Brentford’s buzzing Bees are proving that they have more than just one sting in their tail

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Brentford’s example is one that several Premier League clubs should be trying to follow.

The humble bumblebee is very much nature’s kamikaze pilot. Their waspish cousins may be able to exact repeated reigns of sadism over the course of their demonic lifespans, but when it comes to the lads in the hive, it is quite literally a case of one sting and done. That’s your lot. Thanks for all the honey.

Brentford, the Premier League’s very own Bees, are proving that they suffer from no such affliction. Second season syndrome is one of those buzzy cliches that has shimmied its way up the drainpipe of urban legend, and clambered through the window of accepted truth. There have been countless instances of plucky Championship sides winning promotion to the top flight, running wild like an eight-year-old hopped up on blue Smarties, and subsequently crashing with a comparable grouchy inelegance. Thomas Frank’s men, however, have been beset by no such malady.

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On Monday evening, Brentford beat Liverpool for the first time since 1938. Nineteen Thirty-Eight. Forget Virgil, Dick van Dyke had barely even been born back then. Those three points were enough to move the Bees up to seventh in the table, and to extend their unbeaten run to six league outings. They are now two points behind Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, and just six behind Manchester United in fourth. To paraphrase, somewhat fittingly, The Bee Movie, “According to all known laws of football, there is no way that a Brentford should be able to fly. Its resources are too small to get its modest little body off the ground”. And yet, here we are.

Paradoxically, it is Brentford’s relative modesty that is perhaps their greatest asset. Frank’s squad is hardly littered with household names or megastars. The closest thing they have to a talisman is Ivan Toney, a player who didn’t even make England’s World Cup squad, rightly or wrongly, and while Christian Eriksen’s presence was a huge coup as they navigated an ominous debut season in the Premier League, the Dane was hardly a one-man team either. Instead, the Bees have built their success on meticulous scouting and savvy recruitment. They crunch the data until it resembles a fine dust, they buy cheap and well, and then they sell high if and when they feel like it. The Bees have been Moneyballing before Moneyballing was cool, adapting methods that owner Matthew Benham first experimented with in Denmark at FC Midtjylland, and reaping the benefits in increasingly lavish harvests.

There’s a wonderful quote from Brentford’s former Director of Football, Rasmus Ankersen, that sums the approach up quite nicely. Speaking to Bleacher Report back in 2017, he explained: “For David to beat Goliath, he needed to use a different weapon. If David had used the same weapon, he would have lost the battle. You’ve got to find your weapons. That’s what Brentford is about.” The Bees were never going to compete with the big boys by conforming to the norm, so they went and changed the rules. They can’t outspend or outmuscle, so they outthink.

But Benham’s project is not just cerebral, it’s patient too. Frank, the affable mad professor who has masterminded Brentford’s ascent, has just been handed a new contract that runs until the summer of 2027. There appears to be no interest in the instant gratification and glinting guillotine of the managerial sack race, just a fixation on sensible, steady progress and consolidation. Only when a club have attained those things can they aspire to upset teams like Liverpool not just once in a blue moon, but on the regular. It’s an epiphany that the Bees have embraced well, and that several of their peers would be wise to steal a glance at too.

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