Mark Warburton's faith in youth has got League One leaders Brentford growing up fast
Life beyond the Premier League: He has overseen eigh victories in nine games since he replaced Uwe Rösler as manager
Friday 31 January 2014
There is something good brewing down at Brentford. For a football club with, uniquely in Britain, a pub on each corner of their Griffin Park ground, that might not be an unusual statement to make but this is about points, rather than pints.
The League One leaders are the country's form team, with a stunning record of 15 wins and two draws from their last 17 league matches. Not even Manchester City can match that, and not even Wednesday's rare cloud on the horizon – the news of a delay in the London Mayor Boris Johnson's decision over whether to call in their planned Lionel Road stadium development for further scrutiny – can deflate the buoyant mood.
"A massive step" is how Brentford's manager, Mark Warburton, describes the prospect of a 20,000-seat stadium near Kew Bridge, already approved by Hounslow Council, west London. Yet life seems rosy enough at homely old Griffin Park right now, with Tuesday's 3-1 success over Bristol City bringing Warburton's eighth victory in nine games since he replaced Uwe Rösler as manager.
"Most of the players I had signed and knew very well," he tells The Independent of a seamless transition from his old role as sporting director. "You put your fingerprints on it, but there was no need for major surgery."
It is a first managerial post for Warburton, whose CV makes interesting reading. Once a Leicester City apprentice, he played non-league for Enfield while working in the City as a currency trader. When cruciate injuries curtailed his career, he began coaching. "I was always coaching, whether it was Under-nines or men's teams or high schools," explains the 51-year-old. "I was working in the City but I always wanted the football and reached a stage [in his late thirties] where it was either I do it now or never at all. With the culture in the City, in terms of working in a team and man-management, you can transfer a lot of those skills to the football world."
He started working at Watford under Aidy Boothroyd, becoming academy manager before joining Brentford in February 2011 as interim first-team coach. That summer he was appointed sporting director.
It was through NextGen, the junior tournament for Europe's leading clubs Warburton helped Matthew Benham, the Brentford owner, set up, that he got to know David Weir and Frank McParland – the latter was Liverpool's academy director – who have joined him as assistant coach and director of football respectively. "I like people who are keen on giving young talent a chance," says Warburton. This sums up Brentford's ethos: their academy has category two status and last week a £2m indoor training facility opened at Uxbridge High School, where their schoolboys will be based.
Warburton's background in academy football ensures a steady influx of "young, hungry professionals" like midfielder Nico Yennaris, whom he watched as a 10-year-old and has been freshly recruited from Arsenal. "Boys like Adam Forshaw and Jake Bidwell are now key players for us and I watched them at 14, 15 for Everton," he adds.
Another of Brentford's young, hungry brigade is Marcello Trotta, the Fulham loanee whose penalty miss on the final day of last season against Doncaster cost automatic promotion. "We could easily have had a negative reaction at the start of this season but the boys have been really focused," says Warburton.
There is a long way to go before promotion, he adds, but there is no hiding his ambition. "We are not going up to the Championship just to come up for one year and come down again. We want to go up and stay up." Brentford fans will drink to that.
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