Brentford boss Thomas Frank has lavished praised on the hardy character of his squad and their unfaltering belief ahead of Blackburn’s visit to Griffin Park on Saturday.
The Bees are 18th in the Championship — ten points clear of the relegation zone — and have won four of their last eight fixtures in all competitions, engineering a six-game unbeaten run in the league after going winless in six across November and December.
This record is a far cry from the perceived crisis of yesteryear, wherein the Dane won just once in his first ten games after taking the reigns from Dean Smith. And behind it all, Frank said, is the resilient character and belief of his side.
“Keep believing, that’s been the big thing,” he explained. “When we are in a bad spell and it’s not going in the right direction, it’s difficult. We’ve shown before that we’re a good side, but when we are struggling, sometimes you can lose your belief in what you’re doing.”Embed from Getty Images
Frank has never lost faith in his players’ capacity to turn their dismal form around and such confidence in their abilities has been duly repaid. Brentford now look to be hitting their stride and the squad appear closer than ever.
Frank said: “When you’re in trouble, its so important to stay together. Of course, we believe in ourselves, in our form and in the team.
“The work on improving the mentality and the mindset on the players’ part has been important. You can see how we’ve defended in the last eight games. The mentality on the training pitch and in the matches has been changed.”
One player who has particularly benefitted from Frank’s unwavering conviction is club captain Romaine Sawyers, making three assists in his last two Championship games.
“We had to keep going because we knew we could change it,” Sawyers said. “Nobody will roll over, so we had to make sure we keep believing.”
“We’ve worked hard. Thomas kept believing in us and we’ve had belief in ourselves, so we’ve been getting results to show. We’ve got that domino effect from game-to-game and it’s just to keep building on it and believing in it.”
He continued: “When a manager has confidence and trust in you, you want to prove that he made the right decision. There’s no bad eggs who don’t want to work hard and that’s what makes us such a tight knit group. Thomas has really demanded more from us and it’s just everyone bouncing off each other in the right direction.”Embed from Getty Images
Sawyers cited Frank’s tactical switch from an initial 4-1-4-1 to a three-man defence — first deployed in December’s 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers — as another pivotal reason behind his and Brentford’s recent run of form, and the Bees are yet to lose since.
“It’s made us solid as a team. We’re harder to beat and we concede less chances. We’ve said ‘this is the best we’ve played’ a few times in that period, which is a testament to how we’re improving. We’ve set our standards high.”
“I need to score, though,” Sawyers only half-joked. “I get a bit of banter about it, but as long as I’m doing it for the team, I’ll go a whole season without scoring if I have to. I just try to contribute as much as I can whether the numbers are there or not.”
But aiming to crash the party is Blackburn, winning their last four league games in a row — including three clean sheets — and undefeated against Brentford since March 2016.
“From the last eight games, this could be the toughest,” Frank speculated. “They work very hard for each other and they’re a threat in different areas.
“If we can play and create chances as we did in the last few games, I’m 100% sure we can score. It’s about the defensive mindset and if that’s good enough on the day. So far I’m very pleased and I’m 100% sure we can continue our run.”
Brentford host Blackburn at 15:00 GMT on Saturday.
Featured photograph/Adam Le Roux