Given the indisputable fact that the Bees are currently in the midst of an appalling run of results since the New Year with only two wins and a solitary draw to set against seven Championship defeats, plus of course suffering a painful FA Cup giant killing at the hands of Walsall, it is hardly surprising, given the fickle nature and impatience of football supporters, that there have been murmurings and rumblings and some questions and concerns have already been raised about the new Brentford manager, Dean Smith and whether he is up to the job.
The criticisms levelled against him can best be summarised as follows:
- He is not getting the best out of the squad and is out of his depth
- We are porous in defence and concede too many goals
- We no longer come back and recover after going behind in a match
- The quality of football is declining and we no longer play the Brentford way
- He is unable to attract new players to come and play for the club
- His substitutions are ill thought through and generally make things worse
- He is not animated enough on the bench and appears to allow things to drift
- He sometimes refrains from acknowledging the Brentford supporters
- He is not Mark Warburton or Lee Carsley – delete where applicable
How fair are these accusations? Have we hired another dud or, in the interests of fairness, do we need to make allowances for circumstances totally beyond his control that have made the manager’s job difficult if not impossible for the time being?
I wanted to get an informed, objective and detached view about Dean Smith so I asked former Chronicle journalist and now PA Match Day reporter Jim Levack to give his own measured opinion on a man, who, given his midland base, he already knew extremely well from his successful spell in charge at Walsall.
Here is what Jim had to say, and it certainly makes interesting reading:
When the constant stress of the football season ends in May, chances are you will find Dean Smith settling back to take in a rather more sedate sport.
As an ardent cricket fan he’s adept at playing the longer, more tactical game.
He did so to impressive effect at Walsall, where he repeatedly contended with an annual summer break-up of his squad only to return the following season even stronger.
That his squads were repeatedly torn apart by predatory clubs looking to pick up exciting young talent speaks volumes for his gift of spotting promising youngsters, developing them and then selling them for a profit.
Presumably that is what brought him to the attention of Matthew Benham, who I’m sure – unless he is a fool – will listen very closely to Smith’s end of season shopping list.
The jury is out on the club’s Co-Directors of Football, whose track record, at Brentford anyway, has so far been patchy in the extreme.
The signing of Konstantin Kerschbaumer, for a reported seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds, is symptomatic of a system that, in my view, will only work with strong input from a footballing man with great knowledge of the English game.
That man is Smith, a bloke who will stand by his footballing principles come what may and who is, most importantly of all, a good man who has been plunged into a difficult situation.
Comments on websites – this one included – suggesting he is “not the man for the job” or “out of his depth” are, quite frankly, totally laughable.
Kerschbaumer, contrary to some of the unkind comments being levelled at him, will be a decent player with bags of energy, good legs and an eye for an incisive pass… but not for another season or so when he has bulked up and shaken off his lightweight tag.
The fact that he is still playing and has not been sent out on loan to a League One side says more about the paucity of the squad and limited options available to Smith. Well I hope that’s the case anyway and nothing more sinister.
Smith has inherited a squad bereft of its quality players who have all moved on for a profit that the club couldn’t say no to. And that will be the way of things until we move to Lionel Road.
The loss of defensive lynchpin Tarkowski and midfield protector Diagouraga since he took the job has turned Brentford into a side that, without the presence of Alan Judge, does not look consistently competitive in a league that demands that at the very least.
We have a soft underbelly and has been chronicled elsewhere, there doesn’t appear to be the same fight and desire that the Griffin Park crowd have always demanded as a bare minimum.
I posted recently on another site the list of players who have left and – in my opinion – not been replaced on a like for like or quality basis. It was met with the inevitable responses of “yawn” or “stop being negative.” Not negative. Just realistic.
Smith, like a footballing Mike Brearley, is playing a tactical game and deploys an impressive dead bat forward defensive shot every time he is questioned about personnel… or the lack of it.
He has clearly been told plans are afoot for the summer, which is good news. I’ve heard some deals are close to completion already and other quality signings are on the radar.
Great news and a cause for optimism if Messrs Ankersen and Giles find the right people this time round and the existing signings finally come good after a bedding in season.
But here’s the rub. When my son and others like him stumped up the increased season ticket price – student rates were scrapped in favour of a young person’s card – they did so on the premise of a Big New Ambitions advertising slogan.
The club’s failure to remain properly competitive after January will make him and others think twice in future. After all two hundred and thirty pounds plus is a lot to a teenager doing an apprenticeship.
Should the ad blurb have read – “Big New Ambitions until we decide to call it a day and watch the season peter out midway through the season?”
I think we’ll be safe – Charlton will be a big game – but I do hope that next season’s season ticket prices reflect the wasted four or five months of this.
One thing is certain though. Dean Smith is the right man for the job and once he’s allowed to put his mark on a depleted squad, any doubts currently held will evaporate leaving the cynics to turn their attention to something or someone else… probably me after this.
Just to sum up, Dean Smith’s treatment – so far at least – has been like asking journalist Tom Moore to go into the office and asking him to knock out a back page or web lead without a laptop, Mac, notebook or recording device.
Smith is working with one hand tied behind his back given the lack of numbers and quality in his squad.
Smith is no fool, is the best man for the job, is a great fit for our club and will have us challenging and competitive next season – of that I have no doubt.
I just hope we’re not being too cocky thinking that safety is guaranteed because at the moment we look neither of those things.
I am sure that many supporters reading Jim’s words will have much to say about the sentiments expressed in them and I look forward to the debate which is certain to ensue.
Where do I stand on this issue?
I feel that Dean Smith was an excellent match for our specific needs and requirements as he understands our approach and buys into it. He is an eminently intelligent, pragmatic and sensible man who motivates and inspires footballers and he can also manage upwards as well as down.
I also suspect that given his knowledge and experience of the lower divisions we have moderated our modus operandi and Smith will be intrinsically involved in all decisions regarding recruitment and it would not surprise me if we bring in several promising young players already well known to the manager.
It would be very interesting to know what his terms of reference are for the remainder of the season. Probably no more than remaining as competitive as possible, picking up enough points to remain well clear of the scrum in and around the bottom of the league, playing high tempo attacking football and continuing to integrate and involve the foreign signings from last Summer so that we are in a position to make informed decisions on their future and as to whether they are able to cope with the demands of the Championship.
That means a hopefully temporary scaling down of our lofty ambitions and frankly we are currently struggling to achieve even these limited aspirations given the recent run of results and disappointing performances.
In his defence, there have been some excellent spells of football but a lack of consistency, Smith has seen the loss of three quality first team players in January without any hint of replacements, good fortune has not been on our side with a succession of contentious refereeing decisions and injuries continue to bite deep into our limited resources.
Perhaps yesterday’s welcome and long-awaited return of Scott Hogan who came back with a bang with a poacher’s goal and a spirited sixty-minute run out in the Development Squad match against Crystal Palace will provide a much needed boost and hopefully Alan McCormack will also be in line for a much needed return against Charlton on Saturday.
In truth, I was disappointed with the negative and pusillanimous way he set the team up against Derby County which totally ceded the initiative to a team also struggling for confidence and in my opinion, contributed to our eventual defeat in a match where we never attempted to play our customary style of football.
It is also very easy to look back with hindsight, however I wonder if he now regrets throwing away the chance of a morale boosting FA Cup run by fielding a weakened team against Walsall particularly given our subsequent defeats by Middlesbrough and Burnley in what turned out to be a totally dispiriting and demoralising week?
To lambast the manager given the obstacles he currently faces is patently unfair, unrealistic and absurd and he needs and deserves our total support at the moment.
The time to judge him will be next season assuming that, as expected, he is given the necessary tools to work with and the opportunity to rebuild the squad in conjunction with the Co-Directors of Football and we recruit players with the required level of ability and experience.