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Dominant Bees look to finish the job - Interview
Monday, 15th Feb 2021 17:06 by Clive Whittingham

Brentford's surprise 2-0 home defeat to Barnsley at the weekend ended an unbeaten run of 21 games in the league as the Bees finally look set to get a Premier League promotion over the line. We talked to journo and fan Ian Westbrook about the season so far.

How's the season been so far? Try not to gloat.

Very impressive as you can imagine, despite Sunday's defeat. We are used to seasons after play-off losses - this is the ninth one we have had - and some have gone better than others. I think most of us expected another play-off challenge at the very least, so to be in the top two going into the QPR game is brilliant. We always start seasons slowly for some reason. Usually it is because we are bedding in a lot of new players, but that wasn't the case this time around. There may have been some sort of hangover from the play-off final - especially with the short turnaround between seasons - and we suffered three defeats in our first seven Championship games to drop to eleventh in the table. But since then up until Sunday, the only way was up with our 21-game unbeaten run, a Bees club record in a single season, and the run to the Carabao Cup semi-finals, the furthest we have ever got in the competition. Now the key is to make sure one defeat doesn't turn into a run of them - starting on Wednesday.

Brentford league results so far…
Birmingham 1-0 Brentford Bela 37
Brentford 3-0 Huddersfield Da Silva 58, Forss 86, Mbeumo 90
Millwall 1-1 Brentford Wallace 4 – Toney pen 21
Brentford 2-4 Preston Toney 8, 43 – Sinclair 52, 60, Potts 63, Maguire 70
Brentford 2-0 Coventry Toney 46, 55
Sheff Wed 1-2 Brentford Paterson 25 – Toney 7, 30
Stoke 3-2 Brentford Fletcher 9, McClean 35, Campbell 59 – Forss 70, 90
Brentford 1-1 Norwich Toney 27 – McLean 87
Luton 0-3 Brentford Henry 20, Toney 29, Forss 76
Brentford 1-1 Swansea Toney 36 – Ayew 77
Brentford 0-0 Middlesbrough
Wycombe 0-0 Brentford
Barnsley 0-1 Brentford Toney 66
Brentford 2-1 QPR Janelt 14, Toney 64 – Dykes 26
Rotherham 0-2 Brentford Forss 57, Toney pen 82
Brentford 2-2 Blackburn Toney pen 57, Canos 61 – Rothwell 18, Davenport 87
Derby 0-0 Brentford
Forest 1-3 Brentford Worrall 90 – Dalsgaard 15, Dasilva 83, Toney 88
Watford 1-1 Brentford Deeney pen 60 – Toney pen 63
Brentford 3-1 Reading Jensen 11, Mbeumo 23, 29 – Aluko 64
Cardiff 2-3 Brentford Vaulks 45, 76 – Canos 50, 65, 73
Brentford 2-1 Bournemouth Dalsgaard 37, Fosu-Henry 79 – Solanke 25
Brentford 1-0 Luton Ghoddos 14
Swansea 1-1 Brentford Hourihane 78 – Fosu-Henry 74
Brentford 7-2 Wycombe Pinnock 9, Toney 41, pen 56, 86, Fosu-Henry 50, Canos 81, Dasilva 89 – Ikpeazu 14, Muskwe 43
Brentford 3-2 Bristol City Canos 27, Toney 50, Ghoddos 65 – Vyner 3, Wells 90
Boro 1-4 Brentford Raya og 4 – Toney 38, 80, Janelt 58, Jensen 64
Reading 1-3 Brentford Joao pen 24 – Dasilva 36, 86, Toney 88
Brentford 0-2 Barnsley Chaplin 13, Morris 47

How have Brentford been able to progress again despite the loss of key players from last year's team?

The perception among non-Brentford fans was that we lost half our team over the summer - but that wasn't the case. Of course we lost Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma, who scored and made more than 50 goals between them last season, but the rest of the side stayed intact. We kept hold of our goalkeeper and the whole of our defence, all of our midfield, and one part of the famed BMW forward line. Ivan Toney took over Watkins' mantle as top goalscorer and as for the rest of the side, the extra year's experience is really beginning to show. This is especially true when you look at the other difference between this season and last season. In 2019/20, we lost nine games 1-0 - this season if we go behind, more often than not we have hit back for at least a draw.

Ivan Toney, quality, or looking good because he plays for a good team? I can't say I'd ever thought much to him pre-Peterborough but he's killing it for you.

Quality, simple as that, although playing for a good team makes him look even better. Not only is he a natural goalscorer, but there is so much more to his game. He holds up the ball, brings other people into the game, helps out in defence at set-pieces and also sets up goals. Not only is he the leading scorer in the Championship with 23 goals, he is also the top assist-maker too with nine. Even when he had a five-game Championship scoring drought around the turn of the year, he was still contributing to the side.

What did you make of the January transfer business - Winston Reid on loan not a very Brentford-type deal?

You are right to say that Winston Reid is not a normal Brentford-type transfer - we don't usually take players on loan any more or bring in older players. But Reid was a good signing and a necessary addition to the squad. We have four first-team centre-halves, but captain Pontus Jansson is out injured after ankle surgery and Charlie Goode has been absent with illness (although he returned to the bench on Sunday) - so we needed cover. I think fans were hoping for one more addition to the squad, possibly on the wing or as an attacking midfielder, but once everyone is fit again, there will be plenty of options.

Summer Ins >>> Ivan Toney, 24, CF, Peterborough, £5.04m >>> Charlie Goode, 25, CB. Northampton, £990k >>> Vitaly Janelt, 22, DM, Bochum, £540k >>> Samman Ghoddos, 27, AM, Amiens, Loan

Summer Outs >>> Ollie Watkins, 24, CF, Villa, £27m >>> Said Benrahma, 25, LW, West Ham, £20.79m >>> Dru Yearwood, 20, CM, NY Red Bulls, Undisclosed >>> Kamohelo Mokotjo, 29, DM, Cincinnati, Free >>> Jaakko Oksanen, 19, CM, Wimbledon, Loan >>> Luka Racic, 21, CB, Northampton, Loan >>> Halil Dervisoglu, 20, CF, Twente, Loan >>> Jan Zamburek, 19, CM, Shrewsbury, Loan >>> Joel Valencia, 25, RW, Legia Warsaw, Loan >> Patrik Gunnarsson, 19, GK, Viborg, Loan >>> Julian Jeanvier, 28, CB, Kasimpasa (Turkey), Loan >>> Justin Shaibu, 22, CF, Released >>> Nikolaos Karelis, 28, CF, Released

Winter Ins >>> Winston Reid, 32, CB, West Ham, Loan

Winter Outs >>> Dominic Thompson, 20, LB, Swindon, Loan >>> Halil Dervisoglu, 20, CF, Twente, Loan

Where is the team strong and weak?

The team is strong going forward, as has been proved by our recent scoring exploits - especially with 17 goals in the four games prior to Barnsley which have made us easily the top scorers in the Championship. Not only that, but while earlier in the season Ivan Toney was almost the only scorer, goals are now coming from other places, with Josh Dasilva and Sergi Canos in particular finding the net on a regular basis recently.

We are weak at defending set-pieces which are played high into the penalty area, and have also become weak at going behind in the first half, which has happened in each of the last four games.

Confident of getting it over the line this year? What's the key difference on previous near misses?

I hate predicting us to go up, in case I tempt fate and it goes wrong. We have all but sealed a play-off place and we have proved we are good enough to finish in the top two, but now have to finish the job. As I said earlier, the experience of last season will be crucial for both the players and also for Thomas Frank and his coaching staff. The desire not to be beaten is really showing through game after game. As I said earlier, how we bounce back from the Barnsley defeat will be crucial, and the squad has shown enough to inspire confidence that one loss won't lead to a run of them.

How does it feel having all of this - last game at GP, Wembley, now seemingly a promotion to the Premier League in a new stadium - all without fans? Any regrets it's happening now?

That is the worst thing about this season - fans missing many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Last season, there were huge plans for the last game at Griffin Park, which of course never happened, so to miss that, the first game at the new stadium, a semi-final cup run, and potentially clinching promotion to the Premier League for the first time is awful. If we do go up, who knows whether fans will be back in the stadium to watch us in the Premier League - at least initially.

In one respect, it does make fans feel that at least not getting promotion last season means we are not missing a season in the Premier League right now and visits to Old Trafford, Anfield, the Emirates etc. At least we were able to get fans in for two games in December - against Blackburn and Derby. Unfortunately, on the pitch they were both frustrating draws, but at least 4,000 Brentford supporters were able to enjoy their first taste of a game in our new home.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Beesotted – Blog and Podcast >>> Griffin Park Grapevine – Forum >>> West London Sport, Brentford – News

The Twitter @loftforwords, @IanWestbook

Pictures – Action Images

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kernowhoop added 19:19 - Feb 15
' We have all but sealed a play-off place...'
Hmm. I understand why he says that, but, they are on 57 points at the moment, with 17 games to play. Over the last 10 years, 74 points has been the average for sixth place. So if they draw every one of their final games, they have a good chance of getting sixth place. They will probably do better than that, but, things happen. Ask Jurgen Klopp.
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TacticalR added 12:22 - Feb 17
Thanks to Ian.

It sounds like not losing too many players has been the key to this season's success. Toney was a great buy too.
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Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
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