BUZZING BEE'S: BRENTFORD'S PHILOSOPHY IS CHANGING THE FUTURE OF THE GAME BUT WHAT IS IT EXACTLY?
Year after year, Brentford’s Crown Jewels are almost always prized away from Griffin Park; so, it is astounding that they still manage to compete with the Championship’s most equipped sides.
It all refers to a hugely effective philosophy off the field.
Refreshingly, it is so unique, and other teams simply do not adopt Brentford’s distinctive ideologies within the game.
So, what makes Brentford the well-drilled embodiment of footballing intelligence that they are?
Whilst Brentford do not waver the financial war-chest that we have seen from some Championship clubs in the past- think Leeds, Wolves and Middlesbrough- their eye for unearthed quality is second to none and means that, quite frankly, they do not need to fork out monumental transfer fees.
And ultimately, that is what makes them tick.
Brentford are adversaries to the norm; as is already deeply rooted within our knowledge, the English transfer market can often be a source of inflation.
So, the Bees buzz elsewhere. Last term, they swooped to sign seven players from foreign shores, recruiting talent from countries such as Spain, Denmark and France.
Just across the English Channel is where the epitome of Brentford’s recruitment beams.
The likes of Bryan Mbuemo, Said Benrahma and Neal Maupay were all snapped up from France, and all have orchestrated a pivotal impact since.
At the tender age of 21, Mbeumo is still at Griffin Park following a £5.8M move in the summer of 2019.
In that time, the French winger has proved to be an astute piece of business, notching 21 goals and 18 assists in that time.
On the other hand, Benrahma and Maupay have seemed pastures new- and that is no surprise, given the electrifying performances both exhibited during their tenures in the Capital.
Both arrived for meagre fees; Benrahma’s services were secured with a £2.7M fee, whereas it only took £1.6M to allure Maupay to England’s second tier a year prior.
And Brentford’s ingenious initiative thoroughly paid dividends here.
After the Bees failed to earn promotion in the 2019/20 campaign, Benrahma embarked on the short commute to East London, signing for West Ham in a £25M switch.
Maupay, meanwhile, sought the sensations of Premier League football a year before the Algerian International and signed terms with Brighton and Hove Albion for £20M.
Instead of performing the orthodox action and reinvesting the transfer fee from Maupay into a bonafide replacement, Brentford simply reinvented Ollie Watkins from a winger to a centre forward.
Watkins filled the void superbly and illuminated Brentford’s profitable onus by linking up with Aston Villa in a colossal £30M deal, the biggest fee that the Londoners have received in their history.
By all accounts, it was phenomenal business. Three years prior, Watkins had signed for the club in a £2M transfer from Exeter City and now, has received a call up to the England National Team and is a symbol of a £28M profit.
This also points to Brentford’s prescience of player development, which I will elaborate on shortly.
As we can gather, the Championship side manage to consistently embrace hefty profits on their players.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty more quintessences of Brentford’s profit model. The Bees accumulated a £10.65M profit on Andre Gray, a £9.5M profit on Ezri Konsa and one of £8.7M on Scott Hogan.
And Ivan Toney, who arrived in the summer from Peterborough United for £5M plus add ons, has been strongly linked with a £30M transfer to Premier League giants Arsenal.
Effectively, this is what Brentford are built on.
Last year, co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen told TalkSport “at Griffin Park, we have one of the lowest commercial revenues in the league,”
“The key is being able to identify undervalued talent in the transfer market, develop them and then sell them on for profit, gradually building more value into the squad and gradually increasing the level of the squad.”
It is an interesting philosophy to say the least, and one that does bear risks, but you could not possibly underplay the efficiency of it right now.
In stark contrast to some of the Championship’s big guns, Brentford do not generate a lot of money in revenue.
Up until this season, the 11,000 seater Griffin Park was their faithful home and it did not even boast hospitality facilities, leaning a significant dependence on worthwhile player investment.
The mystifying, multidimensional marvel of the inner cogs of Brentford Football Club do not stop there, though.
The rogue revolution
For Brentford, nurturing the next crop of young blood is equally integral.
Infamously, Brentford abandoned the traditionalist system of youth academies at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, replacing their academy with a globe-trotting B team.
In hindsight is easy to reason with Brentford’s discardment of the academy system, which came after losing prized prospects Ian Carlo Poveda to Manchester City and Josh Bohui to Manchester United for scarce compensation- something that occurs far too often at sides lower down.
Doing so allowed the club to save up to £1.5M on annum, all the while developing a mattress of talent from all different backgrounds.
Some of Brentford’s B team consists of those who have seemingly been discarded and abandoned by the upper echelons of the English game.
Chris Mepham is, perhaps, the most notable beneficiary from this perverse project.
Having been released from the famed Chelsea academy in his formative years, Mepham joined the B team and was eventually sold on to Bournemouth for £12.2m, engineering his way into the Wales senior fold in the process.
It evidently bears fruit from a financial perspective- compare it to the mere £30,000 fees Brentford received for Poveda and Bohui.
And then away from that, a core of Brentford’s B team is also built up of unravelled quality from Scandinavia, who have gone on to endure a new lease of life in West London.
For many, it really bridges the gap between youth and senior football.
This also prevents the possibility of seeing their best prospects sniped by bigger clubs, which is a permanently prevalent worry for teams below the top flight.
The B team follows an uncultured fixture schedule that reads something of fantasy.
They are not tied to a specific league; rather, they compete in the Middlesex Cup, play friendlies against fellow U23 teams and face off against some of football’s most esteemed heavyweights away from the British Isles, such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Lastly, Brentford place a gigantic emphasis on developing the talent at the club.
The vital contributors to their on-field success have not been renowned stars of past Premiership glory- instead, they have consisted of unknown quality from leagues all over.
Watkins was in the fourth tier of English football when Brentford brought him to Griffin Park. And Benrahma, Mbeumo and Maupay were all digging their feet in Ligue 2.
In particular, Maupay underwent a surgery of improvement and blossomed under the tuition of Brentford’s first-rate coaching team.
“Maupay was not a perfect player,” Ankersen states.
“If you ask people in France, they thought he was too aggressive, too angry.
“It’s about understanding which problems you can fix and which problems you can’t fix.
“If players were fully developed, Brentford wouldn’t be able to buy them. You get an unfinished package, and you need to make it better.
“Maupay was a very talented player. He played in Ligue 1 when he was 16. The football potential was always there. He lost his way a bit because of some bad career moves and an injury.
“You look for players that have potential and you analyse the context: why have they not fulfilled their potential?”
A variety of other players have embraced a steep sense of improvement at the club, too.
Rico Henry rose through the ranks at League One side Walsall and in the summer of 2016, penned a move to Brentford.
A dynamic, adventurous left back, the Bees have cultured the 23-year old, worked on the defensive element of his game and now, he is amongst the division’s finest full backs.
The likes of Ethan Pinnock and Ivan Toney have both also progressed outstandingly since making the move from the third tier.
I, for one, would argue this method is much more successful and sustainable than fleeting to the Premier League for players who have surpassed their peak.
Not only does it facilitate improvement, it additionally allows you to gain a substantial profit- which, for teams like Brentford who are not blessed with financial superiority, can prove beneficial.
So, it seems borderline criminal that a team with such an insightful, intelligent philosophy have not yet played Premier League football.
Though, having reached the playoff final last summer, it only appears a matter of time before Ankersen and fellow owner Matthew Bentham are translating their exclusive schemes to the summit of the British game.
Brentford well and truly understand football like no other.