plenty to be positive about looking forward. The Bees had the second youngest squad in the Championship last term with Chris Mepham, Ollie Watkins, and Neal Maupay among those to impress during their debut campaigns at this level. Particularly encouraging for Nico was the way in which those younger members of the squad took on board the advice of the older heads in the group.
“The team is full of youth and energy and I feel that I have helped a few of the younger boys this year,” revealed Nico. “That is nice as it is a learning curve for me too. One of the biggest strengths of the squad is that they are willing to listen and learn. If they didn’t have that about them then we would be in a difficult situation. All the young boys have come in and listened to the advice from the senior players. Chris Mepham has had Andreas Bjelland, Yoann Barbet, and John Egan to guide him and he’s taken it all on board. It is the same for the others like Sergi Canos, Ollie Watkins, and Neal Maupay. I definitely feel that if we can keep the squad together, and add where we need to, we can have a real go next year.”
The midfielder, who turns 25 next week, missed just five league games last term, having been an ever-present the season before. After another hectic campaign, Nico admits he is looking forward to some rest and recuperation before he starts to think about football again.
“I definitely won’t be counting down the days to pre-season,” joked Nico. “I will be looking to rest and recover but give it two weeks before pre-season then I will be counting down. Every season as you get older you learn what your body does and doesn’t need. I am one who can switch off from football, let my mind go elsewhere and relax. It is crucial for any footballer to not get too caught up in it.”