Thomas Frank was named head coach of Brentford on Tuesday after former boss Dean Smith left to join Aston Villa. The Dane spent three years working as Smith’s assistant, making him a popular figure at Griffin Park. But to those unaffiliated with the club, he’s somewhat unknown.
His only spells as a head coach have come in charge of the Danish Under-16s, 17s and 19s between 2008 and 2013, where he guided the Under-17s to the semi-final of the European Championships. A three-year stay at Brondby IF followed before arriving at Brentford as Smith’s assistant.
Speaking in his first press conference as the Bees head coach, he said he hadn’t previously considered the prospect of coaching in a foreign country, but is humbled by the opportunity.
“It just happened step-by-step. I had a dream about being a full time head coach and I was lucky enough to get into the Danish setup.
“It wasn’t a big ambition for me. It just happened that way. But when I was Brondby head coach I thought maybe it would be nice to get another experience abroad.”
While he said he hasn’t been thinking about the Premier League, he could find himself with the opportunity if he can maintain Brentford’s strong start to the season — the Bees are seventh after 12 games, one point off the play-off places.
Frank was very close with Smith — they’ve since spoken on the phone — and has nothing but respect for his former boss. After all, it was the former Bees head coach who brought Frank to England.
“I think that he has a bit of everything. He is a top manager and great at managing people. His way of including everyone was brilliant.
“I came here in a difficult position, from a different club and country. Football is all about earning trust. If you don’t believe in each other, and don’t trust each other, you can’t work together.”
Brentford have a certain way of doing things — a high pressure, possession style of football and a ‘moneyball’ approach to the business side of the game — and the continuation of this methodology was a key reason behind Frank’s appointment.
It’s provided clarity in their direction — despite the recent tumult behind the scenes — and, thus far, has proven to be a success both on and off the pitch, as Frank noted.
“I think one of the biggest strengths in this club is that we have a clear strategy. The philosophy and strategy are aligned and we know the direction we want to go in. They suit me, who I am and my values.
“I am very structured, very detailed in the way that I train and in my style of play. The fact that we do things a little different at Brentford suits me perfectly.”
This strategy, Frank believes, and the unity of thought is what can push the club on to the next level.
The best way to do so, for him, is to get the club working at their best, in unison, every day.
“I believe in togetherness. I think we need good people and I think it’s one of our main qualities. I believe in hard work. You need to put a lot of hours in every single day.”
Part of Brentford’s successful strategy has been the decision to close the majority of their academy in 2016, in favour of a more focused development squad, geared towards those coming to the end of their youth careers. A decision, Frank said, that allowed the club to narrow its focus and a create a clear pathway to the first team.
“It makes it easier to be aligned in style of play, culture and development. It helps us, with the likes of Chris Mepham stepping up. We just promoted Marcus Forss earlier this season, too. I think it is working. It is an area of our plan that we want to improve.”
Improvement was a subject Frank was keen to highlight, noting that Brentford still need to be more clinical, starting with Saturday’s match against Bristol City.
“It is about a little more quality in the final pass and final decision, especially on counter-attacks. The three-on-twos and four-on-threes we had against Leeds were big chances. That little bit of quality with the final pass was missing to kill the game.”
Expect his first game to be a high intensity affair. Brentford will aim to dominate and control the ball, akin to what has already been seen at Griffin Park so far this season.
If Frank can build momentum and return to winning ways, something very special could be on the horizon.
Brentford host Bristol City at Griffin Park at 3pm on Saturday 20th October.
Featured photograph/Connor Woolley