Ray Jennings has been a teacher in Malaysia for over 25 years but still has fond memories of supporting his local club, Brentford.
He makes it a point to watch matches whenever he returns to England and is still celebrating the club’s return to the English top-flight after a 74-year absence.
Brentford defeated Swansea 2-0 on May 29 in the Championship playoff final.
Jennings spoke to Twentytwo13 about The Bees’ chances of survival and ‘Moneyball’.
How long have you been a supporter?
Jennings: I have been following Brentford since the 1970s – long before they entered the Premier League!
How often do you attend a match?
Jennings: I used to go down to (the old stadium) Griffin Park quite a lot. I used to take my children, too. Whenever we returned from Malaysia, we would always go to at least the first league match of the season.
It didn’t matter if Brentford was in Division Four or Division Three. We would make it a point to attend matches.
I’ve only been to the new stadium once (the club moved to Brentford Community Stadium last year).
Unfortunately, I was alone due to the Covid-19 situation. It’s a modern stadium but still the smallest in the Premier League (17,250 capacity while Griffin Park, built in 1904, could only hold 12,763 people).
Did you expect Brentford to earn a promotion last season?
Jennings: Yes. We had a better squad the season before but lost in the playoffs to Fulham. At that time, we were playing more attacking football. However, last year, defensively, we stepped up. That’s the main reason we got promoted.
We lost one of our key defenders Henrik Dalsgaard before the season started but replaced him with Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic. He seems to have blended in like he’s been there the whole time, so I’m not too concerned. However, I’m a little bit worried about the attack.
Ivan Toney was the top scorer in the Championship last season but needs help as he can be quite isolated upfront.
How do you think they would do this season?
Jennings: I’m pretty confident we will stay up. The promotion was a long time coming. We have been playing some fantastic football in the Championship for five years.
The club was always challenging for promotion. We made the playoffs five years ago, we made it two years ago, and of course, last season. So, we’ve always had the potential, and now we are in the Premier League.
What are your thoughts on the so-called Moneyball approach attached to the club?
Jennings: I know the owner, Matthew Benham, hates that term, but to a degree, it is along those lines (buying a player cheaply then selling him for a profit).
We have made money on Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma, who moved to Aston Villa and West Ham, respectively.
Both players would have stayed if we won promotion in 2020, but after our loss, they moved on.
Last season, it was a similar situation with Bryan Mbeumo, Mathias Jensen, Rico Henry, and Josh Dasilva.
There were big offers for them, but they had an unwritten agreement that they would remain if we got to the Premier League.
If we didn’t win the playoffs, we could have lost the core of the team, and it would have taken a longer time to return to the top-flight.
FIXTURES (Malaysian time)
Newcastle vs Leeds (3am)
Wolves vs Brentford (7.30pm)
Norwich vs Watford (10pm)
Burnley vs Arsenal (10pm)
Manchester City vs Southampton (10pm)
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (10pm)
Aston Villa vs Everton (12.30am)
Brighton vs Leicester (9pm)
West Ham vs Manchester United (9pm)
Tottenham vs Chelsea (11.30pm)