Two years on from Thomas Frank taking over as Brentford boss, Ian Westbrook believes the Dane has shown he was the right choice for the job.
Thomas Frank celebrated two years in charge of Brentford last week, and this week’s game at Sheffield Wednesday will be his 100th at the helm.
Frank took over as head coach shortly after Dean Smith left Griffin Park to become Aston Villa boss, having previously been part of Smith’s coaching staff.
But has he been a success?
Overall, he has done a good job for the Bees so far.
He survived a shaky start of one win in his first 10 Championship matches to turn things around and secure the club’s fifth consecutive top-half finish in his first part season as head coach.
And then in his first full campaign in charge last season, he led the Bees to their highest league finish in 73 years – third place in the second tier and only two points behind promoted West Brom.
Although Brentford then agonisingly lost the play-off final 2-1 to Fulham after extra time, Frank had come within a whisker of leading the Bees into the Premier League for the first time in their history.
His number one strength appears to be his man-management, with the players looking as though they really want to play for him.
This has never been more evident than in Frank’s relationship with Said Benrahma, who finally joined West Ham on deadline day on Friday.
The winger stayed at Griffin Park last summer, when many expected him to leave, and during last season suffered the sudden death of his father. Frank put Benrahma under no pressure to return to the club – giving the winger as much time as he needed to grieve and come to terms with the situation.
Shortly after he came back, Benrahma scored a stunning hat-trick in a 5-1 win at Hull City and celebrated one of his goals by running over to embrace the boss
Frank also appreciates the importance of the fans, and always makes a point of walking over to applaud them at the end of every game, even at away matches where they may be in the furthest corner away from the dugout.
He did not shirk that responsibility even in the awful run at the start of his reign, when at the end of a 2-0 defeat at Hull in the sleet and with some fans calling for his head, he still marched over to the travelling faithful to thank them for coming.
Mixing it up
Tactically he has also shown his adaptability – changing from four to three at the back helped him successfully end that losing run, for example.
And he is not afraid to switch to play two strikers – or sometimes it feels like a lot more when he throws on three attacking substitutes – rather than leaving one up front, if Brentford are chasing a game trying to rescue a point.
However, he was outwitted in the play-off final by Scott Parker, who changed Fulham’s tactics to try to combat the Bees, and Frank did not manage to change the way the Bees were playing to deal with it.
And there were question marks raised over how he coped with the pressure at the end of the season as Brentford failed to take their chances to win automatic promotion.
He has proved to be innovative – bringing out the much-publicised whiteboard to emphasise tactics during a drinks break against Charlton after the restart, a move that ultimately led to the Bees snatching a vital victory.
And he has already led the Bees to some club history this season by reaching the League Cup quarter-finals for the first time, while they are currently 10th in the Championship table.
Being a Bee
After Saturday’s win over Coventry, Frank was asked if he was pleased with his time in charge so far. “Almost,” he replied, “apart from one tiny thing in August!”
He went on to reflect how Brentford’s unique set-up is something he may never find in any job he may have in the future.
“I am very privileged to be in an unbelievable club in terms of how well run it is, with a clear strategy and a clear line from top to bottom,” he said.
“Everyone here is working in the same direction and has big ambitions. It is not often you have that special feeling.
“I am 100% sure that when I look back at my life in many years’ time – and I don’t know what will happen in the future – that I will think this was maybe the best spell I have had in a job. Not [necessarily] in terms of success, but in terms of where we have a 100% aligned strategy where I want to do things in the same direction, with a clear plan, clear details and good people.”
Frank always comes across as being thoughtful and intelligent when you see him being interviewed. He never rushes into an answer and always considers what he is going to say, and, at a club which prides itself on doing things differently, he has a football brain which can lead Brentford to success.