Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thomas Frank exclusive interview: Brentford head coach says Bees’ tough season is a reminder of football’s brutality -Dlight News

Thomas Frank is in a jovial mood as he leaves his press conference and walks through to a back room at Brentford’s Jersey Road training ground for his sit-down with Sky Sports.

The camera operator asks him to say a few words to ensure his microphone is working correctly.

“Soon we need some sun so we can go out to a nice pub, sit in the garden and have a nice cold pint,” he says. You can always count on the Dane to raise the mood, especially when things are going well.

Last weekend, he celebrated his side’s 5-1 win at Luton – the Bees’ biggest Premier League win to date – with a flying visit to Madrid for El Clasico. Straight after this interview, he heads to “a very important game of padel” on the other side of the west London side’s complex.

It all feeds in to the idea of staying calm, something he often reiterates the importance of. There is no doubt that his patience and inner tranquillity will have been tested on countless occasions this season, though.

Brentford are unbeaten in five games now, with what Frank calls “a statement win” against the Hatters at Kenilworth Road moving them 10 points clear of the relegation zone and all but assured of a fourth straight season in the top flight.

But when they lost 14 of 18 league games between November 12 and March 16, things did not look quite so rosy, despite the fact they never once dropped below 16th.

“Tough!” is Frank’s one-word assessment of the season to date. “But every football season is tough.

“The biggest thing comparing this season to last season is that we have lost way too many games and when you don’t win, you don’t get that little bit of sugar, that natural little bit of feedback to the brain that says all the hard work is paying off.

“A big thing is looking at the processes, looking at the performances, looking at how the players are developing, because they are still developing even if we are losing. Losing is just a result on the scoreboard and performances are the most important thing.”

Brentford sit 15th in the table ahead of their trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton on Saturday evening, live on Sky Sports Premier League.


Saturday 27th April 5:00pm


Kick off 5:30pm


A graphic did the rounds on X, formerly known as Twitter, earlier this week which showed the Bees sit eighth in the Expected Points table, suggesting they should have 48 points at this stage, as opposed to the actual figure of 35.

Frank pauses for thought, deliberates and smiles after he is asked, given Brentford’s statistical approach to the game, whether he believes they are in a false position.

“With Expected Goals and these kinds of stats, that is definitely something we can read into,” he says.

“Then there are the performances we look through with video, my eyes, the feeling and all sorts of other stats. With all that added together, there’s definitely a feeling we could have got more out of the season – and that is without talking about the injuries.

“I think we have the shortest distance to goal when we take our shots out of all the teams in the Premier League, which I’m very pleased with because we like to have a focus on making the chance big if possible.

“We also rely on a lot of crosses or play balls in behind, which is the best way – in my opinion – to create chances. It says that we are very good at creating chances and it’s hugely impressive that we keep being very good at that.

“One of the reasons why we maybe haven’t got as many points as we should do is that too many of the chances we’ve been giving away are too high quality. That’s a combination of us not defending well enough in certain situations and making some bad mistakes that we normally don’t; I think we made three where we just passed it directly to the opponent.

“It all adds up and confirms the belief I had in the team before the season. I thought, even without Ivan [Toney], it could be an interesting season, a positive season.

“It is not as positive as I’d have hoped for – definitely not – and it’s just a huge reminder that football is brutal and you can’t get carried away too much or plan too much for what’s happening in the future.”

Ivan Toney celebrates after scoring Brentford's second goal against Wolves
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Ivan Toney missed Brentford’s wins over Sheffield United and Luton with a hip injury

Brentford’s injury list this season has been lengthy.

Ben Mee, Josh Dasilva, Aaron Hickey and Rico Henry are out for the season.

Ethan Pinnock, Christian Norgaard, Kevin Schade, Bryan Mbeumo and Kristoffer Ajer have all been sidelined for lengthy periods, though they are fit again now.

Ivan Toney – who was not available until January after an eight-month ban for breaching the FA’s gambling rules – missed the wins over Sheffield United and Luton with a hip injury. Frank says the striker is “progressing” and hopes he is available for Saturday’s game.

But he does not dwell on their misfortune in that department. Again, it is about staying calm; frustration is wasted energy.

“You’re always dreaming about your strongest 11! In certain spells, you’re thinking ‘come on, give us a bit of luck here’.

“I’m pretty good at saying, if a player is injured, don’t think about it; just think about the next player in line and make sure he can prepare in the best possible way. I just focus on which players I have available.”

Returning players mean Frank has been able to play a 4-3-3 formation in recent weeks, as opposed to the frequently used 3-5-2 during the height of the injury pile-up.

“There’s no doubt I’d prefer to play a 4-3-3, but we’ve shown we can play a lot of different systems and I don’t think there’s one that’s better than another, depending on the players.

“I probably still prefer to play 4-3-3, but we need to have the right players available to do it. A big part of the season, we were without our two best full-backs and without our two best wingers, so it’s very difficult to go 4-3-3 as they are crucial to that system.

“It’s very pleasing that, finally, we have got close to a fully firing squad.”

As the interview draws to its conclusion, it is time to zone in on Frank himself.

The 50-year-old has been head coach at Brentford for five-and-a-half years now – the longest-serving chief since Malky MacDonald’s reign from May 1957 to January 1965 – and in his time, the Bees have, arguably, never been up against it as much as they have this term.

Does he believe he has grown as a result?

“It’s been probably the biggest test so far,” he admits. “Now, of course it’s tough, especially the second spell where we didn’t win in nine. But you know that can happen in football and it’s not only to me or this club. You see it in every league across the globe.

Frank has been in charge in west London since October 2018
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Frank has been in charge in west London since October 2018

“Back in Brondby, I decided not to win the first eight games, just to test the waters of the chairman and everyone in charge at the club! Then I did the same here, where I lost eight out of 10. That’s really tough because you are new at the club.

“There’s only one thing to do: stay calm – or as calm as you can be – do what you believe in, keep the energy, keep the belief and keep going.

“You learn every year and just get more experienced. We are quite process-driven, so we do the same every day, every week, more or less, with small tweaks. That helps a lot, especially when it goes down, that we keep doing what we believe in.

“But that takes something because the emotions go up and down and there is all the influence you get from people on the outside. I absorb all the emotions from everyone and just need to keep it down.”

Brentford's signing of Igor Thiago from Club Brugge will be completed on July 1
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Brentford’s signing of Igor Thiago from Club Brugge will be completed on July 1

Another win would complete the job for Brentford and allow them to fully plan for next season, which they have already started doing, with the club record signing of Igor Thiago from Club Brugge to be completed on July 1.

“We are getting closer and I’m looking forward to that,” Frank adds.

“One of the strengths of this club is that there are always two pathways; one where we need to perform now and then the longer-term development and planning. I know when we get there, we will really look forward to it because I love that planning part.

“But with four games left, we want to finish on a high. We want to finish with momentum. It’s one game at a time and hopefully we take another win against Everton on Saturday.”

Watch Everton vs Brentford live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm

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