With Dean Smith departing for Aston Villa, Brentford have a bit of a rebuild on their hands. The Bees are no stranger to a challenge though and can be seen as somewhat innovators in the British game. I’ve always had an interest in how certain things are done at Griffin Park, so this week NE98 are investigating.
From transfer policies and “leadership groups” to Smith’s replacement, there is plenty of interest in this Championship club.
Let’s start with the transfer policy in place at Griffin Park. This is especially of interest because it was the change to this policy that saw Mark Warburton depart the club in 2015. We all know where Warburton ended up after that.
The manager decided to leave, primarily, because Brentford’s scouting and signing system would take away much of Warburton’s say in transfer dealings. Andy Scott – the club’s then head of recruitment who has since moved to Watford – would take more control. Using a more “Analytical” approach to scouting.
But what exactly does that mean? Well, first of all, players aren’t getting signed by Brentford just because the manger likes the look of him. Neither is the club shelling out millions and millions of pounds on proven talent – their record signing is still Sergi Canos for about three million pounds a couple of seasons ago.
Brentford look for specific qualities in a player, looking for them to suit individual roles, as opposed to signing a player who looks good but maybe doesn’t fit the system.
Sell on value is also very important to Brentford as they look to bring players in, improve them and move them on for multiples of what they paid.
Speaking to Football.London earlier this year, Rasmus Ankersen – one of the club’s directors of football – said:
“For potential. Can this player grow? Can we increase his financial value by improving his performances?”
“It’s not the head coach that signs the player, or the owner, it’s everyone,”.
“I always tell the player that it’s the club that buys him, not an individual.”
“Look at Birmingham: they sign a lot of players, then the manager is gone after four games. The player would think ‘he signed me – will the next guy like me?’ Brentford is not one ‘star’ leading things. The project is the star.”
You can even describe the way Brentford go about their transfer dealings as living off scraps. They can’t pick up the best and brightest youngsters and they aren’t spending a fortune on proven talent.
Instead arrivals often come to Griffin Park in one of two ways.
The club finds gems playing at a lower level that they believe have the potential to step up – such as Andre Gray who was purchased from Luton Town or Scott Hogan who joined from non-league Hyde.
The other way the club looks to bring in talent is by scouring players released by bigger clubs. As is well known, not every talented youngster at a big club manages to make the breakthrough for one reasons or another, but the bigger clubs loss is often Brentford’s gain.
Josh McEachran was once a promising talent for Chelsea. While he didn’t join for free, Brentford got the player who now marshals their midfield for a cut-down price. The club managed to pick up Arsenal academy players Nico Yennaris – who’s made well over 100 appearances for the Bees – and Josh DaSilva who’s regarded as a work in progress.
The club aren’t scared to look abroad for talent either. Neal Maupay joined the club last year from French side St Etienne and he’s netted 10 goals in 11 Championship appearances this term.
Maupay might be the next player to make Brentford a killing in the transfer market.
The previously mentioned Scott Hogan and Andre Gray joined up at Griffin Park for around a combined 1.5 million pounds. They left the club for a combined 21 million. Almost 20 million pounds of profit isn’t bad going.
Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin and Jota all joined fellow Championship side Birmingham City last season for a combined 10 million pounds. Despite this, Brentford finished above the blues last term and sit ahead of them in the table this season too.
Brentford’s unique way of doing things isn’t just contained within their transfer dealings either.
The club operate without a traditional youth team, instead opting for a B team which plays carefully selected friendly matches.
Brentford B played youth teams of the likes of Manchester City, Porto, Manchester United and Rangers in the past couple of years. Those are just a few names in amongst other European super powers, as well as some more similar sized English youth academy sides.
Another system that makes Brentford unique in the English game, or at least did, is their leadership team. Rather than one single club captain, there is a team of players who act as leaders at Griffin Park. Any one of those players could end up wearing the armband on any given match day.
This is no longer unique to Brentford after Dean Smith’s move to Aston Villa – as he revealed he’d use the same system there.
The reasoning for such a system basically comes down to the similar reasons it’s not one single person who makes transfer decisions at Griffin park – it eliminates the chance of having to redo everything when someone isn’t there.
If you have one club captain and they are absolutely key to how the club operates, you could find yourself in the lurch if they are injured, suspended or leave the club altogether.
Smith described his reasoning’s for utilising a leadership team at Villa to Birmingham Live:
“Sometimes by naming a captain you end up missing people who can take responsibility and have leadership qualities you don’t tap into,” he said.
“You have your captain and end up speaking to him and trying to relate to players.
“I don’t want a team of players. I want a team that are all leaders.
The way Brentford look to maintain their way of doing things, and not allow a philosophy to leave when a player or manager leaves is perhaps personified in Smith’s replacement.
Danish coach Thomas Frank had been working with Smith at Brentford since 2016.
The swift appointment of Frank, the week following Smith’s departure shows it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
Comments from Rasmus Ankersen showed that it was the ability to continue the clubs current project and not have outside interference that lead to the decision.
Ankersen said to the Evening Standard:
“Thomas knows the Club’s strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the Training Ground.
“He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach.”
Brentford are never favourites to gain promotion to the Premier League, but they also never seem all that far away. If the Bees were to gain promotion it would be a true underdog story – but one that would show the merits of breaking the mould and not paying ridiculous prices for players. The question however, would then change to “Wil Brentford continue to operate this way in the Premier League?”