Dean Smith is celebrating one year in charge of Brentford today (November 30) and he believes the club have made progress over the past 12 months.
The Bees made the move for the former Walsall manager after sacking Marinus Dijkhuizen in September.
Lee Carsley had been in temporary charge but made it clear early on he didn't want the job on a permanent basis.
GetWestLondon's Brentford reporter Tom Moore went to speak to Smith about the past 12 months in charge on Monday. Below is the transcript of that interview.
TM: Can you sum up your first year in charge?
DS: It's been very enjoyable. There have been ups and downs as there is in football throughout the world. It's been a learning curve not just for myself and Richard O'Kelly but also for the football club. We've been through a lot in a small space of time and I'm still enjoying it.
TM: How did everything come about?
DS: The club approached Walsall and asked if they could speak to me and I asked the chairman if that was possible. He agreed to it. I liked what I heard from the football club as, at the time, I wasn't looking to leave and they liked something about me and what Richard and I were doing at Walsall. It seemed to fit really well. That was the thing that intrigued me – it was a step up from League One to the Championship. It was something I thought would be an exciting adventure and it's proving that.
TM: Did reality match your expectations?
DS: The club would have done due diligence on myself and I was doing due diligence on the football club. I'd spoken to people who had been here and were currently here to find out about the place. That really made me excited about the challenge. I spoke to Lee Carsley at length and he painted a really good picture for me and I could see the work that he had done over the month or two he'd been in charge. It didn't take a lot for someone to come in and put their stamp on it.
TM: Were there any surprises?
DS: I think the quality of the players after coming up against them two seasons before. Playing against the likes of Alan Judge, Harlee Dean, James Tarkowski and Toumani Diagouraga. It's not until you work day to day with them that you realise the quality of the squad.
TM: You had an exodus in January – how difficult was it?
DS: We had a recruitment meeting within two weeks of my arrival. I was made aware of the possibility of what might happen and occur. I think all three wanted to go for their own reasons. What I've learnt in the time I've been in football is it's hard to keep someone who doesn't want to be here. We, as a club, realised it would make us weaker without those players. It was something we had to make a decision on at that time. We probably suffered a bit for it but picked up at the back end of the season.
TM: The club didn't reinvest the money?
DS: We were then preparing for the following season. We were preparing raids for the likes of Romaine Sawyers, John Egan and Daniel Bentley. We wouldn't have been able to speak to them until the end of their contracts but we could have it lined up and what it would cost.
TM: Could the James Tarkowski transfer saga have been handled differently on both sides?
DS: Hindsight is always a wonderful thing. At the time, with the facts we had, we dealt with it in the best way we could.
TM: Were you worried in February or March?
DS: I've never feared for my job. I never live in fear and do the job to the best of my ability. I try and maintain a good relationship with the owner and director of football and there were consistent messages. Matthew said in March that he was happy with how things were going. We needed a change in fortune at that time and got that against Nottingham Forest.
TM: What changed in the final international break?
DS: Nothing really. I was more worried after the QPR game away from home as we started the game ever so well and conceded a goal and looked fragile so that became a worry on the Monday. We were outstanding against Blackburn. I'm never worried after a game like that. We got beat and went through the emotions. You look back and think there was no way you should have lost. It was about making sure the confidence of the players was still in the performance. You had the slice of fortune at Nottingham Forest and we go on to win comfortably and go from there.
TM: You mentioned the QPR game. What was it that most worried you?
DS: It was the fragility of it. We started the game and looked really good. They scored and our reaction wasn't too bad. Karl Henry should have been sent off. They scored the second and that was hard to come back from. There was a little bit of fragility so we needed to stick together. They stuck together and the performance against Blackburn pleased me. The performance was what it needed to be. We had an internal game and Josh McEachran re-does his metatarsal and you have one less in the squad and then you go on a great run.
TM: Did you think everything is conspiring against you after Josh's injury?
DS: You can think that but I don't do it. It's another thing that happens.
TM: The end of season run was memorable?
DS: It started with Lasse Vibe scoring a lot of goals. He scored against Forest and then a brace against Bolton and Ipswich. That started the run for us and then Scott Hogan came in as he did. You could see the confidence growing and the belief.
TM: During that run, Alan Judge got injured...
DS: It's part and parcel. We lost big players in January. Judgey was a big player and Josh McEachran. It wasn't fringe players we were losing there – it's a credit to the players that we came through that.
TM: You made early signings while Jake Bidwell and David Button popped down the road – reflections?
DS: People would love to have kept them. It's a similar thing to James Tarkowski – when players don't want to be here it's impossible to keep them. They didn't act like him and it got messy. I thought James was misadvised at the time but it's water under the bridge.
TM: It was a hectic start, quiet middle and a hectic end?
DS: We knew there were ones we wanted done early. I have to credit the directors of football as I was only involved towards the end of that. It was great to have those three players at the start of pre-season and we could integrate them straight away. The others were longer to work on. The main three we wanted, we got done. The others; we knew would take longer.
TM: After a decent start to the season, things have become more difficult. Why?
DS: I think the league is up and down. We should have beaten Birmingham and if we had we'd have been three points behind the team in fifth. You don't win and you end up five points above the drop zone. It's why we talk about consistency. We've lost two games from two set pieces, two penalties and an own goal. It's something that at the start of the season wasn't happening to us. Things have gone against us and contrived against us. We know there are things we can turn around quickly.
TM : Do you need a game like Forest where things go your way?
DS: We've come out of international breaks and had Brighton and Villa away where we got four points, then Newcastle and Derby away in October getting one point and then ended up with Blackburn away. None of the games have been easy. We should have beaten Blackburn and we didn't.
TM: Do you think there's been progress – Brentford had more points last year?
DS: I think there has been progress at the club. The feel around the place is better than when I arrived. I'm not the best judge of that. There are people around who are better judges of whether the place has improved. I believe it has. We've got a better squad of players. We've got a hungrier squad of players and a younger squad of players and they'll benefit from the games we're having now.
TM: What do you mean about feel?
DS: There'd been a lot of change at the club. The manager who had brought them into the league had gone. A new manager had gone and then Lee Carsley. There'd been a lot of change and they needed stability. A few people had seen too much change and wondered if it'd be the stable environment they wanted. I think we've been able to give it more of a stable environment. I think it's an environment and culture here that works well and a place where people want to come and get better and if they do get better they'll see we progress as a club or they'll progress to a higher league.
TM: What are your ambitions for the next few months – are the play offs on?
DS: Why not? I know with the recent results it's not looking like it. You need to put a run of results together. After that Blackburn game, I don't think anybody thought we'd finish ninth. It's not difficult to do. It's just you've got to get a consistent base. We've got a consistent base and we need consistent performances to get results. There's a chance – while we're not in a good run of form – we have to make sure we start doing that with a number of games. My job is to keep us going as a club as in getting a better squad of player and making them better as footballers and as people and start climbing the league.
TM: What about your contract. You've got 18 months and it's difficult when a manager/head coach is in the last year of their contract?
DS: I've got a really good working relationship with the directors of football and the owner and that's a discussion we'll probably have in the not too distant future.