Pep Talk – 15/11/15

JS53729436Talk is cheap and whilst all the rumours are still unsubstantiated, the fact remains that there is growing speculation that Brentford are closing in on their preferred choice to replace Lee Carsley as Head Coach. Much of the chatter is on social media but the mainstream press has finally joined in the fun too with The Daily Telegraph yesterday naming a new candidate, and one who had not previously been openly mentioned in connection with the club.

According to journalist John Percy, the Swansea City Assistant Manager, Pep Clotet, is in serious contention to take over at Griffin Park. It would appear that any leak has come from the Swansea rather than Brentford end given that Percy is the Midlands football reporter for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and predominantly deals with the Premier League. Indeed only a few days ago, on the ninth of November, he wrote a detailed story about the current state of affairs at Swansea and revealed that their manager, Garry Monk, has effectively been told by the club’s chairman, Huw Jenkins, to agree to changes to the overall management structure of the club or risk losing his job given Swansea’s recent dire run of only one win in their past nine games. It is alleged that Jenkins has suggested that Monk must agree to bring in an experienced coach to assist him and in that regard the name of Colin Pascoe, a Swansea legend and Brendan Rogers’s former assistant at Liverpool, has been mentioned.

Now it emerges that Clotet, whose role at his current club might now be under real threat given the chairman’s apparent ultimatum, could be a serious target for the Bees and has apparently been interviewed by Matthew Benham over the past few days.

Is Percy jumping to conclusions or could there be some – or even a lot, of truth in his suggestion regarding Clotet which has now been picked up by other media outlets in Wales? Perhaps it would help if we examined Clotet’s background and credentials in more detail in order to see if he might fit the criteria required for Brentford’s new Head Coach.

He was born in Barcelona and is still in the first blossom of youth at only thirty-eight years of age. He had a totally undistinguished playing career before earning his coveted Pro License when only twenty-six years of age and took his first coaching role whilst still in this twenties at UE Cornellà before moving to RCD Espanyol’s where he worked with their youth teams. He then joined another local team in UE Figueres but was fired after only nine games as they were relegated from Segunda División B. He subsequently returned to his previous club, still in charge of the youths.

Not the most impressive of starts but all the time he was gaining crucial coaching experience which he then began to use to good effect at Espanyol before he was was spotted by Roland Nilsson at Malmö FF, who won the 2010 the Allsvenskan championship with Pep acting as his assistant. His first major Head Coach appointment then came at Halmstads BK but it ended in disappointment when they finished bottom of the table.

Still he kept moving on and learning and coached at Viking FK before catching the eye at Málaga CF where he began to make his name under Manuel Pellegrini by developing several  young players who would shortly make an impact in the first team.

Swansea City were impressed by what they had seen and in November 2013 Clotet was appointed academy consultant at the club before being promoted to assistant manager in May last year where he has remained ever since as manager Garry Monk’s main confidant and support.

Those are the bare facts which confirm that Pep has packed in a massive amount of coaching experience despite his tender years but we also need to put some flesh on the bones and for that I am going to Mike Calvin who profiled Garry Monk in his excellent recent book on football managers, Living On The Volcano.

Monk spoke extremely positively about Clotet when interviewed by Calvin. Apparently Pep was influenced greatly by the coaches at Barcelona and Johan Cruyff in particular before attending one hundred and sixty training sessions when Louis Van Gaal was in charge of the club in order to analyse the way he set up his teams to maintain possession of the ball. Closet is also renowned for breaking down matches into five minute segments so that he can assess thoroughly what is happening on the pitch and pass on information in real time to Monk. He is quite obviously open minded, thorough, relentless and committed to his role and would fit in perfectly with Brentford’s stats and analysis led approach.

There is talk that he came onto the Brentford radar last year when he was recommended to the club and was apparently considered for the managerial vacancy at FC Midtjylland over the Summer and given the situation at Swansea, it would appear likely that he might well be available and would perhaps not require us to pay compensation in order to acquire his services.

Like the majority of Brentford fans, I would prefer that Lee Carsley remained in post until the end of the season given the way that the squad has responded to him and the renewed sense of togetherness and organisation which has culminated in a series of much improved performances and results, however that does not seem to be an option given that it seems he is determined to leave his position as Head Coach as soon as possible given his total aversion to many elements of the job.

If that is in fact the case then we can only thank him for all his efforts on our behalf and for buying us enough time to make the right appointment to replace him. I would hope that there will still be a role for Lee at the club given his obvious ability but somehow I doubt if that will suit him and his ambitions. Hopefully if and when the new man arrives there will be a hand over period and given his popularity with the players I would anticipate that Paul Williams will be retained as a coach which will help maintain some element of continuity.

I am sure that this coming week will reveal whether or not Pep Clotet is the man for us. He appears to tick many of the boxes for us in terms of his background, reliance on stats and the fact that he has gained a massive amount of coaching experience around Europe given his relative youth. Most importantly, he has worked in England in the Premier League, fully understands the physical demands of the English game and is working at a club that is renowned for its excellent passing and possession based football. How players respond to him is something I am not qualified to answer.

I might be wrong – I normally am – but it would not surprise me if Pep is the man for us and that as long as he can get the players on board and convince them to buy into his methods then we might well have identified a massively impressive candidate who will become exactly the type of Head Coach that we have been seeking .

Reasons To Be Cheerful – 25/8/15

Queens Park Rangers – Nil, Brentford – Three. Doesn’t that scoreline have a lovely ring to it? It slides off the tongue so smoothly and perfectly. Just try saying it for yourself and see!

No matter that the victory came in a Development Squad tussle rather than in a first team match. Any victory over the old enemy at whatever level, and yes, despite any suggestions to the contrary regarding the likes of Fulham or even Birmingham City, QPR are certainly Brentford’s traditional rival and bête noire, must be savoured and luxuriated over.

Just in case our friends from Shepherd’s Bush think that yesterday’s result was an aberration, fluke or anomaly let me just remind them that we did the double over them last season too, scoring six times in the two matches and dominating proceedings to such an extent that even The Invisible Man, the immortal Betinho, managed to get himself on the scoreboard.

Oh, and if that still isn’t enough we also beat the Ra Ra’s by four goals to two last Saturday in the Under 18 Youth League.

Have I done enough gloating. No, not yet by a long chalk. I’ve barely got started.

My good friend, Mark Croxford, watched yesterday’s match which was dominated from start to finish by a young, vibrant, confident, exciting and talented Brentford team who could and should have scored at least six times and afterwards he spoke to a Rangers fan who ruefully and despondently admitted that it was the second time in only a couple of days that his team had been totally outplayed by a Brentford team. What wonderful words and doesn’t it make you feel good to read them particularly given the source of the comment?

There were lots of noteworthy performances and Lee Carsley and his coaches must have been purring with a mixture of pride and pleasure given how well the team had played on the day.

I also suspect that he was feeling a lot more sanguine than he was a couple of weeks ago after the Capital One Cup hammering by Oxford United. On the one hand he must have been proud at the fact that so many of his best prospects were named in the Brentford first team, but on the other, he would not have been happy at the way in which Josh Clarke, Josh Laurent, Courtney Senior and Jermaine Udumaga were thrown to the wolves and hung out to dry by being totally exposed in an horrendously weak team that lacked any real first team experience or seemingly even the will to compete.

Jack Bonham had the confidence boost of a long awaited clean sheet yesterday which included an excellent penalty save. He had an awful night against Oxford United when he could do little to prevent a torrent of goals and also fell foul of a fickle crowd who treated him appallingly, but hopefully he is now well on the road to recovery. He has all the ability in the world and he has been well coached, but success as a goalkeeper at Football League level is as much about intangibles such as sound judgement, good temperament and the ability to make instantaneous and correct decisions. I have long held the view that Bonham needs to gain experience by means of a loan spell away from Griffin Park and from playing games every week in which there are points and bonuses at stake rather than withering on the bench and playing Development squad matches which generally lack the necessary bite and passion.

Josh Clarke has also managed to rehabilitate himself from being a winger whose career was stalling to becoming an exciting attacking right back who now looks as if he could make a name for himself. He was one of the few players who enhanced his reputation against Oxford United and he must surely have taken inspiration from the example of Moses Odubajo who set such high standards last season.

Aaron Greene has pace, height, power and dribbling ability and was deeply impressive throughout the preseason period. He too has a real chance of making the grade.

Josh Laurent had a brief taste of first team football against Oxford and has now also made his Football League debut whilst on loan at Newport County. He too has much to learn and will certainly have his eyes opened throughout his loan spell but he has real ability and could go far. As an ex-QPR prospect whose departure from the club was greeted by massive outpourings of anger and frustration on QPR message boards, he must have been upset to have missed yesterday’s thrashing of his old team but I am sure he is happy to be where he is for the time being.

Daniel O’Shaughnessy is also finally settling down and developing into an effective central defender who might soon benefit from a loan spell and first team football elsewhere.

Midfielder Jan Holldack has also caught the eye with some encouraging midfield performances playing just behind the main striker in which he has demonstrated a real eye for goal from long range.

We are also blessed with real talent up front with Jermaine Udumaga, who made his Championship debut at Turf Moor last weekend and by no means looked out of place, Courtney Senior who has already made his first team debut whilst on loan for Wycombe Wanderers last season and Montell Moore who has much to prove after last season’s off-field indiscretions but is blessed with massive ability.

There is also a plethora of players coming through at an even younger age group and the likes of Tom Field, James Ferry, Zain Westbrooke and Gradi Milenge are all expected to improve further this season.

Brentford have gained much publicity and even notoriety over the last few months from their oft-stated policy of using a statistically based approach towards player identification and recruitment.

That is all very well but unless that strategy is underpinned and supported by a successful Academy system that also produces players who come into first team contention then all our efforts are likely to end in failure. We have lavished care, attention and monetary support into a Category Two Academy and hopefully it will start to bear fruit shortly.

We also need to ensure that there is a tried and tested pathway from the Academy however, first team places have to be earned on merit and the Oxford United experience when far too many youngsters were thrown together at one time clearly demonstrated that young players, however promising they are, need to be eased into the first team gently and in small numbers and also surrounded, encouraged and supported by more experienced team mates.

That being said, I would love us to be in a position before the end of this current season to introduce a policy or protocol whereby there has to be at least one Academy or Development Squad product on the bench for every first team game, with every effort, if not a directive, to be made to ensure that some of them actually play in the Championship and that we continue to give them pitch experience in all cup matches.

Yesterday was good news, firstly for the boost that any victory over QPR brings us, but, just as importantly because it provided further firm evidence that we are a long way ahead of our rivals in terms of our youth development – and that is really a reason to be cheerful.