Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Articles | 24 comments

Should Dean Smith Have Really Gone For A Burton?

Should Dean Smith Have Really Gone For A Burton?


Regular Beesotted contributor, Jim Levack, looks back at a memorable win at Burton and asks whether some are too quick to jump on the manager’s back after a couple of defeats and encourages us to look at the bigger picture.

Half time at Burton and a well-travelled and loyal Brentford fan passed me behind the stand and posed a rhetorical question of me.

“Dean Smith?” was the question, and he asked it because he knows I’m a big fan of our current Head Coach. I told him, as I’ve told him many times before, that Dean Smith is a perfect fit for our club because his values, footballing ethos and steady, measured approach are precisely what we need at this stage in our evolution.

Like most others behind the goal at the Pirelli Stadium, I was not happy with the Sunday league nature of the goals we gifted Nigel Clough’s side and the sluggish, lazy first half display. Unlike them, I felt we could pull it back and I even told Beesotted’s Billy Grant when I saw him at half time that we’d win 4-3. Okay, so I got it wrong, but the sentiment was there.

The previous Tuesday against Wolves I stood next to a bloke, who informed me without a hint of irony that Ryan Woods was variously a “liability”, “slapdash” and “not worth his place in the side”. Chuck in the constant refrain that Sawyers “isn’t up to it” at this level – usually from people itching to slate him for every misplaced pass before he’s even made it – and you’ll see a pattern emerging here of Brentford fans expecting far too much.

Just to set the record straight, from my perspective, Woods is in the top three contenders for Player of the Season and Sawyers, in his first season at this level let’s not forget, is among the top assist list for the division. Ask opposition fans who they’d take from our side and Woods and Sawyers would be right up there and anyone with a half-decent knowledge of the game can see why. But it’s the constant criticism of Dean Smith that really is starting to a) bore and b) wind me up now.

He and Richard O’Kelly managed to get a reaction from the players at Burton, but the incredible comeback is all down to the players. Had we lost it would have been lumped squarely at Smith’s door. When we’ve gone on decent runs this term – and remember, the squad is the second youngest in a staggeringly tough league – no one has given Smith one iota of credit.
Yet the second we lose a couple on the spin the knee-jerkers are ready at their keyboards with angry “Smith out” rants. The bulk of the players rarely get criticised because there’s no need when any blame can be easily shoved onto the shoulders of Sawyers and one or two others.

As the second half in the east Midlands showed, they ultimately hold the power and responsibility to decide their manager’s fate once they cross the white line. They let him down in the first 45. In the second 45 they redeemed themselves. Fortunately, in Matthew Benham we have a man who is not so reactionary and has a longer term view of how he wants the club to be run, and although I haven’t always agreed with every detail of what he’s done, he is absolutely bang on with Smith.

The day after the Wolves game I sent a message to a former newspaper colleague of mine, who is now the senior media and communications man at Molineux, telling him how well I thought his side had played and how 2-1 flattered us. He replied: “Hoping that was a sign of things to come, but still a tough league and we need to make sure we are in it. By the way, thought it was a classy touch from Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly to wait by the tunnel and shake hands with every Wolves player on Tuesday night.” That is a measure of the bloke.

Okay, so there’ll be Bees fans like the one who approached me in Burton who say we should be nastier than that, but Smith is a good man, a fair man and a man who players want to play for. He steers a steady course, and regardless of results, continues with the vision he and Matthew Banham share. And I like that.

I’d like to ask those fans digging him out every time we lose who they’d rather have. Allardyce, Warne, Johnson, Rowett, Zola? Thanks but no thanks. Brentford fans – some of them at least – need to be very careful what they wish for.

Jim Levack


  1. I have to agree with you – ultimately it’s all about the players (and their mindset going on to the pitch). The funny thing about Saturday (which people seem to have forgotten) is that they started the game really well (and scored). It was the two shockingly undefended corners that knocked the stuffing out of us for the rest of the half.

    On the point of people getting on Dean Smith’s back – I find the trend of demanding our Manager getting the sack short termist and lacking in insight. Constantly changing your Manager is not a recipe for success and just causes uncertainty at the Club.

    The other gripe I have is some supporters expectations. If you’ve followed the team watching them play in Division 4 against the likes of Workington Town and Southport you tend to have a sense of perspective. It strikes me there is a sizeable minority that don’t have that measured approach.

  2. Lovely stuff Jim – sums up my feelings perfectly.

  3. Jim

    While I share your sentiment about the fickleness of fans on managers there is one point you cannot get away from. Yet again this season we have nearly the worst defensive record in the division. Dean Smith had a reputation at Walsall of having a good defensive record…i was at the Burton match and not only was the same lack of defensive ability on show but we did an Iceland on the corner again for the second goal. How many times this season have you seen the opposition score unmarked in the box..ive lost count. On balance is he the best man for the job if we are to progress because we will never reach our full potential until we solve this problem we have defending.

  4. Some fair comments here and absolutely agree that Woods has been right up there this season in terms of consistency and is one of the few, alongside Dean, Colin and Yennaris who always give 100%.

    As a fan who does give Smith a certain amount of criticism, it is mainly focused on the word I used to describe Woods……….consistency.

    I have watched Brentford for many years and if we finish in the top half of the Championship this season compared to where we have come from then that may well be seen as a good performance, but by looking too far in the past and lowering our expectations, then with a new stadium a few years away we might be struggling to get the level of support required to make that work, so the performances and consistent performances have to improve if we are to achieve our longer term goals.

    We are too quick to mention what a young side we are. When I look at our squad I see that it is full of quality and with that squad we can match most in our league. Our average age should not be an excuse and the fact we can turn it on in certain games shows it’s possible.

    Smiths job is to make that level of performance more consistent. We got close to that when mceachran was commanding things from the back of midfield and we were unfortunate that he got injured. Since then we have looked unfocused on a plan and Smiths substitutions make little or no impact, with them being focused on just bringing on fresh legs, instead of being able to change a game.

    The Sawyers debate will go on all season. I agree that he shows flashes of being able to read the game well and spot and deliver a pass that others cannot. My issue his his lack of reading the game off the ball. He often does not anticipate and is too soft at this level to either hold the ball or win it back. I understand that it’s his first season at this level, but there hasn’t been a sign of this strength improving from his first game.

    I don’t think Smith is a terrible manager and he doesn’t receive the credit that he should for certain performances (from myself included), but the fact remains that we should continue to be a club with ambition to reach the highest league. Is he the right man for the job to take us all the way to filling Lionel Road………..I’m not sure.

    • Can I take issue with your point on substitutions, with particular reference to Burton? Jozefzoon almost scored within a minute of coming on (one of the best clearances off the line I have ever seen!) and then set up the 4th goal, and once McCormack was on the pitch there was absolutely no way Burton were going to score again.

  5. The support at Burton was superb but the teenage keyboard warriors really piss me off!

    Yes it’s frustrating that we are the 5th highest scorers in the division but 3rd highest in the goals conceded list (behind only the Merry Millers and the Tricky Trees), but if you believe that goals = entertainment, we’re right up there.

    My best mate is a Watford fan and he’s not enjoying the Premier League (defeat at Selhurst sucks the soul of the world’s biggest optimist) – he says they’ve got a manager and players the fans just can’t identify with … so let’s be thankful for what we’ve got. Best sustained league position since the early 50s, on course to score 70 league goals for the 4th consecutive season (haven’t done that since the late 50s) … and a young team capable of further improvement.

  6. Jim, I had the privilege of being there on Saturday and I agree with your comments. Sure, we let in and score a few goals but who said following Brentford was easy! The ninja key board warriors don’t worry me, I bet they have only been following Brentford for five minutes. As a long term fan for over 50 years I would much sooner be where we are now than where we were a few short years ago. With a couple of quality signings in the summer, I really feel we can push on in this league and hopefully upset the big boys who have much more spending power than Brentford have. Mr Bentham is no mug and he has appointed Dean Smith and his staff for the long haul, not just quick success but long term sustainable growth – long may it continue!

  7. Why is it so binary, either DS out or he’s a genius? At HT on Sat we were looking at 3 straight defeats so it is inevitable that concerns turn into criticism. I’m against the unrealistic callis for scalps that a few fans show, but most are like me – wanting DS to take us further but unsure if he’ll be the one to do it at times. 27 wins out of 70 games is a record worthy of some scrutiny, not a disaster but not close to meeting the owners ambitious targets. His subs & game management sometimes raise questions. So let’s see what he / we can do in the remaining games. By the way the people running the show are smart & I trust them 100%. DS is unlikely to take us down & that’s a good base, can he build on that?

  8. Spot. On. Jim

    We can always improve, do I want the club back to where it was before Matthew Benham?

    No. Thanks.

    Is this the most prolonged period of success I’ve seen in 48 years of supporting The Bees…you. Bet. It. Is.

    Is it the most exciting football to watch?

    Yes. It. Is.

    Get behind the players and manager, and be grateful we have such a forward thinking owner, it’s a short time ago we were in a similar position to Orient.


  9. Could not make it on Saturday due to work, but echo many of the comments. Goal scoring is not a problem, but defensively we still need to stop shipping in so many goals. Reports that we need a good holding midfielder in the close season would hopefully go so way towards this.

    SO many heart stopping moments this season – such as the recent home game at Rotherham, and by all accounts on Saturday.

    However good a manager is he will never please all the people all the time, unless he can get to the mythical 100% win record! Sure, Dean Smith hasn’t got the best record – but not the worst either.

  10. It is interesting to read that most of the largely satisfied posters, both in response to Jim’s article and on the Beesotted site, are long term Brentford supporters. My view is that in the 56 years I have been a supporter, this is by some way the best era we have had. Woodybee mentions the desperate days in the late 60s and early 70s watching 4th division games against Southport and Workington. I too remember those days and frankly there is no comparison. Be grateful for what we now have and enjoy it while it lasts.

  11. I agree with most of what Jim says – about Woods, Sawyers and broadly about Dean Smith. Lets not forget Lasse Vibe who also has his critics but whose goals for the second year running are crucial.

    Some context though- a loss to Burton and the momentum would have been right against us – with some very tricky games coming up starting with Bristol City who are fighting for their lives and Leeds who are looking the other way. Teams who have been near the bottom like Wolves, Forest, Quarter Pound of Rubbish, Bristol, Blackburn and Burton are not going to lie down. The second half comeback at Burton was immensely important.

    I do think the club needs to look at the defence and its organisation – there are some great players there but have conceded so many poor goals in recent weeks.

    Perhaps specialist defensive coaching would help – we certainly will need to be much tighter if we are going to make a challenge next season. Dean and the team do need to address this.

  12. I think Bolton Bee has put his finger on it, as someone who goes back to the mid-fifties, and what we have been through since then, I am very happy with where we are at. I agree with what Jim says and would only add that the division of responsibilities between the DF’s and the manager worries me, but to give DS credit I don’t think he has tried to shift blame on to others. Given our resources, he has to have at least a 7 out of 10.

  13. I’ve been supporting the Bees since the late 70’s and without a shadow of a doubt it’s the best value for money I’ve ever had as a season ticket holder. The greatest times of supporting Brentford in my lifetime. I hear people go on about reaching the”promised land”. Spoiler alert: we’re in it!! If anyone thinks we’re going to be a sustainable premier-shite club that isn’t a feeder/selling club then good luck with that dream. That’s what West Ham and about 80% of all premiersham clubs are and you think we’ll be diffetent!? I have no love of the top flight and no desire to join it. They reward failure with parachute payments, are run by tv networks and skin the fans. No-one can stand, no-one knows what day their match will be played and with a week-ends fixture list taking four days to complete apart from the last fixture of the season. As a supporter you couldn’t be mored removed from your club having little or no value to your chosen club whatsoever. It’ll expensive, overated and mess your seasons weeks up. And as a club that’ll be making up the numbers every week get used to losing. These comments are made with the hindsight of spending a lot of time (through work colleagues) of listening to Fulham, QPR, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham and other “big clubs” fans who are either outpriced from their club or “skinned” as season ticket holders with messed up week-ends. A more miserable bunch of sods (football fans) that you could ever wish to meet. No thanks! Don’t subscribe to the sham that is the premiership …. unless all matches kick-off at 3.00pm on Saturday then there will never be a level playing field

    • That right there is the reality check we all need. As much as it is a duty to be delirious when we win and have a moan when we lose, (that’s what makes us football fans) but deep down, when asked the question and giving a truthful answer, we’re all loving the Championship. Decent grounds, good pitches, nice football, Sat 3 o’clock a mostly with the odd bonus to game thrown in to he mix. What is there to complain about? Way better than 80’s & 00’s footy down there at least anyway.

      I do think that one of the reasons though that Dean Smith has not been taken to by the fans is the clubs media mismanagement of him and his ‘not comfortable showing raw emotion or getting animated’ either. Remember back to the start of the season and the press conference and when he was asked ‘how do you think we’ll do this season?” question. He gave the answer, top 2!! Wow, that’s some ambition or was it the board stating to say it and give the belief to fans but it was always destined to backfire. Then there is his crop of Wallsall players, headed up by Sawyers, who despite the comments above from Jim saying. “those who know football, know”, well anyone who has played the game to any level at all doesn’t need to know when a player stops running, stops tracking back, makes a fake attempt at a slide tackle or block to avoid running or tracking back and that has happened far too often for a professional footballer for it not to be picked up by the majority of fans, so think defending and playing him has also been his downfall to an extent.

      Also need to point out that Benham isn’t too convinced by him, like mentioned in the comments above when saying the long term goal, by only offering him a 1 year extension. Seeme more a steady the ship while the stadium is being built as opposed to a push to anywhere better for me anyway.

      And lastly, I think the huge turnaround on Saturday can be very basically explained that a tea that are capable of doing it, weren’t doing it as perhaps Dean Smith can’t motivate them to do it, UNTIL the threat of what is a free weekend off to go out, have time with he family, go on a mini holiday for many of the squad was threatened to be taken away from them, that all of a sudden, the players had a goal to achieve. A receive for reward. A bonus system if you like and then look how they dug themselves out of it to have a few days off……they’re basic human beings. It’s the little things that important to them. Warburton used this system of bonuses in terms of pay linked to wins and performances and surprise surprise it works. Just hope Dean Smith has learnt from this and will continue to think up new ways to motivate and reward players, who we all know are able to beat the top teams, but don’t seem motivated to do so on a week by week basis, so who’s fault is that if not the man leading them in to battle……with his arms tucked nicely behind his back in total silence for the most minutes of every game……and I think that’s why most fans haven’t taken to Smith so far. Well it is for me anyway.

  14. I always defend Dean and the players whatever the outcome, especially during games when after all, we – as fans – have ONE job … to be the 12th player and add our voices and encouragement to the team. Online, some of the vitriol (usually hiding behind the blank cheque of “my opinion”) is more negative towards our club than you’d hear from the average opposition fan. We’re in Dreamland and I, for one, am loving every minute of it and doing – in a small way – everything I can to see that it continues.

  15. Righter than a right thing on a day of particular correctness.

  16. Great article – agree with the sentiments and particularly like to see Sawyers singled out for praise.

    Watched the game with US Pete and we both agree Sawyers is an impact player – yes he makes mistakes but he also makes lots of killer passes. He was also absolutely central to our win at Hillsborough.

  17. I have watched Brentford since the seventies and there have always been whingers and whiners but in the “GOOD OLD DAYS” pre facebook/twitter you just took a few sideways steps on the terrace (Royal Oak and New Road being my favoured viewing points) and they were caast adrift.
    It doesn’t matter what division we were in as long as the football was good but I cannot remember a season where we did not play a game comparable to the Wolves match even in promotion seasons.
    I dislike seating at games because you are trapped, whinge in the left ear, whine in right and I don’t know the words but I’ll sing anyway behind. I have attended far less games this season because of it.
    I’ve digressed, sometimes this season we have played the best, fast flowing attacking football that I’ve ever seen including Kevin (hit him on the head) Keegans entertainers.
    Therefore I feel blessed to be a Bee.

  18. I think now till the end of the season is pure experiment time.

    I feel we get caught in between two thoughts or styles. We know that we don’t have a good defensive record so there’s a lot of “we can’t concede today” and it freezes us, attacking players tend to either drop deeper or don’t get the service, and ultimately it plays into other teams hands. It seems like Smith and the players worry about it and so try to fix the issue, which I agree needs to happen, but at the expense of their natural style.

    Then second half we think “well we know we can score here, so let’s go and do it”.

    I don’t like it, I call it the Bournemouth model, but perhaps for the rest of the season it should be “let’s just go and score at least one more than them”. Play the style that is natural, score the goals and work on the defensive aspects into the new season.

    I think it also helps that with very little on the line DS is playing guys like KK as well, who perhaps aren’t as technically gifted so don’t get the training ground recognition but give it everything come game time and play above themselves.

    More of that now please, with the understanding that we’ll probably drop a few more games till the end of the season, but that we’ll go out attacking and trying to score, rather than dropping points trying to fix defensive errors that probably won’t affect us in the long run. That should at least stop the calls for Smith Out.

  19. Part of the systems Bread and Circuses variations, does any of it matter? Hardly, its all escapism and illusions, it matters not a jot, a fuss about nothing.

  20. Jim – I agree with many of your comments,but what I find particularly interesting about Dean Smith’s reign is that the two best runs as far as quality have been concerned have both followed the loss of the out and out star in the team. Last season when everyone thought we were going down when Judgey got injured and this season after Hogan left. For both spells it was as though the rest of the team felt able to express themselves rather than just try to give it to the big star. What I don’t know is how much those two opposing styles of play are down to the coach and how much is down to the players. Hopefully everyone is learning how to play this division as we progress.

  21. Just commenting on Tim’s vision of the premiership, and have thought this for many a year, and I am glad im not alone in thinking that a promotion would not be a good thing for anyone. The championship is a great league with some huge teams. There has been some fantastic football played at Griffin park in the last few years, do we really want to sacrifice the soul of football on the alter of greed and obscurity ??

  22. Can’t help thinking no matter what DS does he will always be compared unfavourably with MW. Let’s face it when MW got the job we all would have
    Jumped at having a young established English Manager to replace UR. Loved
    MW era but we had nothing to loose, teams came to Griffin Park to try and win
    not defend. We still LOST games we felt we should have won. What would have
    happened in the 2nd season we will never know. We are now an established Championship team holding our own, exciting players ,more often than not we are dominating games, not always winning but lots of possession. Yes there are stinkers along the way but for all the talk of talented players in the past we were more often than not a talented underachieving average third tier team.
    Now we are an attacking team full of very very skilful individuals alongside
    an up and coming reserve team (for want of a better phrase) who will we hope
    challenge for first team places and the team or vast majority will be better having been together for a few more years. With the odd addition to finish the jigsaw as seen before (Judge ,Detzi etc) we will be ready for the next push. Don’t want to be the whipping boys but agree with many comments that patience and realism is required. I stopped going for a while kids and negativity kept me away. Not saying people are not allowed to have a rant but need to look at the bigger picture. Have absolute faith in MB where would we be without him. Our right to challenge decisions is important but during game we need that optimism at home shown at Burton and don’t forget where we’ve come from. You Bees!

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *