NEWS **** ----> The Thomas Frank GPG 2021 Interview <----

Banana

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Last Monday, after the Newcastle draw, myself, @Les Beeavinu , @Simon C and @Stuardo met up with Premier League manager Thomas Frank and Premier League Communications Director Chris Wickham

I want to start with thanking Chris on behalf of everyone that will read these notes. Chris has been a Brentford fan since he was forever. He has been fundamental in giving this opportunity for GPGers (and other BFC fans) to present their questions, concerns, and ideas to Thomas. We all know that this just would not happen at any other Premier League club, fact with added true!

We were originally meant to meet up before the season, but on the original date I was feeling rather ill and given the opportunity to infect an entire PL squad we all decided that perhaps we should postpone our original date. To be honest I couldn't have been happier as it gave fans the opportunity to put their questions after a few rounds of the PL. Chris warned that it might not happen during the season, but he made it happen - so genuine big thanks to him. A proper GPGer! :)

We were allocated 2 hours of Thomas's time. We tried to make the most of it.

Thanks also to the transcriber who did a most excellent job at a much more keen price than the Phil Giles professional transcriber. Top work!

Questions originally presented by the GPG are labelled "GPG", with follow ups as

TI: Trevor Inns, @Banana
SC: Simon Coutts, @Simon C
Les: Andy Evans, @Les Beeavinu
SH: Stuart Hatcher, @Stuardo

The transcript may not have those speaking correct in 100% of the cases, or Thomas's responses 100% accurately transcribed. In fact I know that they are not. But we did our best. Likewise I haven't spent the last 7 days of my life obessed with ensuring that all questions from GPGers are correctly labelled and that the transcription is 100% accurate.

Anyway, here is the outcome:

However, before anyone wants to steal our work, a reminder that this is copyright (c) of the GPG etc. Don't steal it unless you can afford it!

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We paid no attention to TF's fishing gear...


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TF: Thank you for inviting me!

TI: Thank you for coming, I was just saying to Chris, the draws on your time now must be immeasurable.

TF: Chris is very good for me (laughs). He is keeping people away, and I think that’s important.

TI: We had to postpone last time as I was ill, but it’s good for us, because we are now we are speaking now we’re into the season, we’ve got more to discuss!

TF: Yes!

Les: My daughter wanted us to stream this, she was very jealous!

(laughter)

SH: Is your family all Brentford fans now?

TF: Errrr…no! My son is a fan of course; he is 18 years old and very interested in football. I don’t know if I’m privileged or not, but my two daughters, 15 and 19, are not interested in football AT ALL, I think they don’t know when we are even playing sometimes. My oldest daughter, she saw the two Play Off finals because she understood OK, that is important, so she watched those, but nothing else. My wife has never been interested in football. She was at the PO final actually; I think because we lost the first one. That was a tough one for our son, because he was there alone, and of course crying and all that, I guess you cried as well – I cried as well, we all cried, OK – but she said, OK, i have to be there with him. After 20 minutes when it looked pretty good, she just sat there on his hand on her lap asking, ‘how is it? is it good now’? (laughs)

SH: Does it help you unwind, that they’re not interested?

TF: Yeah, I think it’s good. because they’re interested but they don’t truly understand it? My son understands it and is actually one of our video scouts. I speak with him about players, and he has a good eye. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t use him.

Les: Is he looking at a career in football?

TF: I think he is… he loves football. Yes or no! He will study sport and then we’ll see what will happen.

GPG: One of the questions is, when you speak to Brian on the touchline, do you speak in English or Danish?

TF: Yes, we speak in Danish.

SH: Is that an advantage with some of the players? So when – like the other day – we have a midfield of Frank, Norgaard and Jensen on the pitch, do they speak Danish on the pitch? Does that give them an edge?

TF: Yes, I think they do the same, I think they switch, Danish English…

SH: Did you watch the Midtjylland v Brondby game last night Thomas? Do you follow your old clubs?

TF: No. I don’t want to say, less and less. I follow the Superliga, and I check the results of course, sometimes I see some goals or highlights sometimes, but not too often. I would say, towards the end of last year, because they have this championship/playoff, where they play 20/22 games then they play the final 10, and final games I watch of the few of the best games, between Midtjylland & Copenhagen, or Midtjylland & Brondby, or I watch them a little bit. But it’s more like they are running in the background. But at the end of it I watched the Brondby game because they became champions, very closely, because now I think it’s the time.

TI: Surely you watched the Everton game yesterday?

TF: You know what? I didn’t watch that – I watched Tottenham Leeds. I think City Everton is er… (laughter). well City are always worth watching, but I don’t think it’s a good game for us to use.

SH: Can you learn anything? Do you just say, “we should just do what Manchester City do”!!!

TF: We look at a few bits, what they do, what they do REALLY good, principles more than… for example: the Sterling goal. I just did my notes after I watched our game back against Newcastle - the two goals I showed them from this round, just for inspiration, the James goal against Tottenham, and the Sterling goal. Because both situations, they are working that last line. If there’s one principle I have hammered into the heads of Neal Maupay, Ollie Watkins, Ivan Toney, it’s last line.

TI: And Rico?

TF: Exactly, and Rico, because that’s the next thing. So that goal is actually drilled in, the 2-1 goal at Newcastle. I show that, that they need to attack that last line. They can’t start here, I want them to be here, so they can go.

Two centre-backs, fullbacks for example, the ball is over here… (moves glasses around on table), then I want them to be there and there, or here and here. Because it’s so difficult, if that ball is getting under, it’s impossible to defend. It’s an own goal, or a corner. Or that inswinger that we train with Sergi is going all the way there. If you noticed, Ivan was in that gap, dragging the defenders, and it went all the way to Rico.


Les: When you’re talking about the full backs: Rico does it all the time, Sergi does it….did you give him a different role? He seems to tuck into midfield lately.

TF: Sometimes in the build-up he’s got a different role because he has a different skill set on the ball, But final third I want Sergi also to be a last line. And we are working all the time with him on that.

Les: Because he never attacks the back post…

TF: He needs to do that. We are on him!

SH: You’re in quite a good mood at the moment, quite positive overall so far?

TF: Yes. I’m irritated that we didn’t get more points in the four games we lost - not to Burnley, that was just bad. The three others - through analysis, numbers everything - at least a point against Chelsea, at least a point against Leicester, and 100% three points against Norwich. I know it’s difficult when you get down to, all that but…

TI: The way we normally run this is we have a bunch of question from fans, which I’ve got here, and we kick off with a question and have a conversation around that.

TF: Of course.

GPG: I’ve run a few together here… this one’s about formations. We’ve played one system since we’ve been in the Premier League. Would you feel as comfortable playing 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 in the PL as we did in the Championship, or does the system preference reflect the different challenges of the two leagues? Are we able to adapt to a back four without a proper right back, and when did you decide our default formation for this season would be three at the back?

TF: I decided on three at the back more or less straight away after we got promoted. Not the first week, but I knew when we got into the PL, also with the personnel we have, and I think if we want to make a good impression and perform well, I think we need to defend very well. And I think it’s easier to defend very well with three centre-backs, and sometimes a back five.

So that was one of the rationales behind it. The three main things we want to do well this season are, defend very well; be very good on set pieces; and be in the top three fittest teams. That is the three key aspects that I think will make us get a good season in the Prem. If we are going to play with three centre backs, I knew, a little bit like we did in the end in the Championship, I wanted to play with a winger, like Sergi, as a wingback. So, we need some offensive player; it will be too ‘heavy’ if we play with three centre backs and two full backs in the back five.

Then the other thing, with 3-5-2 came a little bit combination of the amount of good midfielders, and because Ivan and Bryan are so good together. I’ve trained a lot on 3-4-3 as well, and we’ve also played that in pre-season, against Watford for example, and that’s a system that in some games we tweak it a bit - so with Shandon and Saman, sometimes when we build up, we build up as a 3-4-3, with Saman or Shandon getting up, and Ivan or Bryan as a nine, so we have two 10’s and a nine.

With Wissa’s form, increasing form and fitness, I was closer and closer to playing 3-4-3. With Wissa and Ivan and Bryan. But finally, we were there, with the fitness level, and he was banging goals in in training and also in games, I thought OK, now is the moment. And then…injured.

I think v Chelsea we still played 3-5-2 because we need a little more running capacity in midfield against them, but even against Leicester or Burnley away, we could have done more, or also it’s a tool that I could do early in games.


SH: With that formation you’ve described, do you miss Henrik not being in the team? Because that right back/wing back role he was performing beautifully.

TF: As the right centre back, you mean?

SH: Well either right back or right centre-back

TF: Yeah, I think wing back fine, but I want more - I think actually he was even better in the right centre-back. I think Kristoffer Ajer is a fantastically recruited player, I think he’ll be a fantastic player for us, but I think actually the way we want to play, where we have a little bit better ball player down there as a right centre back, I think Henrik would have been fantastic there. And I think he could easily, easily have been in the Premier League for us in that position. Because I think for a wing-back I want us to go constantly - he wants to come but I want it even more up and down.

Les: Did you try to get him to stay?

TF: We had a talk with him, and in the end, it just didn’t fit because it was too complicated. It was not that easy, he wanted to stay, but his contract got signed, and I know it’s the same owner but there’s also legal stuff and it’s not that easy.

Les: Was Ajer the most important pre-season signing then, because of Henrik going? Because he’s an upgrade on Henrik, really?

TF: Yes. I think he can take the ball forward and he’s running more, but I think to be completely honest, like for like, if we put Henrik in at the start of the season, because he knew everything and he’s so experienced, … but Kristoffer Ajer has a huge potential. There’s no doubt that Kristoffer is a better player.

TI: And he’s 23 rather than 31.

TF: Yeah.

TI: would you take Henrik back if he was available on loan in January?

TF: No. Not now. I love Henrik and I think he’d be good, but we have Zanka, we have Ajer, we have Mads Bech, we have Charlie - we have very good back up for centre backs.

SH: Are we a better Premier League side than a Championship side - are we better suited to the PL?

TF: We are suited to both leagues, but we prefer to play in the Premier League! (laughs) I think the reason we have done well is because we have some good players, that can perform in the Premier League. I know it’s a little bit more physical game, a little bit more duels and second balls, in the Championship, there’s more football played and it’s a more modern game in the Premier League, but we can do both.

TI: In terms of the injuries we’ve had, they seem to be cutting quite deep into what’s available to you to select now, both in defence and midfield – is it having more of an impact than we perhaps anticipated, having so many injuries at this point in the season?

TF: I think we’ve been extremely unlucky with injuries. I think we have a very good medical department; my staff is top. The injuries we have - Wissa got a knock in training - unlucky. Vita, strange one, something with the thigh. Ajer hamstring - nothing we could do about it, hamstring injuries, they happen. Matti [Matthias] got Covid and he came back late from the Euros. David was extremely, extremely unlucky. Shandon, oh my God, came back and looked unplayable in the preseason. I would have started him in the Arsenal game, I told him that. Got injured. Then he came back, I played him a little bit early because I wanted him to come up to speed because he has some qualities we don’t have when Josh is out of the team, and then he gets injured again. We’ve been very unlucky.

Les: So now Baptiste’s fit, is he ahead of Onyeka and Matthias Jensen? Is he your first-choice third midfielder?

TF: (smiles). I really like his abilities. I really like what he can bring to us, because he’s got those one-on-one abilities, go past people, he can score goals, he works extremely hard, I think he’s the perfect profile for a Brentford player. We want to dominate on the ball - we haven’t done it as much as I want to, but we’re in the Premier League, so we need to take steps in the right direction. He could be one of the most influential players. But he needs to stay fit, and he needs to get into a rhythm. like we saw in the pre-season, but then he got injured, so he wasn’t even up to top speed, like he was before he got the first injury, then he got the next injury.

Les: Because we seem to miss that ball carrier all the time.

TF: Exactly. That’s what we miss. We miss it badly.

GPG: For you personally Thomas, as a Premier League head coach, is it different to what you envisaged? In what way is it different than you envisaged?

TF: Off the pitch, this guy (Chris Wickham) is making my life a little bit of a nightmare, No! OK? Of course, you can’t compare. It’s crazy, the demands, and it’s a little bit, you would say, either we are too open, too flexible for the Danish media, of course we don’t favourite them but of course, they get a separate press conference in Danish. Not every time, but every third one, maybe once a month, six weeks, so far. It’s just a lot; before matches, after matches, during the week.

Then, I get recognised more, much more, from everyone. It’s not even close to the top guys, but much more than before. On the pitch, I would say, of course we are probably facing the best teams, the best coaches in the world, the best players in the world, some of them, or most of them – it’s extremely interesting.

The big difference is three things: one, it’s much more modern game, so people want to dominate on game on the ball, and press high, most of the teams. The quality of the players is unbelievable; and the pace of the game, when it goes quick, goes quick. Like St Maximin this weekend. Insane. We try to take him down twice, and he still runs through. There are not many players of his level – well, not any players of his level – in the Championship. So those are the main differences.


Les: The two games where it didn’t go quite so well - Burnley first half and Norwich first half…

TF: Norwich first half was not that bad, but because of the goals we think it was bad. So basically, we started a fantastic first five minutes, then we concede, let’s say a sh*t goal, let’s say, he’s running through like Messi, and then it’s a penalty. For me, the worst was first half against Burnley, and second half against West Ham. We thought it was better because we scored last, but for me it was a bad second half.

TI: I don’t know how you tolerate those press conferences, where everyone asks you the same question, time and time again, like injuries, it’s the same question the whole time from 17 different journalists?

TF: That is tough, I will say.

SH: You look like you’re enjoying some of the press conferences, you’re throwing in ‘bus stop in Hounslow’, is there more pressure around what you can and can’t say?

CW: We made a conscious choice in June, July, for the first part of the season to be a bit more open than we had to be, because if you get to this stage of the season and it’s really busy, the media understand that its circumstances preventing you from doing as much as you did at the start. If you go in with the mentality that we’re doing the bare minimum, then it gives you nowhere to go. Because we did a bit more and we have slightly longer press conferences than most teams, when we get to this point where we’re playing every three days, we can say, well we’re only doing half an hour today lads, and everyone goes, oh, OK, fair enough

Les: That must have worked in our favour because we were instantly popular. Was that, get everyone on our side and talking about us and not Norwich?

CW: it was the football that did that, really. We could have been as open as possible, but if we’d tried to defend our box for 90 minutes against Arsenal, and lost 4-0 to Liverpool, then we wouldn’t have been popular, but we deliberately tried to court the media, and be quite open. We were different because we were the 50th PL club, and I don’t think we see a lot of it here, but around the world, they sell that narrative much better, so you don’t see a lot on Sky or BT, but all around the world they’re talking about Brentford the 50th PL club. We did so much work with the international broadcasters to get them interested in us, and we did give a lot more time to them when we were playing mostly once a week. Now, we’ve got the ability to reduce it because we did a little bit more.

TF: That’s very good input from you Chris. I also think, it’s just who I am. I’m just a very open person who likes to be with people. Sometimes after I’ve lost, I hate it, I’m burning inside. It’s easier when we’re winning - at a press conference before, why not give something of yourself? I don’t sound as if I want to big myself up too much but think I’m pretty good with the media because I’m open minded and I have a smile. So, I play a little bit on that because I think it’s to our advantage - well, I don’t play on it, but I’m aware, and I do what I do as a person well…if that makes sense.

Les: I think a lot of PL managers are quite guarded in what they say, whereas you’re quite an open man. I’ve also noticed a lot of our players are really intelligent with the media – they say the right things, and they’re also quite open. CN seems to be really good I think.

CW: We do very little briefing of the players before they speak. We talk about what questions they might get, and if they’re unsure then we help them. But there’s no point in me sitting there telling them what to say, because we want to tell our story and we want them to tell their individual stories, almost all of them are playing in the Premier League for the first time. If we’ve got 15 automatons saying the same thing that’s not doing that, that’s not telling our story. There’s been the odd thing where Thomas or the players maybe didn’t know what was coming, but our default is to be open. The Monday before the Arsenal game we had all the senior sports editors and football correspondents into the stadium. We laid on an open bar, and for two and a half hours Thomas, Jon, Phil, Ras, were there - just get to know us. Ask us any questions, pretty much all off the record, get to know us. We have a story to tell, come and hear about it.

GPG: Are there any managers you’ve been excited to meet, to come up against, or do you know them all already?

TF: There’s a couple of things that I want to say: When the game is on, at home, I think it’s the same for everyone but definitely for me, I don’t care who is in the other dugout. If he shouts at my players, or goes over the line, I just say - excuse my language - f**k off. Because there’s just a wall, and you’re trying to win. But of course, it’s also fantastic to be able to match your team against other top managers in the world.

I’ve been privileged to meet Klopp once before and he really made a big impression on me. It was when I was Danish under-9 coach, in 2012 or 13, and he was manager of Dortmund, Morton Olsen our head coach opened the door to Germany and we went down there, five or six coaches from Denmark, Morten as well. Klopp opened the doors and spoke to us for 45 minutes, we watched them training, OK that’s fine. The day after, we watched training again, and then all the other coaches left, because they had to catch a flight, so I was there alone. He still came over to me, and I was just a nobody, and I like that. People who are even, who have the same approach to everyone. I’m looking forward to meeting Pep – that’s a personality.


Les: Do you think you’ve learnt anything from those managers so far?

TF: I would say, in general I respect all of them hugely. For example, Sean Dyche, what he has done for Burnley, has my biggest, biggest respect. Biggest respect. He knows what he is doing, he knows the style of play, clearly a good manager, big respect. Is he the one who inspires me the most? No. But I respect his work. We’re all different.

TI: What do you actually discuss over a glass of red wine after the match, is it just superficial?

TF: The thing is that It’s not been that much this year, because of Covid. So, I’ve only managed to have a glass with Dean, after Villa, I had a beer with Moyes, a little bit about our team, but that was a little bit superficial. I’d like everyone to come in.

Les: With Moyes, that was quite a feisty touchline, and we got the last-minute winner – he can’t have been in a great mood?

TF: No, I don’t think he was, but that’s what I really respect about the English game, because that is just ingrained in the coaches . After the game, done, and we just talk. We are very consistent. I learned that from Dean. Unbelievable. Again, Klopp, I think he could see that it was a fantastic match, 3-3, and even he liked the story. Also, I think he’s in a stage of his career when he won a lot, and so he knows he is good. And that game was just crazy. Should have been a narrow winner, should have been them, but we also could have nicked it in the end.

TI: You can get quite feisty on the touchline, like when you got involved with Schmeichel coming over to the touchline during a stoppage and complained to the fourth official and you were getting in the way…

TF: I don’t remember that… he probably said something I didn’t agree with. I try to stay away from it, it doesn’t help me or the team, but my temper is just too big sometimes.

Les: One thing you said about Toney and Mbuemo together; it took us a long time to do that? I was thinking that a lot that season. What made you decide that he was going to be a striker.

TF: Funny thing; we came to the system that was 3-5-2, and the first time I played it, I played Bryan as a wing back and Marcus as a striker, and we won 5-0 away to Preston in a very good performance. I wanted to play with two strikers, not that I couldn’t see him as a striker, it’s just that wingers, wing backs, Bryan was someone I could trust etc. And then it built from there, he came on against Bournemouth I think,

I like Marcus very much, and so I’m aware of how we get it out there and I gave him four or five games, maybe six, as a starter, I think he did well, but I never got that ‘Ok that’s fantastic’ feeling. Then I saw Bryan and Ivan, and that was just magic. Then you go with that.


TI: When are you going to stop Bryan hitting the post?

TF: I don’t know, I don’t know what to do. A combination of unlucky and then maybe overhitting, trying to go for the big top corner. So, he is training a lot on that with Kev. All the training this week it was just, consistent, shift, bang, curl, shift, bang, curl.

TI: We are going a bit more direct this season? Last season we dominated the ball, had it for long periods of time, now we’re trying to get it up front and have Bryan run off Ivan, is that a fair assumption?

TF: It’s a fair assumption, that it seems like we’re going longer, earlier – the style of play hasn’t changed, in terms of we still like to be as dominant as possible on the ball, I think we need to say the level of teams has gone up, so it’s not as easy just to dominate them.

We played Arsenal and we got in front and that changed the possession numbers; we played Crystal Palace and Villa and it was pretty even both of them in terms of possession, I really liked our approach first half against Villa, we went in there, we want to play, we want to dominate; first half West Ham also very good, Leicester at home, Wolves first half. But you know, sometimes when we play Vita, Frank and Christian, we lack that ball carrier a little bit, more flair, plus the level of teams has gone up.

The only time we said, on purpose, we’re not going short, was against Liverpool. The best pressing team in the world, and we knew we could hurt them by going longer. So, every time we’re not playing enough, also against Newcastle, we knew because they wanted to be so front foot for the crowd, we wanted to go a little bit longer in the beginning, and from goal kicks for example, and then when we started to go short second half, we scored from it, because we find a way to play through. I would like the balance to be better.


SH: When you say the pundits on MotD saying things like, oh, Brentford have targeted Trent Alexander Arnold, do you ever look at that and think “yes, we did do that”?

TF: To be fair, I’ve only watched two MotD this season. After Arsenal and after Liverpool. I’ve been here close to five years, and before this season I think I watched MotD three or four times. If I understand the style of the programme, it’s a good programme and I like it. But 10.30 on Saturday night I watch a film with my missus or I’m out with friends, or I watch a film myself, it’s not good timing for me after a match. Or I’m travelling back home after the match. Anyway, it was funny, the Arsenal game analysis I saw. We did target TAA but also Robertson; we knew there was so much space behind them, and we knew they had such a high line.

Les: Against Arsenal, because Ivan Toney knew Ben White, did Ivan have any influence to say “I can dominate Ben White”?

TF: Of course, we plan for something, but sometimes we don’t know. When we get the line-up, we speak about it and say, “who are we going towards when we go longer?”, because even in the Championship when teams press us high sometimes, we also go long but not as much, then we target this centre back, or that centre back, because sometimes we think Ivan can dominate them. But Ivan was just on top… Ivan felt he could win a battle with Ben White.

TI: That change to go longer, earlier, or more quickly or whatever, was that a result of some analysis?

TF: No, we haven’t decided that – the style of play is the same. The Liverpool game is the only game we clearly decided to go longer.

TI: But in general, we’re going more direct, more quickly?

TF: Yes. A combination of teams pressing us, better teams, we can’t dominate them as much.

TI: So, that slight tweak, or whatever it was, that slight change of emphasis? Was that as a result of analysis that was performed, to more direct, or more direct more quickly, I’m getting confused myself?! Or a result of deciding, well, we can’t do this against these teams.

TF: But if I think it’s very important for me, if you’ve seen all our games this season, let’s say a goal kick back to David or now to Alvaro. It’s not that they take a touch and just play it up. A lot of times we played it out, tried to play around, but then for whatever reason we maybe get a little bit under pressure, and then we go longer, plus we have Ivan, I think if you have two others, Bryan and Wissa, up there I think it’ll be different, so it’s an out ball we use sometimes, and I think for me personally, I think it’s been too much at times, then I’m not happy. Then I train, we need to play more. So that’s why, again, the only game we decided to go longer, 100%, was against Liverpool, the other games it was not a clear aim or goal, to go long. It’s just we’re facing better teams. Simple.

TI: Set pieces this year: there’s much more of an emphasis on those?

TF: No. Same focus as other years. They just defend worse in the PL. Offensive players don’t want to defend as much; as we know, in the Championship if you don’t do that, you get killed.

Les: Examples of good set-piece goals from this season?

TF: I think, the Arsenal goal was clearly a good example.

Les: Was that a foul by Pontus on Leno? and would you be disappointed if we conceded that?

TF: I would shoot them. Also, because they changed it too, they don’t want to give any soft penalties now. More examples? I can’t remember now, then we scored Liverpool, Leicester, West Ham, Arsenal, Liverpool, Villa… Wolverhampton we got a penalty. I think you can say that we work very hard on our plan, and we use time on it. We know it’s an area where we are strong, where we have good deliveries, we have physical players.

SH: What do you have to do differently in the Premier League as a coach, are there different skill sets you need to add to your game, what do you have to do to develop yourself at that elite level?

TF: Maybe I was already at that elite level (laughs). To be fair, I haven’t changed anything big time, compared to PL. We don’t prepare differently, it’s the same we did it in the Championship. Maybe there are other aspects, that we focus more on, like the high pressure for example. In the Championship games we could open them up because we knew we could dominate. Now, I think we have to be more balanced.

SH: How do you develop yourself?

TF: I think it’s extremely important to be open-minded, of course I watch a lot of football, and I discuss with colleagues, like just started with my good friend and colleague Kasper Hjulmand the Denmark Head Coach, so we discuss a lot of football. I know I need to do it more, but sometimes you get trapped in your own daily routines, but I was privileged enough to attend a day, two weeks ago, together with four other PL coaches, and four GMs from NBA and NFL, and Dave Brailsford, from Team Ineos and Danny Kerry from hockey, so really, really good, and experienced coaches, where we discussed everything. That is a big influence on me, so that I have used more

Then I have a leadership consultant, so I speak with him once a week, because I think leadership is key, I think if you want to be top, there are three things -– one, you need to have a clear style of play, and be able to coach that, and make the team play like that, and be consistent on it; then you need to be a good leader; and you need to be a good man manager. Do a good job on these three, and you can create everything.


GPG: We obviously have a really good team spirit - how do you get that esprit de corps?

TF: I think it’s a combination of various things. The big thing for me there is culture, for me “togetherness” is the word I use a lot. The next line is “no dickheads”, you only want good people and that’s hugely important. Every time we look at players, we are big on that, so we are taking up references, if there is the slightest bit of doubt that they are good people, then no.

SH: So what’s the type of thing that would make you say no to somebody?

TF: Let’s say, it’s a tricky personality, that is very, very much thinking about themselves.

SH: Who tells you that, is it ex-managers?

TF: Managers, players, coaches, people who’ve worked with them at former clubs.

Les: Presumably everyone knows everything in football.

TF: Yeah, they do. There’s always a way.

GPG: Alex Ferguson supposedly used to have a network of spies all round Manchester, taxi drivers etc on his payroll. Do you have similar set up around Brentford and Chiswick?

TF: No! I think players today, they are much more professional. There are much less of players going out and doing stupid things. Of course, there are still examples, but I think it’s also basically us as a club – there are not that many players brought up having too much money too early, there’s a bigger chance of that f***ing your life up, in a way. We have very, very good people.

SH: Is that the problem with Tariq not being in the team?

TF: No, no! He’s not a dickhead, otherwise we would not have signed him.

SH: No, this is now. Has he become a dickhead?

TF: No no no – he is a very good character. We haven’t really said anything about this – no-one has really asked – but he has a big injury, a hamstring

CW: We haven’t said anything about it at the moment, but only because none of the press have asked about it.

TF: Anyway, big injury.

TI: But he was on the bench recently?

TF: Yes, he played against Stoke, was on the bench against Burnley, then he got injured.

Les: Did you not announce it because you weren’t asked?

CW: Basically; we’ve never been asked about his fitness in a press conference. If you watch them, you know that we’ll answer what is asked but the question is often ‘is anyone missing from the last team?’ or ‘are any of the injured players returning?’.

TI: I think someone on the GPG did pick up on an Instagram post that indicated he was in hospital? There was a picture of him in a hospital gown. But we’re getting down to the bare bones now!

TF: Yes, we’ve been hit very hard, I think.

Les: How close is Wissa?

TF: Close. He’s training with the team this week. So, there’s a big possibility that he’ll be involved in the squad on Saturday.

SH: Who is the next player to come through from the B Team? Which squad player in your eyes is the next breakout star?

TF: Fin Stevens has been training with us a lot, he is a promising young player. And I think Paris Maghoma, Huge talent. I am very excited about him. He is very skilful on the ball; he learns to work hard. He is a holding midfielder.

Les: What about Myles Peart-Harris?

TF: Not a B Team player. He is already in the squad, but another young, exciting player. I think he is also close; I think in the future he will come very close; he just needs to learn even more about our style of play, the culture, the way to train, and then hopefully he can join the side like Josh Da Silva did for example.

Les: How is JDS?

TF: Let’s see in January but hopefully it’s going the right way; It’s too early to say anything, I will be much more clear in January if things are progressing the right way, instead of getting too many hopes up or down…

TI: It’s too early to say after 11 months?

TF: Got injured in March, then we knew much more in the summer, we knew it would take at least six months, sometimes these injuries can be five, or eight, depending on how it goes.

TI: Do you think we’ll see him play for Brentford this season?

TF: Yeah, yeah, I am actually optimistic about that. I love Josh!

Les: What would Paris Maghoma have to do to get into the first team, if he’s that close?

TF: I think he needs to hope for some of our key players to get injured, and we don’t want that! No, there’s a while before he goes past Christian or Vita, but he is a player, I think if he is given the chance, I think he will perform very well.

Les: If Christian is close to suspension - would that be an opportunity?

TF: I think it would be Vita.

Les: Is that different from the Championship, where there are two games a week, there are more gaps between games in the Premier League, there are more games for players to play in the Championship?

TF: Definitely. in that sense there are maybe less games for some players. If they are available, then there are 9, 10 players that I would always play.

Les: Would we send player that are that close out on loan?

TF: Mmm… it depends a little bit – I don’t want too many, I want them to see an opportunity. So that could be a yes, depending on what happens with injuries.

SH: There’s a question from some fans about Marcus, and Charlie, they came from League 2 to the Championship, and got injured, and we’re asking them to play in the Premier League? And to be fair, Charlie is playing well, apart from when you’re playing him up front.

TF: Yeah, that didn’t work out very well.

SH: Would he be the sort of player you’d say, he never really had a good solid Championship season, is there a gulf, and Marcus, would he do well with half a season in a Championship club?

TF: I think, there are players, depending on their situation, but for their development, if you can’t play regularly, no matter what level you’re playing at, then you need to play at least half a season or a season to get up to the next level. So I think, they both would benefit from that. But that’s one thing…but there are so many factors going into that.

GPG: Matthias gets lots of criticism from fans, “he’s a luxury player”, “he’s not strong enough in the tackle”, how do you get the best out of him?

TF: I think Matthias is a really good player. Yes, I agree, he’s not winning as many tackles as Vita or Christian, but he’s got something else. His passing range is much better, and I think it’s that balance we need to find, if you have too many runners or too many tackles, it’s that balance we have to get right. If you look at Matthias you have to look at how much ground he’s covering as a player, that’s important, and then I think his rhythm. He is also a player that hasn’t had the best preseason; he had four games and we started to see something, then he got Covid, and a minor injury.

TI: He’s injured too?

TF: Yes, a minor injury. He should be ready for Everton.

Les: One of the fans’ criticisms of Matthias is that when he plays, the game slows down – is that fair, or is that just the role he’s asked to play?

TF: I think, I understand why they say that, but you know sometimes you’re searching for that pass. although of course that needs to be as quick as possible. So, I think it’s balance. I think when Matthias is on top of his game, and everything is running fantastic, then we play some of our best football. So, it’s both sides of the coin.

SH: A question about managing; how important, influential, is Brian to the team?

TF: Very important, I think, for many reasons, Brian is very important. Brentford is a different club. But in any club, you are coming into, it’s nice to have someone close to you, that you completely trust in terms of football, life, everything. So that’s one thing.

Then, he is an unbelievable coach, one of the best I’ve seen on the grass. He is training, coaching, teaching. Then he is responsible for the defensive side of our game, especially when you defend low, and there’s a little pressure coming. He is responsible for set pieces, and again there he is second to none.

He’s also extremely good in terms of developing players, because that’s what he’s done his whole life, and then he just has that fine balance of challenging me, and also give me enough space – he’s keeping people off me, so I have time to think.


Les: The things that he’s good at – do you direct him, or does he make the decisions? Set pieces for example.

TF: Set pieces, I’m not even in the meetings. When he’s speaking to the players, I trust him because he’s so good.

TI: I’ve seen Brian two things that are hilarious…One was Sergi giving away a free kick with a minute to go, he just turned round and repeatedly smashed his clipboard in a chair

TF: Exactly. He goes f***ing crazy with something like that. If they score from a defensive set piece, he’s not speaking to the players for three days.

TI: His celebration for the second goal at Wembley was just…

TF: And that was because it was after a long throw, where he set them up, so we actually - if you notice, if you watch that goal back, then Bryan Mbuemo….When the ball was going in the box, Bryan was going the other way. That was part of the plan. That’s something we trained for - “as soon as it goes in the box, you run away”. And Ivan is opposite, and that makes us get up the pitch. And then of course the runners came, with Mads, and Emi.

SH : The run of Roerslev was unreal, if Brian trained that one.

TF: That he didn’t train! The first set-up, that gave us the opportunity to get up the pitch, that was so good.

SH: We have the world’s best football analyst as our owner: do you speak with Matthew, about tactics and strategy, does he give you insights, or do you give him insights to help his analysis?

TF: We speak. We have a very good dialogue, Matthew and I, and then Matthew and I and Rasmus and Phil, I’ve said many times I think that Mathew is a top three owner in the football world, and the only reason I haven’t said he’s the best one is that I don’t know everyone. I’m pretty sure he’s number one. But at least top three, because he is calm, he only takes calm sensible decisions, I think that’s a key thing, and we are aligned with everything. We don’t sign a player unless all of us are agreeing on it. We speak every second or third week, something like that, about the team, injuries, games, everything.

SH: For context, how does that compare to your previous club, and what you’ve seen about how often owner would speak to coaches? Is that normal?

TF: I don’t know if you know my story… (laughter)

GPG: Someone had a question - you said that Mathew recommended a book about taking good risks, do you remember the title, the question setter claimed that it wasn’t “Thinking Fast and Slow”?

TF: Yes, that’s it, it was that book, it’s very good. It’s about risk taking.

GPG: Where’s Kevin gone to? He’s not on the bench anymore,

TF: He is in the stands. he is our eyes in the sky with the tactical news to Brian. They will be discussing everything before the game, with Brian and I and Manu, and then at half time and after the game.

SH: Have you noticed that making a difference, having that different angle, that different perspective?

TF: I think it’s extremely good, because we also have the analysis in the ear, (well Brian has), I think it’s very important that’s there a coach there that helps you – it’s small margins but it helps with earlier, quicker solutions, views of the game.

TI: What influence does Kevin have on a decision from up there, what can he tell you about X or Y that you can’t see from that level?

TF: It’s more clear: for example, our wing backs are too high, they’re not coming in the box, or whatever. Also, if I watch a game from the touchline, I don’t see everything. Nobody does. That’s why it’s so good to have other eyes on it.

Les: Do you tell him to focus on something in particular?

TF: No, but he knows the game plan, key areas we want to attack, and key threats. Besides that, if they change, if they have different positions compared to what we expected, there’s all that data.

GPG: Would you be interested in doing one of those fly-on-the-wall “All or Nothing” type documentaries?

TF: I would be 50/50 – the club, definite no. Why would we? but we’ve got so many offers, a crazy amount of offers.

GPG: What would a documentary show that some fans might not think about? What’s it like at half time if things are going wrong? What’s the first words you say if we’re like three nil down at half time? Or what’s the first words you say after a bad defeat, like the first play-off final ?

TF: Err, I can’t remember what I said exactly. I remember it was extremely painful. I think after the defeat, in a way, it was easy. Painful but easy, just, ‘I’m proud of you. Just proud.’ What they had achieved that season, incredible. And since, you know…

Les: The most painful game that season was the Barnsley game, I still can’t work out what went wrong there. Did they just play exceptionally well?

TF: Yeah, I think it’s football, you know… I think they did well, and I think you need to remember that they lost 1-0 to Leeds, one round or two rounds before that, and Leeds said, that’s the best team we’ve played all season. And Leeds were unbelievably lucky in that game, So they were on a run, and the thing is we should have still won the game, we come back to 1-1, we had a massive chance at 1-1, Tariq, and I think just one more, at 1-1…

CW: To go back to your question, from a semi-outsider, the one thing that fans might not realise, is that Thomas and the coaching staff don’t go straight to the dressing room, at half time or at full time. Most games now there are two dressing rooms now, one for the players and one for the coaches, because of Covid, and you guys will often take two or three minutes over (to have your briefing). Players will have the medical staff, so the first thing is, who’s injured, who needs anything. It’s very rarely that the players go in and then the head coach goes in shouting. Other clubs might do that, we don't do that.

TF: We watch bits of the game, discuss a little bit, get my input, and then we go into the players.

SH: Does that give you a bit of time to be more calm, rational?

TF: Yeah, but it’s a limited amount of time, so you calm a little bit, you gather your thoughts, you still need to see your clips then at home games, because we have the screen, most of the time, not always, I show them one or two clips.

SH: There’s a feeling that that’s where the manager earns his money, at half time. What can you really do in fifteen minutes, actually less?

TF: You can adjust a few things, I would say. For example, against Norwich, we gave the players some detail, more offensive, you just have time to adjust those tactical bits. But sometimes there’s not much. We maybe 1-0 up, everything going according to plan, the problem is we don’t know what they’re saying in there. We can say keep going, then we come out, and they’ve changed, so…

SH: I’ve often thought that; if we’re really dominant what can a coach do other than say, “keep going guys”?

TF: But then we are most likely to be dominant because of the game plan, so we say keep switching, keep running down the half space, create the overload things like that – try to reinforce the message.

Les: Is there any tactical move you’ve made this season that you regret? Going back to the Norwich game, there was a lot of surprise that we just scored a goal and we seemed to make changes. then Charlie Goode went up front. Did you look at that and think, that didn’t quite work out as planned?

TF: Erm…. let me think. The Norwich game – I actually think I did very brilliant with the first of the changes, Vita out, Saman in, and I love Vita, but he was not sharp, he was coming back from injury, and he probably couldn’t go 90; so I think to myself, I kept him on instead of Matti, and Matti should be the more offensive one. Second thing we did was to go as offensive as possible - Sergi to the left, Bryan to the right, with wing backs as actually wingers, Marcus up front with Ivan and Saman as the ten. So that’s the most offensive we could go. So those two, very pleased with, I was not pleased with the Charlie one. It didn’t work. But the problem was that before we did it, we were a little bit stuck, they changed to a back five and we couldn’t produce and we thought hmm, let’s go a little more, and it didn’t work.

SH: We haven’t touched on David, and the style of play with losing David. The press is making a massive amount of it, a lot of the podcasts saying, oh they’re not the same team…

TF: I think David is a fantastic keeper. I know he got probably a bit of abuse, people were disappointed, after the mistake in the PO final. He was probably the best keeper in the Championship that season, and I think he continued that last season, I think he showed in the 8 PL games he played, from my point of view he is a top six keeper in the Premier League, I think he’s that good. He’s unbelievable with his feet, I think his one-on-one is top, his high positions in terms of balls for the balls in behind, but also going out to hit crosses, is top. He is so good. So, I think it’s more the general level of him, that we miss. But nothing has changed.

TF: We have four areas for keepers: that we scout for, that’s what we train: distribution; one v ones; to be able to have a high line; and getting out for crosses. Those four, if they can’t do that…


GPG: This is a question about Brentford, and your fit with the club. It seems like it’s just worked. You get the culture; you get the fans. Is that’s because you’ve were here five years, as the assistant and then you stepped up?

TF: That’s a big question, and a good question. Like everything else, it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think, when there’s a clear alignment, I think every coach would agree that that is a good thing (?); I think the way I think, as a person, fits the club. And as a coach the same: I’m very structured, which fits the analysis, and how we do things. I’m very, very big on culture - that fits too. . I wrote the style of play, the last five years, it’s the way I see it so I’ve been privileged to do it the way I see it. And I really like Matthew and Phil and Ras, the natural bond or chemistry between the four of us is good, that’s crucial. Even though I think I was fantastic five years ago, I also have been growing with the club, as a person and as a coach.

Les: OK, this isn’t going to happen – but if it started to go wrong this season, and it looked like we were in trouble, would you just stick to your principles, or would you try and reinvent and rethink what you do?

TF: I would stick to my principles. 100%. The way we play, what you call the default system, back to normal… 4-3-3. Didn’t go that well. I changed the whole system and we lost eight out of ten and all that. Then we changed to 3-4-3, and that was a combination of, we need to defend better, and it fitted with the players we had. Then we kept that system, all the way through, start of the next season, 3-4-3,

But the personnel was not right. The three centre backs we had were too stiff, the full backs we had were too stiff. Not enough flair. And then we changed to 4-3-3, from there it just took off, and then we kept going. And then last season 4-3-3, various reasons, injuries, couldn’t get it going, changed to 3-5-2, and now we have 3-5-2, maybe we go 3-4-3 but that’s not too different. But we still try, even to go a little bit more direct, not on purpose, we still want to play, we still want to press high, that’s never going to change. So, there’s only tweaks.


Les: So when you played Mads Roerslev on Saturday (Newcastle) in a position I’ve never seen him play in, is that because you wanted to attack more, because he’s quick, or to counter St Maximin?

TF: A combination of various things: Charlie was struggling a little bit with injuries, up to the Norwich game; and up to this game [Newcastle] I was in doubt about his fitness; he probably thinks otherwise but that’s how it is. That was the main reason why we didn’t play Charlie. And then I could see Mads play that role, especially against St Maximin, because he’s got more pace and he’s better one-on-one. I actually think in general, Mads did a good job, in a position he hasn’t played before.

Les: The third goal was a bit unfortunate, wasn’t it.

TF: I think it was an unbelievable cross, and we need to do a tiny bit better, but it was just really good.

GPG: Do you speak to players individually when they’re not selected, and say to them, I’m not picking you this week because.

TF: No. It’s clear that the player will be disappointed. If they’ve been on the bench three times in a row I don’t say, “oh, by the way, you’re on the bench for a fourth time”. But this time, it was clear that it could have been Charlie, so I explained why I didn’t play him. They never agree, but that’s how it is. I wouldn’t agree either.

TI: In the video call we did 14 months ago, when we spent time on the Zoom with fans, someone asked which other managers you would call for advice if we got promoted to the Premier League. I think you said Potter, Dean, and someone else. Did you actually make those calls?

TF: That was clever I said that! I never called them actually. But you know, we did fine anyway. To be fair, it’s just how I think: how can I gain some knowledge that I have in this game… when I ask people around, to gather information, it’s all blah blah - useless.

SH: Are you friends with other managers, so would you call Dean for example and say, great to see you back in a job after Villa?

TF: Dean is a good friend. I texted him after he got sacked. I actually wanted to text him before the first match, but I forgot. He is a friend, I would say. But the other managers, because it’s my first season, I don’t know them that much. Now I met Sean Dyche, I had this leadership thing, and he was there, David Moyes was there, Roy Hodgson was there. Potter I have met before, I not saying he’s a friend. I would say in the Championship there was more - Neil Harris, from Millwall, he said I could be a f***ing c**t, I said, you can be a f***ing c**t, and then we shake hands and give each a hug and then we drank a beer, and we are good friends after that.

SH: And overseas? Do you have friends who are Danish managers, is there a community of Danish managers and coaches you and Brian can tap into ? Because the national team is doing so well.

TF: When I’m not in Denmark, it’s difficult. My very good friend Kasper from the national team, we ring each other a lot. I know all the head coaches in the Superliga, the Danish ones, Kent Nielsen, who was actually the former centre back of Aston Villa, back in the day, he is a proper coach and a good friend.

SH: Are you the iconic Danish coach for the coaches back in Denmark now that you’re in the Premier League. The second one after Laudrup?

TF: Laudrup is an icon, of course. I am one of very few coaches working abroad, and the Premier League is a big thing.

SH: Have they reached out to you to give time and knowledge back to the young Danish coaches?

TF: I would love that. I really believe it’s very important to me to give something back, if possible, because I remember when I was a young coach, you were really walking the tough way, but it’s a fine balance because my time is really limited. That’s where I struggle the most. That’s why I speak with Chris, ok, can you do this or that, but I would really like to give something back to other coaches.

GPG: What’s the most unintuitive piece of advice you would give to a young coach?

TF: Be yourself. I would always say that when I was educating other coaches. Of course, everyone knows you need to work hard, that’s clear; but when you work hard you also get knowledge, because you study the game, you watch a lot of games on video or live, as much as you can. Train as much as you can, you know, all age groups, so you just get that huge knowledge by working hard, and then network.

TI: Is there something more esoteric, more off the wall that you would advise them to do?

TF: No, no, no. Perhaps as Michael Caulfield would say, our psychologist, “be lucky today”. We’re good, but we like a little bit of luck. But no, I think if you want to go to the top, there’s only one way. Yes, you can get up there, but you’ll never stay there if you haven’t built a foundation of hard work, of knowledge, you will never stay there.

GPG: What can success look like for Brentford now we are in the PL? Other clubs’ fans say they just want to stay in the Premier League. Is it just staying in? Where can Brentford really aspire to? What do you aspire to?

TF: It’s a fine balance, it’s difficult because we need to constantly develop. If you don’t develop, it’s a balance because I think the first time Stoke thought about something too big, but I don’t think it naturally developed. The wall is just moving forward, so if you’re not developing, constantly staying in front of that, you can’t keep your position and then you need to develop even faster. I think that’s very, very important. Of course, we would say naturally, we want to be a top six club. It involves so much money, it is insane. I think the five years I’ve been here, and probably the last ten years; we beat the market every single time.

We punch above our weight every single year; we are doing the same this year. So, we can have the lowest budget in the Premier League, but we can still make something. Let’s say we have the lowest budget, I don’t want to name any positions, but let’s say we can be here, whatever that is, and let’s say we need to be like that, if we want to go higher. But a big, big thing we can do, we need to be ourselves. I think the way we can stand out is by culture, and style of play, and the way we carry ourselves. I think that’s so much more value, that we play in a specific way, we carry ourselves in a specific way, we are maybe even more open than any other PL club, I think that’s where we need to be different.

Yes, we want to be in Europe. You do that one year – what about the next year, and the one after that. Isn’t about the fans are proud, because we play in a specific way, because we carry ourselves in a specific way, I think that’s the most important thing.


SH: What would keep you interested - cups, league position, Europe? What would stop you getting bored?

TF: No, no, it doesn’t have to be that. For me, it’s what we are doing: buying young players, constantly developing them as people, as players, getting them up to a higher level, we find out that we can actually play with an even younger team in the PL, against, you know, we’re not buying PL experience, you know, that would be interesting. You know, keep creating the culture. That’s why I sometimes change systems, because OK, maybe that’s interesting.

SH: 14th in PL but three players in the England squad, is that good?

TF: 100%.

SH: Do you think that’s why Pep gets bored and why he’s challenging himself at Bayern Munich, and then Man City, or is that a completely different world?

TF: I think that’s a completely different world. Also, some of the combination of things that are so insanely tough. Some of these managers, I sometimes don’t understand how they can keep going.

TI: Talking of Europe, if we’re only playing 38 games a season, rather than 50 games last season – until we get greater squad depth it would be very difficult for us to play in the Europa League and the PL?

TF: I think that it’s pressure. It’s the same squad, we play so many games in the Championship and the Carabao Cup

SH: Griffin Park was different because the players had to walk through the forecourt, right past the fans - that doesn’t happen in the new stadium, they’re being bussed in. Do you think the players still feel connected to the fans? Although the new stadium is quite tight.

TF: I think they feel the same. I think it was rare, very uncommon, what we had at Griffin Park, but I still feel we have a good connection.

TI: I get the impression that you want to win a major trophy this season. Is that the case?

TF: Yep, that’s the case.

TI: We’re going to play our first eleven against Chelsea?

TF: Let’s see, but yes, I will go very strong. The thing is, we are playing from Sunday (Everton), until Villa, 10 games in 35 days. so that means most likely I won’t play eleven/eleven, that I will change two or three from game to game. And then it’s just the next game we have to win.

Les: That schedule though, because we’ve come from the Championship where we've done it for years, is that in our advantage?

TF: But if you're facing Man Utd or Man City, they are playing in the Champions League so they’re playing the same amount of games.

TI: We also have a lot of injuries

TF: The thing is, I would really like a fit squad, but I believe that the players are much, much stronger than you think; I think a player could play all Championship games. I really think they could. Depending on the position. Actually, last year, we played how many games, and Rico played all of them except the FA Cup.

SH: Are there some players who are better if they just keep playing? Like I’ve heard Ethan just wants to play all the time?

TF: Yep, I think if I ask the players, they want to play ALL the time. I haven’t heard one player who doesn’t want to play ALL the time. And they also want to win the f***ing Carabao Cup. As I said to them, how many footballers are winning trophies? Not many.

TI: The team we put out against Stoke in the last round, did that have an impact on the following game on the weekend game, Burnley?

TF: No, I don’t think so. The thing is actually, from the Leicester game I changed seven. To the Stoke game – seven players…

Les: Kris Ajer played in that game, didn’t he?

TF: Yes, he played in that game, but then he got another.

Les: Because I thought he got injured in the Liverpool goal line clearance.

TF: Yeah, he did, he got injured, came back, played second half against Leicester, full game against Stoke, got a setback at the end of that game.

Les: When is he back?

TF: I think it is end of November, big scan. If that is positive, it’s a quicker return. If not, then January.

GPG: If you could sign anyone in football history who would it be?

TF: It would need to be Diego. Or Pele. Let’s go with Diego.

SH: Would he fit into this Brentford team?

TF: I would find a way!

GPG: And what about a current player? I think last time you said Iniesta, so he’s now excluded.

TF: It can only be one of the following three players, and I will tell you who I will take. Because I think one of these three players will be the next Ballon D’Or winner. Mbappe of course. Haaland. Phil Foden. So, I will go with Haaland. Because goals is the most difficult thing to produce in a football team.

SH: Will you tell Ivan that he has to sit on the bench?

TF: I think I will find a way to play both of them.

GPG: Do you actually hear the crowd during the game, and if so what’s the best heckle or shout you’ve ever heard?

TF: Griffin Park was sometimes a little bit too quiet, so I could sometimes hear ‘Thomas, make a change’, sub someone in or out. I would say I was surprised by the noise at the London Stadium, when they equalized, that noise, that was unreal, crazy. And then I would say the noise at Newcastle they made some noise.

TI: What’s the worst substitution you’ve made? The one that didn’t work out.

TF: If I could name one, that was going too offensive against Barnsley.

SH: One that still hurts me was when you took Rico Henry off against Blackburn with 10 men, and you threw Dominic Thompson on, and he missed his man and the guy came in and equalised.

TF: It hurt me too, but I still think, we’re playing 11 against 10, it shouldn’t be a problem. I think I would have done that today as well. The one I didn’t want to do (Barnsley), we went very offensive, I just think we had too many offensive players and we lost some structure, so they could score, and we had maybe four minutes. That’s the one I would change.

TI: And conversely, what’s the best one you’ve ever made?

TF: The one I liked the most, it was obvious in my way because I planned it, that was to bring Marcus on at half time and going very offensive against Bournemouth second half in the PO semi-final. I knew what I wanted to do

SH: Do you keep in touch with or watch players as they progress, Emiliano, you were saying about Henrik, do you keep that affinity with the players?

TF: It fades of course, over time. It was fantastic to see Romaine after the Stoke game, beautiful, wonderful to speak to him after the game, we spoke for 15 minutes. I try to remember to text them once in a while, if they score a goal or something happens, but I do follow them, I notice when they score, or they do something.

TI: Romaine was your quarterback when he was here, so who’s your new quarterback?

TF: I think it was Matthias last year, I think he needs to find his feet to do it this year, but last year I think he was amazing. Hopefully it will be Matthias again, but there’s a not a clear quarterback right now.

TI: When we get a free kick, who decides who takes it?

TF: That’s Christian. Christian decides who takes it. Direct free kick or set pieces?

TI: Set pieces .

TF: Christian.

GPG: Does being a football manager mean that you can’t enjoy football? Does it detract from your enjoyment of football?

TF: Yes. No. Yes and no. Of course, I’m a nerd, I’m crazy, I’m analysing everything and watching too much, but for example even today, that was a good example of pure joy, I was watching back Liverpool’s goals, and then I said, ‘oh, what a goal!’ My wife said, what are you watching, ‘Er, nothing!’ (laughs). Going to Tottenham v Chelsea, in front of 60,000, fantastic big game, perfect seats whatever, I’m not enjoying the game, my brain is just working. So last time I was a ‘fan’ fan, was Denmark v Belgium in the Euros. Because everything that happened with Eriksson, I’ve coached 70% of the team, the head coach is my very good friend, I know more or less all the staff members and other very good friends in the staff, I was there in the Parken and I was just a fan. I was there with my son, and two very good friends, so we were four together, and there was an unbelievable atmosphere. I was just a fan.

TI: Do you actually get to go to many matches to scout the opposition? Is that a job that you do?

TF: I completely agree, going there is the best thing, but you still gain a lot from watching it on telly, so it’s very rarely I go to a match. From general experience, it’s not worth it for me to go to Tottenham stadium and back – it would take five hours of my Sunday, that I can spend with my family, or I can relax. And I promise you, the energy, I have a massive engine, but I also get tired. And if I want to be on top of my game, I need zzz (rest).

TI: For our game against Everton - you haven’t watched Everton live this season?

TF: Nope.

TI: All your input will come out of analytics, TV, clips…

TF: We have only watched bits and pieces so far from them, watching them on telly, not deeply, some players, I know Benitez, know how he’s thinking. And then tomorrow morning [Tuesday} we will watch back our game, then also in the afternoon we will get the first bit from Everton. So, then I will probably have three games; so, our head of analysis will present, 15 20 minutes, weaknesses, strengths, style of play. Then after that I get three games that I watch myself. I’m watching all of them, but I’m not watching the whole game; I have the whole game, but I want to skip through myself. but I want to do it myself rather than get an edit. So, I just skip through quickly, So I watch Everton, I don’t know, whoever they’re playing, Everton Wolves for example, that would be a game I’m watching, so I watch that in depth, especially the first half, then I skip to the next game, watch 20 minutes of them, and then if it’s the same pattern the third game, that’s enough. Then I can’t remember the game, but I watched the second half as well because I knew they’d changed system, so I watched the second half as well.

Les: Everton have got lots of injuries, Richarlison is suspended, so you’ve probably got no idea what they’re going to do on Sunday.

TF: The problem is if they change shape game to game, that can be an issue. But if I know their shape, I’m not too fussed about their players, we know that, hey, that’s a minor thing.

SH: The players are the minor thing, it’s more the system and the shape?

TF: Yep. System, shape, style of play.

SH: Do you watch a single camera view of the game, or way they show on the edited highlights?

TF: The overall view. I want the tactical view.

TI: For the Newcastle game, where Eddie Howe was a new manager, did that throw off.

TF: We f***ing nailed it. The tactics, we f***ing nailed the tactics. Maybe we didn’t play our best game, but we bang on nailed what they did. He wasn’t there but they trained the whole week, the touchline he was in the ear of course, but he also made the pre-match team talk on FaceTime Skype whatever. We were pretty sure they’d play 3-4-3, that’s what we trained the whole week, I know that 70% of his time he played a back four, but he played a back three before and we expected he’d change to that because they’ve been so weak defensively. The only thing we didn’t nail was the personnel. But I was more interested in the shape, so we could hopefully exploit them.

SH: Would it have made a difference if Eddie was in the stadium do you think or is the head coach not that important Thomas?!

TF: (laughs) No, I think we are, and especially the first time together, getting the message is across, and I think that’s important. And of course, I guess they hired Eddie Howe and not Tindall, so of course, there’s a reason for that. And of course, there’s a reason why I am head coach and not Brian. Could Brian or Tindall do a good job one day, yes, of course they can.

TI: What should we watch out for in the Everton game?

TF: I don’t know yet.

TI: So, you spend the first half of the week analysing, and then the last few days working on that with the players?

TF: For example, the players are off today, because they had a Christmas dinner last night (Sunday). They were allowed to get one day where they could do that, because I think that’s good for their togetherness. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we go through our game in the morning, Newcastle, I watched it back today, and then train tomorrow mainly on our common principles, then Wednesday we will start small bits for Everton, more bits Friday: Friday or Saturday, either or both of them could be the most tactical days.

Les: When you say it’s about the system and not the players, does that mean you’ll decide on the system, and then maybe during the week you’ll see what players are available?

TF: No, we play 3-5-2, I believe in a go-to system. Then I train plan B and other systems, but I believe in the go-to system.

SH: When you say you know what Rafa’s thinking, do you think other managers have been complacent, or not taken us seriously, and have been caught out? I just wondered whether Arsenal might have thought, it’s only Brentford, and we’re Arsenal?

TF: No, I think they know what they’re doing because they’re a massive set-up.

SC: I’ve got a question about the famous watch. Why doesn’t it have a strap? Your strap is always flapping.

TF: Honestly, just because I haven’t had the time to… I have a friend who texted me, you need to have that strap.

SH: It’s the same one from the Bournemouth game.

TF: Yeah, you liked that one!

SH: I have a Bournemouth friend who said, is Thomas still angry about it!

TF: That was, we planned it. We talked to the ref before the game, and we said, I know they will drag the time. I completely understand, it’s part of the game. When we go two nil up, please punish us as well. I have no complaints about that. There’s only one thing that I go mental about and that’s the goal kick. If that takes more than 15 seconds, I’ll be standing like this (taps watch), so I said that to him.

SH: You mentioned your friend the Danish manager; does it benefit the Danish players in our team, and does it help him? Does he ring up and say, is Matthias ready…

TF: He does that of course, because we have extra good relationship, but no.

SH: Do you says, Mads is good, you should put him the team…

TF: No, no. All three Mads are developing brilliantly but they are not yet good enough for the Danish national team. Hopefully they get there. It’s only Christian, Matsi and Zanka, they are the key players.

SH: Was Zanka in the Danish team?

TF: He was, but then he a little bit injured. He is part of their wider group, if they get an injury to a centre-back, or two, then he’s in.

TI: Would you actually want to be Danish international manager?

TF: My wife doesn’t want me to be because the problem is in Denmark it’s just like in England, I don’t envy Gareth Southgate, because that must be, what a job, but he can’t walk alone anywhere in the f***ing country. In Denmark it’s a minor scale, but it’s a bit similar.

SH: You could live in London and manage Denmark?

TF: That, I would consider, honestly but it would still be strange because I’m Danish. I love living in London and I love living abroad, but I’m Danish and one day I will move back home, maybe it’s in ten years’ time, maybe, you know.

TI: What’s the weirdest place you’ve been recognised since you’ve been in the PL?

TF: Maybe sleeping with my face mask on in the Tube (laughs)

TI: I’m conscious of time… any final killer question?

TF: I’ve really enjoyed it, but that hour I can have at home before I go to bed… one or two more.

SH : Any good freebies, random sponsorship offers, watches?

TF: No, not even a watch! Very disappointing! I could do a lot if I wanted to, lectures, for relatively big money. Especially leadership, and especially in Denmark. I think I’m OK famous in England but of course not the same, I have a fantastic name in Denmark, but I said no. I said no to write a book, I said no to several books I said no to everything because I think it’s important to focus. It would be easy to get dragged away.

SH: You’re not advertising washing machines in Denmark or anything like that?

TF: No, and honestly if someone did ask, I would say no, it would have to be an unbelievable brand or UNICEF, or something with a bigger purpose

TI: Thomas, thank you so much for this evening, I don’t know any other PL club manager that would do this, and we appreciate it so much. Many thanks to you Chris for making it happen for us fans. Appreciate it. Finally Thomas, no one in this restaurant asked for your autograph!

TF: I know, perfect, I love it!

GPG: Wait!!! favourite cheese?!

TF: That’s very difficult. I have a lot. I like Manchego, from Spain, and I love Gouda, the Dutch one, but I also like the brown cheese from Norway. We just went to Nerja, close to Malaga, and my wife has been living in Spain and she is speaking Spanish, so maybe when I retire, we will half the time there and half the time in Denmark.


====================

Once again, massive thanks to Thomas, and probably even more love from GPGers to @West Ealing Bee for making it happen! Thanks Chris!

(c) The Griffin Park Grapevine
 
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RAF_Patto

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Love this! So glad I stayed up now, thank you everyone for your time and inputs.
 

ruislip bee

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Kept me up till nearly 2.00. Brilliant work. Top bloke.
 

DillarBee

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Other than needlessly disappearing down a Dalsgaard/RB rabbit hole, that was a really fantastic read. Good work from all!
 
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Thanks, this is wonderful stuff and some - suitably credited - might well find its way into my new book!
 

Kingston Bee

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A great read, many thanks Nana. Just confirms to me how lucky we are to have Thomas and his team, long may it continue.
 

AB

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Other than needlessly disappearing down a Dalsgaard/RB rabbit hole, that was a really fantastic read. Good work from all!
I thought that was really interesting in terms of TF’s thinking about players and positions in an area where much of the GPG discussion is about needing a “proper” RB in the squad.
 

SH

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Massive respect to my ex-boss Chris Wickham for arranging this. We would never get this type of interview elsewhere. The club are really lucky to have him.

Was literally about to type that. Amazing that any club, let alone PL, would make such an effort for their fans. We are so lucky to have the leadership group named.... not to mention all at GPG Towers who made this possible.

"System, shape, style of play" will be stuck in my head all day 😂
 

Lush55

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Great read, thank you to everyone involved.
Bit disappointed he didn't give me a call when in Nerja!!!!!
 

johndub

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A great read and very interesting. Once again, TF comes across really well. His account of his exchange with Neil Harris made me laugh.
Thanks to all involved in arranging this and putting it together for the GPG.
 

Beenut

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Excellent interview as expected. Thanks to all those involved.
 

aslan

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Thanks to all those that made it happen. Really interesting point RE Sergi and the RB situation
 

JCMcBee

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A great read and very interesting. Once again, TF comes across really well. His account of his exchange with Neil Harris made me laugh.
Thanks to all involved in arranging this and putting it together for the GPG.
....it was funny....Harris or Klopp.... they're all the same to our Thomas ;)
 

Paul_T

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Thanks so much for this, really fascinating stuff.

This bit cracked me up, as did the Neil Harris action. Couldn't love TF more.

"When the game is on, at home, I think it’s the same for everyone but definitely for me, I don’t care who is in the other dugout. If he shouts at my players, or goes over the line, I just say - excuse my language - f**k off. Because there’s just a wall, and you’re trying to win. "
 

super J

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Thanks for this, really interesting.

The only answer I didn't really understand was about Dalsgaard leaving? He wanted to stay but legal issues with signing for him Midtjylland meant he couldn't?
 

hobbsy

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Thanks for this, really interesting.

The only answer I didn't really understand was about Dalsgaard leaving? He wanted to stay but legal issues with signing for him Midtjylland meant he couldn't?
I think it implies that they agreed he could go but then asked him to change his mind but by then all the paperwork was signed.
 

Les Beeavinu

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Thanks to all those that made it happen. Really interesting point RE Sergi and the RB situation
On the Sergi bit about Sergi not attacking the back post, the transcribed text is a little confusing - the conversation was why Rico attacked the line and back post more than Sergi whereas Sergi tended to come inside more. We were asking whether that is a deliberate thing. TF seemed to suggest that whilst Sergi had more to offer as a an additional midfielder at times, they wanted him to attack the back post like Rico does.
 

Griffingreen

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Felt reassured that managing the Danish national side wasn't high on his list.
 
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TimT66

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Cracking read, thanks again to all involved\
#COYB
 

Paul O'Brien

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Really excellent. Well done Banana and others involved, especially the transcriber.
 

AB

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Felt reassured that managing the Danish national side wasn't high on his list.
Unsurprisingly considering what a good job Hjulmand is doing and the fact repeated over the interview that he and TF are v good friends!

It may be a thing for him at some point but he’s clearly v ambitious, expects and intends to do great things with us and would then be in line for a job with one of the really big clubs. He’s young so why would he interrupt that to angle for the national job?
 

cheshirebee

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Excellent interview. Great that TF gave his time and was so open and relaxed.
Well done and thank you Team GPG.
 

OrchardBee

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Superb and refreshingly candid. Speaks volumes about the man, GPG and the club in the widest sense. Thanks and well done to everyone who made it happen.
 

DillarBee

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I thought that was really interesting in terms of TF’s thinking about players and positions in an area where much of the GPG discussion is about needing a “proper” RB in the squad.
Yes, that reassurance that Frank views a winger as something he wants in a back 5, was quite nice to see stated.
 

olliebfc

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Thanks all, really interesting, its taken me 3 sit downs to get through! Respect to Chris and Thomas... what was the restaurant? what did he eat? Cheese course?
 

Den99

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Great work! thoroughly enjoyed that read. It adds so much more perspective than what fans otherwise get. Cheers.
 

mundee4england

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Outstanding, just unreal to have this level of access to any manager let along in the EPL! Thanks to all involved!

Pleased he called out going over offensive against Barnsley and that Charlie up top didn’t work! :ROFLMAO:
 

AntoineV

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Amazing that you can get such an interview by the fans and for the fans done... Thank you guys and thanks to the staff and Thomas for making this possible
 

Mr Cynical

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Interesting that since this interview happened we've started to try and play a lot more on the deck... ! :)
 

Les Beeavinu

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Interesting that since this interview happened we've started to try and play a lot more on the deck... ! :)
Yep, I told him in no uncertain terms to get his act together.*



* I didn't.
 

olliebfc

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Sky absolutely love him. Well done Chris for encouraging him to swear also 😉
 
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