Neil MacFarlane took on the role of Brentford B Head Coach in May 2019. The 42-year-old has honed his coaching skills at the likes of Falkirk, Coventry City, Fleetwood Town and Kidderminster Harriers in recent years and arrived at Brentford having endured a successful playing career in his native Scotland.
Having been in charge of Brentford B for just over six months, we caught up with the Head Coach to discuss his time with The Bees so far and how he and his staff have been working relentlessly to nurture his young squad.
When watching Neil and his staff work, what he expects from his players is more than evident. Hard work is at the very top, following closely behind is attitude, and he wants his team to show the same togetherness that is mirrored by the rest of the football club.
“I’ve enjoyed every single day that I’ve been here,” said Neil. “I think it’s a fantastic club with so many good people behind the scenes, and so many good people here on a day-to-day basis with one common goal; to make the club progress and hopefully we can all see that in recent weeks at the very top with the first team and the run that they’re on. From the B team perspective, it’s been a real joy working with the players to try to improve them in many different aspects and it’s an ongoing process.
“I’ve talked about togetherness with Brian (Riemer) and I think about a number of clubs that I’ve been at over the last six or seven years, and this is as together as I’ve seen. We should be really proud of that because I think that can lead to success and, hopefully, we’ll see that in the coming years. Everybody is really pulling in the same direction; we have two teams in the B team and the first team and it’s so good to see what we’re seeing in both of those teams.”
Recent weeks have seen the hard work put in by the staff and players within the B team come to fruition with Mads Roerslev making his first team debut against Blackburn Rovers, whilst Jaakko Oksanen continues to steadily push his way into the setup. And that’s with former Brentford B names in Luka Racic, Mads Bech Sorensen, Patrik Gunnarsson and Jan Žambůrek all pushing for spots in Thomas Frank’s side.
On the current crop of B team players looking to follow in their pathways, Neil explained: “Not all of the lads will make it to the first team but you have to have a squad, like any team, and we’ve certainly got a good squad who are pushing each other and hopefully we’ll see two, three or four players come through in the coming years. I think what’s really important is that the average age of the B team has dropped this year. We’ve got a number of young players starting out on that particular journey, so like I said, we’ll be relentless in pushing them and hopefully we’ll get them there.
“It’s like any sport, you have to be doing well and when they get their chance it’s important that myself and the staff have made them ready for that opportunity and then it’s important that they take responsibility and grab it.”
The young Bees have been on somewhat of a journey so far this season, which started with new players and staff getting to know their surroundings in pre-season. That bedding in process has been evident with results now backing up the performances on show.
Looking at the season so far, Neil feels there has been some steady improvements for the players. He continued: “It started at the base in pre-season to build up the physical work and we had some really top games in terms of pushing ourselves in pre-season. We then went to Denmark which was the start of the so-called season and we played in a tournament over there.
“What’s evident is that we’ve played a number of first teams this year and I think that’s important to push the boys, because when we’re trying to get them into the first team and they’re 18, 19 or 20 years of age they will have come up against the 26 or 27 year-olds, and we’ve had numerous games which have been thoroughly entertaining and also really good for their development. We’ve played the likes of Luton Town, Wycombe Wanderers, FC Cartagena and AFC Wimbledon and they’ve been really good games against first teams which I think is vital.”
Working behind Neil is a group of dedicated staff members who are all putting in their time and effort to give the young players the best possible chance to break into the first team squad, and Neil was quick to thank the staff for the work they continue to put in, and says his relationship with his assistant and former Bee, Sam Saunders, has flourished during his time here.
“We’ve spoken about the togetherness of the club, and from my perspective I couldn’t be happier with the staff that I’ve inherited,” said Neil. “They work tirelessly for only one reason, to help these players improve. I think that day in day out we give them absolutely everything whether it be double sessions or gym work, the fantastic food available, the sports science, the sleep coach, whatever it may be. There are so many different elements to try and give them (the players) everything it takes to be a top footballer.
“When the interview process was going on, Sam came to the table and we instantly clicked. I think it’s a perfect fit, he’s been in and around this football club for a number of years and he’s played so many games for the club which creates a connection between the staff and the players. We’re bouncing off each other really well and all of the staff are doing that.”
With the young Bees about to round of a busy fixture schedule leading up to Christmas there will be some recuperation before they come back ready to attack the new year and continue their development. And with the likes of Neil, Sam, and the rest of the staffing setup, let’s hope there will be more Brentford B faces turning out for Thomas Frank’s side in the near future!