According to Sky sources Brentford are actively engaged in trying to recruit a new permanent Head Coach and might even be close to be making an appointment.
Two names are supposedly in the frame with Gillingham manager Justin Edinburgh and Walsall’s Dean Smith both apparently under serious consideration. There is also talk that we are considering a British-based foreign manager.
Who knows if there is any truth in these rumours and we’ve learned at our cost that you cannot discount what is being said as we are still smarting after poo-pooing and dismissing out of hand the article in The Sun suggesting that Marinus Dijkhuizen was on the way out and yet, despite our scepticism, he was sacked less than a week later when the general feeling was that he would be given more time to turn things around at Griffin Park.
On the surface it would appear an irrational decision to upset the applecart and make fundamental changes particularly at a time when things are going so well at the club. Just to recap, we are coming off a month in which Lee Carsley won the Manager of the Month Award and Alan Judge was also named Player of the Month to complete an incredible winning double.
After losing his first two matches and presiding over two appallingly insipid performances against Birmingham and Derby County, Carsley took advantage of the opportunity provided by the international break to put his own stamp on affairs and he spent valuable time with the squad on the training ground and what has happened since is barely short of miraculous.
We have played six games since then and taken thirteen of the eighteen points on offer, beating Rotherham, Wolves, Charlton and most notably, QPR, drawing with Blackburn Rovers and losing to promotion favourites, Hull City.
You The results have been sensationally good, particularly given the state of affairs when he took over when confusion reigned, results were poor and performances even worse with the team unrecognisable in terms of both personnel and style from the salad days of last season when the Bees, under the reassuring and empowering management of Mark Warburton, took the division by storm.
The recent turn around encompasses far more than a massive improvement in results as Lee Carsley, not ignoring or forgetting the contribution of his sidekick Paul Williams, can take full credit for the following changes:
- Improving the fitness levels of a squad that was visibly wilting in the final minutes of matches
- Making training sessions sharper and better organised
- Totally changing the playing style and increasing the pace and tempo of our game with players pressing far quicker and higher up the pitch
- Reintroducing the slick, quick passing game that worked so well last season
- Switching from the 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formations favoured by Marinus to the 4-2-3-1 set up that worked so well last season
- Encouraging possession football but with an end result rather than possession for possession’s sake
- Relying on the proven, Championship experienced homegrown players remaining from last season and taking the rump of the new foreign signings out of the firing line where they had generally struggled to keep their heads above water
From what I have heard the training ground is a happy place at the moment and the smiles have returned to the faces of the entire squad who totally believe in their new interim Head Coach.
Alan McCormack, a player who has particularly benefited from the influence of Carsley and is once again a mainstay of the team, has been extremely vocal in terms of confirming how much the squad would like Lee to become the permanent Head Coach.
Given all of the above it would seem that he should be a shoo-in for the post given his popularity and obvious success, but there is where the problems begin.
Lee is an honest man who has unequivocally stated on many occasions since his appointment to the job at the end of September that he has no interest in the position on a permanent basis as he wants to concentrate on his first love, coaching young players, rather than becoming a first team manager or head coach, and he has remained true to his word and not once has he changed his tune or gone back on his initial assertion that the job was not for him, stating:
I didn’t ask to be a football manager and when I retired, my first thought wasn’t I want to be a manager. I want to coach Under 21 and Under 18 teams, that’s where my strength is.
In fact he has also gone on record as saying that the Brentford job is far too big for a rookie boss without any relevant experience.
Normally you would take these words with a pinch of salt and as the normal negotiating ploy of a man cynically pretending not to be interested in the job but in reality doing everything in his power to be seen to be reluctantly accepting the accolade. But with Lee, what you see is what you get and barring a remarkable and totally unexpected volte-face I cannot see him becoming our permanent Head Coach.
So what happens now? Why upset the applecart when everything has gone so well and Lee’s approach and success has bought us the time to make a measured decision about the next appointment? That is a damn good question and one that I cannot answer apart from reminding everybody about what somebody very close to the action said to me about Matthew Benham last season.
Whereas Mark Warburton’s view of life was If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, Matthew Benham’s motto is far more akin to It might not be broken but let’s keep improving it.
Matthew Benham is dedicated to developing his beloved Brentford both on and off the pitch and if Lee Carsley has made it clear that he is not the right man for the job or if indeed Benham has independently come to the same decision, then perhaps he has decided to fill the post with the best possible candidate as soon as possible.
Maybe Carsley has also intimated that he would like to relinquish this role for his own good reasons well in advance of the end of the season and that a more immediate change needs to be made.
Those are the only possible interpretations as surely the Bees have learned from February’s fiasco and are not merely looking to sound out potential candidates now and then bring one in at the end of the season. All that leads to is chaos for all parties when the news inevitably leaks out.
The downside is that I cannot see Lee Carsley remaining at the club once a new man takes his place and to lose a man of his ability would certainly be a sad loss to the club. His previous job as Development Squad Manager has been filled by Kevin O’Connor who has started exceptionally well in his new post and I cannot see Carsley relegating himself to becoming the assistant to the new Head Coach as this would seem to make little sense for him and probably not suit the new man either. Perhaps he can increase his involvement with the England set up or seek a position as Academy Director at a Premier League club? In any case his success at Griffin Park has deservedly put him and his achievements into the spotlight.
So what happens now and who are the likely candidates under consideration? I have to say that given Carsley’s popularity and success to date I fully expected him to remain in charge until the end of the season, and that, of course, might still be the case.
I also thought that Brentford would probably select somebody who would not be available until the end of the season and ideally avoid the need to pay his club any compensation.
Both Dean Smith and Justin Edinburgh have proven themselves to be astute operators in the lower divisions and Dean in particular has established an excellent reputation for playing decent football and bringing through young talent and Romaine Sawyers and Tom Bradshaw have both caught the eye this season, as has Bradley Dack at Gillingham.
Neither Smith nor Edinburgh have managed in The Championship but either would be reasonable options, although of the two I would be far happier with Smith as I believe he would be far better attuned to how we want to do things at Brentford.
Having been badly burned once with Dijkhuizen I am certain that a prerequisite for any new Head Coach will be a sound working knowledge of the Football League and I would be staggered if we bring in somebody who hasn’t already had some managerial experience in England.
As Sky have intimated he could also be a foreigner and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, for one, has gained a flood of admirers for his work at Burton Albion over the past year and he would tick many of the boxes although he would still be a calculated risk.
I have always been a fan of Slovisa Jocanovic who led Watford to promotion last season but he has taken on a new challenge at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
We have just started a fortnight’s international break and this could turn out to be a crucial time for the club and whatever decision is taken will have enormous ramifications for the future success or otherwise of the club.
Having made such a poor appointment in Dijkhuizen, Brentford cannot afford to make another mistake and it might well be that the best decision is to do nothing and leave well alone, unless Lee Carsley has made it perfectly clear that he wants out as soon as possible.