Cottagers Confidential: Last season was nearly a dream season for you. This season hasn't started out as well. What were your expectations for the season starting out, and how have they changed as the season progressed.
Beesotted: Our expectations for this season were - and still are - to push for promotion. We are only one point off 6th place currently despite a dreadful start. I think both owners and fans probably underestimated how hard it would be to immediately replace key players like Alex Pritchard and Andre Gray and this, plus a staggering amount of injuries, unsettled the ship early on. In addition, new manager Marinus Dijkhuisen appeared to have bitten off far more than he could chew, meaning that our strong fitness, team ethic and shape from last season deteriorated. We were forced to throw untested young foreign players (who were signed for the longer term) straight into the first team and unsurprisingly we struggled. Fortunately we now have players coming back from injury and a much more solid base on which to play some attractive football. With hindsight the decision to sack Marinus – who was a lovely bloke – looks a very shrewd and timely one.
CC: After Mark Warburton's departure you moved quickly to get Dean Smith. It must be nice to be able to hire a manager. What can you tell us about him? How does he compare to Warburton?
B: After Mark Warburton's success last season you have now settled with a new manager in Dean Smith. It must be nice to be able to hire a manager. What can you tell us about him? How does he compare to Warburton?
Before the pedants start, I feel duty bound to point out that Dean Smith is a head coach and not "manager" – he will be working with a large group of specialist coaches. Warburton was a well loved and very successful manager, who encouraged us to go for the jugular after the strangling negativity of Uwe Rosler. Some feel he should have brought in more players in January (our owner Matthew Benham was willing to add to the squad) but Warbs stuck with the players he knew and ultimately we weren’t quite good enough to go up. But we played some fabulous football along the way.
So far Smith seems of similar stock – he is likeable, disciplined and tactically astute. We achieved good stability under the short term stewardship of Lee Carsley and Smith seems to want to use this strong base as a platform on which to progress. He will be aided in this by the likes of Jota and Josh McEachran returning from long term injury plus the chance to bring in a couple of faces in the transfer window.
CC: Last season, Brentford was a really fun team to watch. This year, not so much. Is the style different, or is it just the execution?
B: Definitely execution – our performance against a poor MK Dons side at the weekend was probably our best and most fluid for many months so most Bees fans are hoping we can take that form to Craven Cottage again. Alan Judge has had a fantastic season so far but must be relieved that the creative load can now be shared with team-mates of the calibre of Jota and talismanic Liverpool loanee Sergi Canos who is fast becoming a cult hero. Since the international break we have looked leaner, meaner and fitter – whilst we received a lot of plaudits last year for our fast fluent playing style, this was all underpinned by a desire to win and a very very fit team – we scored something like nineteen goals in the last ten minutes of matches.
CC: If you could predict a scoreline and line-up that would be great.
B: I’d love a repeat of last season’s Craven Cottage demolition, but suspect the game will be much tighter – I’m still hoping for a 2-1 win. Injuries and a new manager will play a part in our starting XI but it won’t be radically different from the below:
Button, Yennaris, Bidwell, O’Connell, Tarkowski, McCormack, Diagouraga, Woods, Swift, Vibe, Judge