TEAM PREVIEW: Brentford – Natalie Sawyer hopes surprise factor remains a positive

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Brentford had an incredible season after coming straight up from League One with Mark Warburton, but there was no happy ending for Warburton who knew he’d be leaving the club long before the campaign concluded. Defeat in the play-offs to Middlesbrough ended the dream and now they’re back under new guidance to have another go this season.

Last Season: Championship (5th)

Manager: Marinus Dijkhuizen

 

Squad

GKs: Jack Bonham, David Button
DFs: Jake Bidwell, Harlee Dean, Alan McCormack, Raphael Calvet, James Tarkowski, Nico Yennaris, Jack O’Connell, Moses Odubajo, Daniel O’Shaugnessy, Yoann Barbet, Andreas Bjelland
MFs: Lewis MacLeod, Sam Saunders, Marcos Tebar, Alan Judge, Toumani Diagouraga, Jota, Akaki Gogia, Konstantin Kerschbaumer, Ryan Williams, Josh McEachran
FWs: Scott Hogan, Andre Gray, Montell Moore, Philipp Hoffmann, Lasse Vibe

 

Transfers

In: Yoann Barbet (Niort), Akaki Gogia (Hallescher), Jan Holldack (Koln), Konstantin Kerschbaumer (Admira Wacker), Ryan Williams (Morecambe), Andreas Bjelland (Twente), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Philipp Hoffmann (Kaiserslautern), Lasse Vibe (Goteborg)

Out: Richard Lee (Retired), Alfie Mawson (Barnsley), Kevin O’Connor (Retired), Emmanuel Oyeleke (Exeter City), Nick Proschwitz (Paderborn), Tommy Smith (Released), Tony Craig (Millwall), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Jonathan Douglas (Ipswich Town)

 

First Six: Ipswich Town (H), Bristol City (A), Birmingham City (H), Burnley (A), Reading (H), Leeds United (A)

Likely Lineup: (4-5-1) Button – McCormack, Bjelland, Tarkowski, Bidwell – Diagouraga, Kerschbaumer, Jota, Gogia, Judge – Gray

 

A word from…Natalie Sawyer

On support for Brentford I was about six years old when I went to my first game, it was my brother’s birthday. There were about 10 kids and I was the only girl but I absolutely loved it, it was quite exciting being the only girl.

My dad wasn’t a massive football fan until he took us but he got really into it when he saw us enjoying it, it’s our local club, it was about 10 minutes from our house!

On last season I think it’s fair to say we overachieved, nobody thought we’d get into the play-offs but I have this weird feeling, it feels so bizarre that we were in contention and I got the feeling we were going to do it and get into the Premier League.

It was the most exciting season I’ve enjoyed as a Brentford fan, the achievements of that squad were just incredible. We played good football, the players were so unified and desperate to do well, I just think the Middlesbrough games were a step too far for us.

On Mark Warburton Putting my hand on my heart I didn’t want Mark to leave, he’d built something there, got us promoted and even when the statement came out I had this hope they’d sit down and sort something out for him to stay.

I also understand we wouldn’t be in the Championship if it wasn’t for Matthew Benham, he’s the owner, a Brentford fan and has invested a lot of money and you know you have to back what he wants. I really, really wanted Mark to stay but Matthew has long-term goals.

On summer recruitment I think the fact a lot are unknown is quite exciting. It could be a test for them but they could be a surprise for opponents, we’ve always gone down the route of buying surprise players, people like Stuart Dallas were so unknown and I loved bringing him on and knowing teams didn’t have a clue what to do with him!

I obviously hope they can come in quickly and have a big impact too though! Andre Gray was fantastic last season, he’d made a big step up and I don’t think he was necessarily brought into be the first choice striker until Scott Hogan got injured. On his day, he’s very difficult to play against so I desperately want us to keep hold of him, we need a few strikers. We’ve brought in Philipp Hoffmann from Germany and it would be great to see a good strike partnership form. It saddens me that players are moving on because a lot of them are very good, it’s a shame.

On expectations this season I’m hoping that surprise element might be one of our strengths but I definitely think it’s going to be a transitional season. It may work in our favour but whatever happens we’re all Brentford fans, we’ll all be there throughout the season. Like I said, I’m disappointed players are moving away because I think it’s good to stick with players who have got you there but I have to be optimistic and believe these new players are going to surprise people!

 

The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Hopefully Brentford can have another good season to continue a great rise. Releasing Mark Warburton was a controversial decision and a lot will rest on the club’s ability to hold onto talisman Andre Gray in the next few weeks. If they do, Brentford still have a strong squad but other key players could depart.

Key Player: Jota – The Spaniard was simply excellent at times last season and looked like a player who could easily make the transition to the top level. Fortunately for Brentford, it seems clubs haven’t realised his talent yet and he’ll be at Griffin Park for at least another year.

One to Watch: Philipp Hoffmann – Most would be impressed if a Premier League side signed a German U21 international who has 9 goals in 17 appearances for his country. So for a Championship club to snap him up is a real coup and Hoffmann could potentially tear the league up this season.

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