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.