Bees fans optimistic

9 August ~ After the trauma of that last-minute penalty miss against Doncaster and the subsequent play-off final defeat against Yeovil, you might have thought that Brentford fans would find it difficult to summon up much enthusiasm for the new season. On the contrary, whereas the defeated play-off sides in 2002 and 2006 were immediately dismantled as the club plunged into financial crisis, the club have used the close season to strengthen the squad to such an extent that supporters are now eyeing an automatic promotion spot rather than the dreaded play-offs.

Although the excellent young keeper Simon Moore and talented winger Harry Forrester have been sold to Cardiff and Doncaster respectively, Uwe Rösler has made some exciting signings. One of last season’s outstanding young players, Will Grigg, has joined from Walsall and he is joined up front by the promising Conor McAleny on loan from Everton. Simon Moore has been replaced by David Button from Charlton in goal.

Remarkably, Brentford can now boast two European internationals – the Czech Martin Fillo and the Spaniard Javi Venta (OK, he is 37 years old). Perhaps the most important arrival is Alan McCormack from Swindon who will provide some steel and experience in midfield to help what is still a young squad. The outcome is that there is now serious competition for every position and Rösler’s problem may be keeping everyone in a large squad happy.

What could possibly go wrong? Given that this is Brentford we are talking about, the answer is, unfortunately, plenty. Rösler is likely to be high on the list of potential managerial replacements for any Championship club that is struggling and the closing of the transfer window is eagerly awaited as Burnley are reportedly keen to tempt Clayton Donaldson back up north. In Saturday’s draw at Port Vale, last season’s inability to convert good football and possession into goals was still evident.

In addition, it’s the general consensus that League One is much tougher this year with the arrival of Wolves, Bristol City and Peterborough. Preston, Sheffield United and MK Dons will be difficult opposition. Promoted clubs Bradford City and Gillingham look reasonably strong and of course League One always throws up a surprise contender like Yeovil.

So tomorrow’s game against Sheffield United will provide a stern early test for Rösler’s team. The Blades looked impressive in their opening-day win against Notts County and their fans seem happy with the appointment of David Weir as manager. This early in the season a defeat would not be disastrous for either team but a win would send a powerful message to fellow promotion contenders. One thing is certain: given each club’s record in the play-offs, they will both be praying for a top two finish this season. Chris Dean

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