Since gaining promotion to the Championship from League 1, finishing as runners-up to Wolverhampton Wanderers, in the 2013/14 season Brentford have established themselves as a stable side in the English second tier.
The Bees for most of their time back in the Championship have implemented an attractive attacking style of play that encourages their most creative players to get on the ball and make a difference. This style has seen them secure four consecutive top ten finishes, including finishing 5th in their first season back in the division under Mark Warburton, before being beaten by Middlesbrough in the play-off semi-finals.
The fact that Brentford have achieved four consecutive top ten finishes is even more remarkable considering the number of key players and managerial departures from the club in the same period. Following their run to the play-offs in the 2014/15 season Warburton, who led The Bees to promotion from League 1, departed with Marius Dijkhuizen replacing him ahead of the 2015/16 season.
Dijkhuizen was sacked just a few months into the season with the club struggling at the bottom end of the division. However, Brentford were always likely to struggle at the start of the season after losing Warburton and having lost key players such as Andre Gray, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas and Jonathan Douglas in the summer, all of whom were integral to their play-off push the season before.
Dean Smith was appointed as the club’s new manager, after Lee Carsley had improved their fortunes on the field in caretaker charge, and managed to guide The Bees to a 9th place finish. Having already sold James Tarkowski to Burnley in January 2016, Brentford sold David Button, Jake Bidwell, Jack O’Connell and Scott Hogan throughout the 2016/17 season. Despite these departures Smith managed to guide his side to a 10th place finish in his first full season in charge.
More key players departed in the following summer with Maxime Colin, Jota and Harlee Dean all moving to Birmingham City. Smith’s side struggled at the start of the season consistently failing to convert leads in matches into victories, but turned around their fortunes and finished 9th last season.
This summer was unusually quiet for Brentford in terms of departures, with Ryan Woods’ transfer to Stoke City the only major departure. However, with Brentford starting well, sitting in 7th place a point of the play-offs, and looking capable of mounting a push for promotion they have now lost Smith to Aston Villa.
The Bees hierarchy have already shown their ability to maintain the club’s upward trajectory despite consistently losing key players and coaching staff. However, it is crucial that they appoint the right manager to continue the progress that was being made under Smith, appointing the wrong manager, as Dijkhuizen proved to be when he was appointed, could see the club’s fortunes on the pitch decline. Whoever they appoint will have a difficult job on their hands to emulate what Smith achieved, but will have a squad full of talented players who could achieve something special this season if managed well.