The Right Approach! – 27/09/14

leedsIt is a big game for Brentford this afternoon when they take on Leeds United at Griffin Park.

Well, in truth, every match in the Championship is one to relish.

Today’s game, though, has even more significance, coming as it does after the Bees have suffered two consecutive defeats, the first a very harsh and undeserved one at the hands of Norwich, whereas last week we were well and truly tonked at Middlesbrough.

Confidence must have taken a bit of a jolt after these reverses so what I, and I am sure every Brentford fan is looking for, is a response and a reaction today.

Ideally we won’t be feeling nervous or sorry for ourselves but will come out with all guns blazing, be positive and take the game to our opponents.

In other words we need to seize the initiative from the first whistle and believe in ourselves and our right to be competing on the same stage as our illustrious opponents.

What makes matters even more intriguing, though, is the identity and reputation of our visitors.

This afternoon we take on one of the greats of English football in Leeds United, a team who in the past decade have graced the Premier League and competed for top European honours.

Mark Warburton has remarked on many occasions of the need for his Brentford team to concentrate solely on the eleven players facing them out on the field and not on the name, heritage and tradition of the team for whom they are playing.

In other words we should ignore the badge on their shirt and simply regard them as just another team that we are looking to beat.

We have already proved against top teams in Brighton, AFC Bournemouth and Norwich City that we belong in the Championship and are there by right and not simply good fortune.

Our football has been slick, cohesive and positive and we have always looked, both home and away, to take the game to our opponents rather than merely sit back and absorb their pressure.

It is highly illuminating to look back at the last time we played Leeds United and contrast the situation we faced then with how things are now.

Leeds were in Division One after our promotion to that division back in 2009 and our two matches against them were the most keenly anticipated once the fixtures were announced.

The first match at Griffin Park in December 2009 came at a time when Brentford were struggling and Andy Scott reacted to our lack of form, and the strength of the promotion challenging opposition by setting us up in a totally defensive 4-5-1 formation with Ben Strevens playing on the right hand side of midfield and Charlie MacDonald left to forage alone and totally unsupported up front.

We stifled the midfield, defended like heroes and harassed and harried our opponents at every opportunity.

In other words we were totally negative in our approach, made no real effort to win the game and basically gave Leeds the initiative and the message that despite our home advantage we did not believe that we were capable of defeating them, or of even attempting to do so.

Andy Scott’s approach was rewarded with the nil-nil draw that he was undoubtedly hoping and playing for and the crowd accepted his approach and cheered the result to the echo.

leeds2We knew our place in the football food chain.

Would our supporters have been so forgiving if Leeds had put away one of the many chances that the profligate Jermaine Beckford spurned on an afternoon when Brentford had precisely no efforts on target?

Who knows.

The return match at Elland Road in March 2010 saw a brave and more cohesive display by the Bees which was rewarded with a fully merited one all draw.

Again though, our approach was all wrong as the large number of travelling Brentford supporters resembled nothing more than a coach party of country yokels up for a rare day out in the big city.

The occasion was all that mattered and the chance to visit a much bigger club, look around the ground and admire the Billy Bremner statue and, as far as the match was concerned, we had few, if any, expectations.

Nor was it really the priority for the day.

The draw was a massively unexpected bonus and it was certainly an afternoon that will remain long in the memory.

I am, of course, being a bit unfair as Brentford, if not quite run on a shoestring at that time, could not be expected to compete in quality with the Leeds players we were facing and we therefore employed the tactics that we did in an effort to nullify their extra skill and ability.

Two draws would say that Andy Scott was totally justified in how he set his team up in both games against far superior opposition, however it is imperative that we employ a totally different mindset today.

We have to go out onto the Griffin Park pitch believing that we are as good as Leeds, if not better, and then do everything within our power to prove it by attacking them rather than give away the initiative, as was the case on the last two occasions we played them, where in truth, we made very little effort to win either game.

For all their track record and reputation, we are not inferior to Leeds.

They will be trying to impress their new manager and come into the match bang in form following wins over AFC Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town and also as a total mystery to Mark Warburton who has no real idea how his opponents will set up.

So what.

Let them worry about us.

Hopefully Judge, Pritchard, Jota and Odubajo will give them something to worry about and I am sure that Jonathan Douglas, once an Elland Road hero, will also feel that he has something to prove against a team that dispensed with his services a few years back.

Today provides us with the chance to turn things round, but our approach to the game will dictate whether we are successful or not.

It’s not about Leeds – it’s totally about us, so let’s be brave and positive and let them worry about us.

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