Having had time to reflect on a strong opening fixture and a win against Notts County before a less impressive loss to Burton Albion in the cup, David Weir takes his Sheffield United side south to Griffin Park looking for a positive result in his first league game on the road.
After what seemed sure to be a good season last year, Brentford ended up with nothing to show other than replays of the heartache of the stoppage time circus which confirmed Doncaster Rovers’ promotion and the memories of a Wembley loss which we all know too well.
Looking on from afar, it seems that they’ve strengthened ready for another go this season and many would expect them to be up there.
Griffin Park isn’t an easy place to visit and will be a good test for Weir’s Blades, in what looks on paper a more difficult match than Friday night’s season opener.
I caught up with “BillytheBee” Grant, a time served Bees fan who writes for Beesotted (A Brentford Fanzine – http://www.beesotted.co.uk) and asked him some questions on his thoughts for the coming season:[fulltitle]How has the close season been?[/fulltitle]
You’ve seen some changes to the squad, have you lost anyone you would rather have kept? Have you made any impressive signings?
We lost Harry Forrester in the close season to Doncaster Rovers. He was the one who scored that scorcher of a goal in our win against The Blades at Griffin Park last season. He had a great first season but after the Chelsea cup game, when everyone was raving about him (his agent was working overtime), his form dipped and he wanted away.
Most fans are non-plussed about him leaving as they felt that he had a bit hit and miss back half of the season. We just found out today that he’s been joined by Louis Tomlinson from One Direction at Doncaster. That made us chuckle. Word on the street, Doncaster only signed them both because they are looking to form a new boyband.
We have replaced Forrester with a choice between Czech international Martin Fillo, who Rosler managed in Norway and rates highly, and Chelsea livewire George Saville, who looks like he’s going to be a very important player for us this season.
We lost goalkeeper lost Simon Moore to Cardiff a few days ago but within 24 hrs we got in Charlton keeper David Button who, on his first outing against Cardiff, looked decent.
So we have a couple of excellent replacements in place already for the departing players.
In fact, all our new players have been quality. Swindon skipper midfielder Alan McCormack, Walsall’s 20 goal striker Will Grigg, Everton striker Conor McAleny, Villarreal full back Javi Venta, Cardiff centre half Ben Nugent, Watford goalkeeper Jack Bonham have all had the nod of approval from the fans. We also signed loanee Jake Bidwell from Everton on a permanent deal.
Injuries cost us badly in the final leg of last season’s championship race so this season Uwe Rosler is taking no chances and has lined up three strong players for each position on the pitch.
The end of last season must have had an effect on the players and new signings always need bedding in, how have you done in the pre-season friendlies?
We’ve had a solid pre-season and Rosler is very pleased with how it went. The team spent the first week fitness training in Bad Blankenburg, Germany near Leipzig. Unlike last season, we only played one official match out there drawing 1-1 with 3rd division Erfurt, the team spending the rest of the week doing some real iron man type training exercises. As opposed to last season’s jamboree, this year only a sprinkling of fans went out for the weekend break.
The real test on the pitch was to come with the friendlies lined up back in the UK. Millwall was a decent game and we really turned the screw in the 2nd half tearing their defence apart and hitting them for three goals with no reply.
Then came Celtic with their 6,500 fans who arrived at dawn and left way past midnight partying hard and upsetting the neighbours. We put on a great display of passing football with Adam Forshaw playing a blinder. We lost 2-1 to two soft goals but Rosler was delighted with the display.
At Borehamwood we gave a run-out to a few of our players recovering from injury. The Bees cruised to a 3-1 victory with a good solid display including a brace from one of our excellent fringe players Stuart Dallas.
Cardiff came down next and were two goals to the good after fifteen minutes from a couple of Bees defensive errors. But in the 2nd half, Brentford really took the game to them running out 3-2 winners with a brace from new signing Conor McAneley.[fulltitle]The new season[/fulltitle]
How confident are you for the new season? Where are you expecting to finish?
Usually after a finish like last season our team would be broken up and sold off. Steve Coppell took half our team off to Reading with him after we lost to Stoke in the 2002 Playoff Final. This year, it has been the exact opposite. We have not only extended all the key players’ contracts but also bought in fresh blood.
So we are actually a much more exciting and sharper side than the team who drew at Bramall Lane last season. We have more firepower up-front and goalscorers in midfield – something we were missing last season.
Fans are cautiously confident. We know that we have to watch out for the likes of Wolves, Posh, Bristol City, Franchise FC aka MK Dons, Preston, Bradford and yourselves of course. But we will see how things pan out after the first few weeks.
Last season on our day we were better than any side in the league. We were lacking goals for the amount of possession we were creating – at times up to 70% in a match. Hopefully, we will have that fixed for this season.
In principal we should finish in top 2. But that depends on how strong the new boys really are, this is Brentford and us fans know nothing ever goes to plan.
I fully expect The Blades to be in the top 6 again. You never know, we might actually meet up in the playoffs this time if Wolves and Posh prove to be too strong.
Ones to watch – Who should we look out for this season? Who do you think will have the biggest impact for Brentford?
We now have a really strong squad and it’s hard to single any one player out. It’s whether we gel even more as a team which is really going to make the difference this year.
George Saville looks a great player. Great attacking mind. But also, fantastic defensive midfielder.
Alan McCormack is the midfield general and will almost definitely take the captain’s armband.
Will Grigg looks like a tricky little player. I think he may get a lot of assists this season.
And we have our faithful ‘old guard’ (they’re not even 24) of Adam Forshaw in the middle and Harlee Dean in the centre of defence who have had scouts down watching them week on week.
And of course we have to mention Clayton Donaldson. 23 goals last season. Works like a cart horse. Scores goals, sets up goals, a very important player for us.
A secret weapon may be Farid El Alagui who we bought from Falkirk last season. He only played for a month before going down injured. He played his first game at Griffin Park for 10 months in the Capital Cup win against Dagenham this week (in which Uwe Rosler went all Arsene Wenger on us and quite literally played 10 different players from his ‘A team’ from Saturday) coming on midway in the 2nd half and scoring a brace. Having him back is like having a new signing.
Your season opener, a draw away at newly promoted Port Vale, how did it go?
We started with four of our new signings, Grigg, McAleney, McCormack and Saville and played some great football. We created plenty of chances and right back Logan scored a fantastic 30 yard goal.
Port Vale were holding on, but just like last season, we lacked that clinical edge, we should have won by three clear goals at least.
Donaldson hit the crossbar with a sublime lob, Grigg banged over from 6 yds when it seemed easier to score and Forshaw passed to their keeper from inside the box when he could have put it anywhere.
The team didn’t play quite as well as they did against Celtic and Cardiff where the passing game was sublime, but we held the ball well and created opportunities, hopefully as the team being to gel, we will start to really click.[fulltitle]Saturday’s game[/fulltitle]
We’ve been before, but any tips for those travelling to Griffin Park for the first time?
There is that old chesnut of ‘a pub on every corner’. The Griffin is the usual haunt for home fans and the nicest of the four pubs. The Royal Oak will almost definitely be barred for away fans this season after trouble last year. Away fans also congregate in the Princess Royal to an extent and The New Inn.
Further afield there is The Magpie and Stump just off the High Street for real ales. A stones throw from Northfields tube Station and 15 mins walk to the ground is The Plough which is a very decent old refurbished boozer.
What are your predictions for our fixture? What do you think about the Blades?
I think it will be a tough game, you have a new manager who knows our three young ex-Everton players very well and will be coming to you with new fresh ideas. He was also very shrewd in capturing Lyle Taylor from Falkirk who took over up there from our recovering-from-injury fourth striker Farid El Alagui. We have strong links with Falkirk and they say Taylor is decent and can be developed to play the right way.
You also signed Will Grigg’s team-mate Febian Brandy which will be interesting. Walsall fans were claiming that he was a better player than Grigg but I’m not sure if that is just sour grapes. Brentford signed Grigg for his all around game and the fact that he also brings players into the game, creating chances for them.
Brandy is more than slightly vertically challenged if I remember correctly. Does that mean he’s fast? If so, there could be a real interesting battle developing in the last 1/3 of the pitch.
I’m hoping that the fact the bulk of our team having playing together for a whole season now will stand us in good stead this season and we can push on from there.
I’m predicting a 2-0 win to The Bees with goals from Saville and McAleny.
As for the return match, I’m truly gutted it lands on FA Cup 3rd round day as there is a strong possibility that the match will be pushed back to a Tuesday night in mid-January. I love a little trip up to Sheffield. The last couple of seasons I’ve had a great crack up there with my Sheffield United mates (I have no Wednesday mates I’ll have you know!) despite the result. We try every match to capture the days events with little fan videos on our fanzine site like our night out at Bramall Lane last April.
Saying that, after seeing how our FA Cup run affected us last season (we would have gone up 100% without the cup run. We took our eyes off the ball for over a month and dropped easy points), I’m secretly hoping we fluff the cup and concentrate on the league (am I allowed to say that?).
Our thanks to Billy for taking the time to talk to us about the Bees, we’re hoping his score prediction is off the mark, but we’ll see in a few days time!
If you’re not able to get to the game, as ever, you can keep up on the match via our updates live from Griffin Park by following us on http://twitter.com/s24su