10th place. A 2-0 away victory on Saturday. 6 points off the Play-Offs with 14 games to go. Brentford are still certainly in with a shout of making the top six when the season finishes in May.
In a recent podcast, manager Dean Smith remained coy on the West-London club’s chances, suggesting they “had drawn too many games”, but equally that they still “believe [they] can be there [top six] but we just take it one game at a time”. Such modesty and realism from Smith is commendable, but everyone involved at the football club probably deserves more credit for the efficient decision-making at all levels during their time in the second tier.
First and foremost, the club’s transfer policy has been highly refreshing in the wake of some of the extortionate levels of spending seen by other promotion hopefuls.
So far this season, Brentford have spent £5.49 million, nearly 10 times less than Middlesbrough (£50.09 million) and significantly less than league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers (£22.15 million). In fact, Preston North End (£1.89 million) are the only side in the top ten who have spent less than Brentford since Summer 2017.
Much of this success in the transfer market has been based around Brentford’s extensive scouting network, and their preference for picking up younger players from lower leagues and cheaper foreign markets. This has been paired to great effect with a focus on player development with the ultimate goal of selling these players on for significant profits in later seasons.
Andre Gray is one amongst a number of the club’s top players that have moved on from Griffin Park in recent seasons (© getwestlondon.co.uk)
Andre Gray and Scott Hogan are two clear examples of this. Picked up from Luton Town and Rochdale respectively, both strikers were prolific for the Bees, and when the board thought that the time was right they cashed in on these prized assets, making a combined profit of over £21 million.
Whilst other profits the club have made are on a much lower scale, they always ensure that they get good money for their players. This was again seen in Summer 2017, as Jota, Harlee Dean and Maxime Colin were all sold to Birmingham City in deals that were undoubtedly financially advantageous to the club.
Whilst this represents very good business to the owners in monetary terms, many Brentford fans feel that the club’s transfer policy has been detrimental in their quest for top-flight football. The argument here is, had the club held onto many of these prized assets then there is a good chance they could have been promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history.
The reality is that when these sorts of offers come in for players the board have been unable to refuse in the interest of the long-term financial stability of the club. Put simply, Brentford don’t have the same sort of backing as many of their promotion rivals.
Brentford have struggled to compete financially with some of the league’s heavy-spending sides (© thenorthhernecho.co.uk)
They can’t afford to spend in the way that Aston Villa and Middlesbrough do, and players must be sold in order to invest in improving overall infrastructure, scouting, and purchasing the next batch of up and coming playing talent.
In this regard, Brentford are somewhat of an anomaly in the promotion-race as it stands. If you look at the top six, all of these sides have been able to invest significantly when they’ve needed that little bit of extra quality to take their squads to the next level.
It is for this reason that Dean Smith and his squad once again deserve credit. Regardless of the financial inequality in terms of investment, on the pitch the club are able to compete with the heavy-weights right at the top of the division.
After a shaky start, Smith now has the squad well organised, and particularly at Griffin Park they play some really attractive football, which has been rewarded with only two home defeats all season.
This is a breath of fresh air in a league which is becoming increasingly dominated by big transfer fees and big names; and the owners, the recruitment staff, the management and the players all deserve significant credit for the direction that the club are heading in.
Dean Smith’s side currently sit in 10th, 6 points off the Play-Offs (© tilehurstend.co.uk)
Reaching the Play-Offs this year will be no easy task, but it should certainly not be considered out of the question. Lasse Vibe will certainly be a big loss in front of goal, and it will be interesting to see how Neal Maupay can handle the pressure of leading the line alone.
That being said, the club should be held in high regard irrespective of the season’s outcome. The plans for their new stadium clearly demonstrate the success the owners are having in building a project and supporting the long-term future of the club. Clearly their transfer policy is working but now the club must focus on holding onto Smith, who may be in high demand in the summer as clubs look to change managers.
If they are able to do this, then there is no reason why Brentford cannot sustain and build on their success, and if they continue to operate using the same formula, they look as though they could be a permanent fixture in the Sky Bet Championship top 10 for seasons to come.
By George Roberts