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Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford

Finding himself in the best form of his career at Brentford, Romaine Sawyers talks us through his experiences adapting to life in the Championship with the Bees.

Romaine Sawyers

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Photo: Reuters

The step up to the Championship, moving from Walsall to Brentford, was a difficult one.

For one, the quality of players is much different, no disrespect to League One.

There are a number of quality individuals and teams, but there is also a greater emphasis on the tactical side of the game, largely due to the strong balance of clubs from the top right through to the bottom of the division.

At first I was inconsistent and spent a fair bit of time trying to find my feet. But now I am over that hurdle and playing at a level I am happy with.

This season has been good. In fact, probably my best one to date. I feel that I’ve been quite consistent and in really good form.

I can’t thank Dean Smith enough. His influence has been massive. He gave me my first real chance at mens’ football and he has continued to have faith in me as I’ve progressed through the levels.

I was fortunate to spend my formative years at the West Brom in the club’s academy. I was there from the age of seven and received a great footballing education. I still speak to most of my coaches that I had at a young age there, even now.

Dean initially brought me to Walsall when I left West Brom, and he has been a key factor throughout my development. He knows to get onto me if need a kick up the arse, or he will compliment me if I need an arm over my shoulder.

Above all, he is a great man manager. He quickly finds your strengths and weaknesses as a player and knows how to get you performing.

He gets the balance of praise and constructive criticism just right, in order to get the very best out of the individuals in the team.

I would say recently is the best I have performed in my career and my Player of the Month nomination for December was recognition of the work me and my Brentford teammates have been doing.

It feels like a real group effort every time we go out on the pitch and that has shown both on and off the field.

At the same time as myself being nominated for an award before Christmas my teammate, Lasse Vibe, was in the mix for the PFA Player of the Month prize.

We have players who are topping stats charts left, right and centre and we have some real depth and versatility in the team. This means we can attack from all areas, whereas in the past we have maybe been reliant on one or two individuals.

Personally, I like to get on the ball and make things happen, helping the team to score goals by creating chances. I think I could probably add more goals to my game by getting behind the opposition defence more regularly.

I’ve scored four times this season, so far, but this is something I’m working on in training with the coaching staff at Brentford. We do a lot of work with video analysis to help me and improve this aspect of my game, but it is a work in progress.

Stats are a well known aspect of the backroom work at the club. Personally, I don’t read into them as much as others. I’m a player who prefers to be visual, making decisions and reacting based ‘on the eye’, rather than through what the data says.

It is good when you feel you are in positive form and you consider yourself to be in a good place, then the stats back it up. I prefer to see it as a secondary option, rather than a first.

Having said that, in terms of recruitment, it has shown to be a success time and time again through the players that the club have signed from lower divisions and abroad – there is a lot of talent to be found outside the top English leagues.

I have fond memories from my time with Walsall and being nominated for League One Player of the Year in my final season is probably the best moment of my career to date, alongside signing for Brentford.

However, I also hold a lot of pride in representing my heritage country, Saint Kitts and Nevis .

It is a very fulfilling ambassadorial role, in terms of giving hope and confidence to the youth of the country. Whether it is through football or something else, it is possible to provide for your family and that is the message I like to send.

Every time I go back there I try to motivate them a little bit more.

From a football perspective, it is a different culture and a new style. I think that has helped my game. It is a lot more physical and rough. You get kicked about and you have to learn to deal with that.

Playing for my country means a lot to me because of my family history. If I am there actively with football it gives me the chance to get involved with the people and their community.

Away from the pitch I am also involved in the Kick It Out campaign, which is a role that is very important to me.

I remember growing up and being a young boy wanting to be a professional footballer. It is extremely important that we continue to try and bridge the gap in today’s game.

Brentford

Three years after Rangers exit is Lewis MacLeod finally ready to shine?

Rangers fan Lewis MacLeod left Ibrox in January 2015, but has struggled since his Glasgow exit.

Mathew Nash

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Scottish midfielder Lewis MacLeod left Rangers amid their off-field troubles back in January 2015. He signed English Championship side Brentford in a deal worth around £850,000. It was a move he was reticent to make, considering his love for the Ibrox club. However, he made the move, considering the problems at the Glasgow club.

It came after he had helped the club rise from the Third Division in Scotland up to the Championship after they had previously plummeted due to financial issues.


“When you’re a Rangers fan, it’s hard to let go and I’ve never experienced anything else in football up to now.

“I definitely wasn’t eager to get out the door but when the opportunity came, with everything that was happening outside football at the club, I leant towards moving away.

“I’d love to go back to Rangers later in my career.”

– Lewis MacLeod after leaving Rangers


The move away from Rangers has failed to be an immediate success.

 

He arrived at Brentford with a hamstring problem which never truly healed. Falling down a rabbit hole did not help.

It was not until 13 months after signing for Brentford that he made his debut. Two weeks later he suffered knee ligament damage which plagued him for months. In his first two-and-a-half seasons at Griffin Park, he played just 14 times.

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But last season he showed some better form and even scored his first goal for the club. Yesterday, MacLeod started Brentford’s opening game of the season and showed just why Rangers had such high hopes for him as a youngster. The midfielder was excellent in the fixture. He scored one, bagged an assist and had a deflected shot turned home by Neal Maupay as Brentford beat Rotherham United 5-1.

Rangers were left gutted when MacLeod left and many were disappointed with his decision to leave. However, watching his promising career suffer the way it has will not please any Ibrox fan.

Hopefully, this can be the start of a renaissance for a player who openly admits he would like to return to Glasgow and his beloved Rangers one day.

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Brentford’s Ryan Woods is the midfield enforcer Leeds are crying out for

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Photo: Getty Images.

With the sale of Ronaldo Vieira confirmed on Wednesday, Leeds United may be expected to add another midfielder to their squad before their season kicks off on Sunday evening against Stoke City and that man could be Brentford’s Ryan Woods.

Wales Online claim that the Whites’ interest has faded of late, despite Vieira’s departure for Italy, as Swansea City have also acted on their interest for the former Shrewsbury Town midfielder.

The holding midfielder is in high demand and was mysteriously absent from an open day at Griffin Park this week, sparking further speculation that he may be on his way out of the club.

“Ryan Woods is dynamic holding midfield player. He is a talented young English player and we can help him develop and move on to the next level at Brentford. Ryan plays with his head up and looks to attack. He tries to pass the ball forward and that fits in well with the way we want to play football.”

Ex-Brentford coach Marinus Dijkhuizen was full of praise for him.

A deep-lying midfielder, the 24-year-old has been at the heart of all of Brentford’s progress and development over the past two seasons, breaking up play and spraying the ball all over the park to the wingers and attackers in his team.

With wing-backs bombing down the wings and a poacher in Patrick Bamford up-front, Leeds would relish having such service in their side with Woods adding bite and steel into midfield as well as an attacking outlet.

Averaging 5.8 long balls per game, Woods’ style may not immediately fit into Marcelo Bielsa’s more artistic style of football, but he does have all of the attributes required to be a success and offer a plan B to the Argentinian coach.

Swansea may have financial power to challenge Leeds and have recent Premier League history to point to, but Leeds’ fanbase and ambition is worth pointing to as the club must look to complete a deal for Woods if they are to strengthen all departments required.

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Incoming Brentford star Bjorn Engels rejected Arsenal in 2016

The Belgian is set to join Brentford this week.

Mathew Nash

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It appears that Brentford are on the verge of bringing in a new centre-back, with Bjorn Engels on the way to Griffin Park. As reported by Sky Sports, the Belgian defender is being targeted as a replacement for John Egan, who recently joined Sheffield United.

The signature would be something if a coup and at a great price, with the Daily Mail suggesting he will cost around £3.5 million.

Of course, not many Brentford fans will be familiar with the Olympiakos stopper. However, fans of Arsenal probably are.

(Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Because Engels was once heavily linked with joining Arsene Wenger’s side. In the summer of 2016, it appeared that Arsenal were all set to get their hands on the then Club Brugge talent.

But he reportedly rejected a move, explaining why to Het Laatste Nieuws.


“That is a bridge too far for me at the moment.”

– Bjorn Engels on why he did not join Arsenal


Engels felt he was not ready for Arsenal two summers ago and last summer headed to Greece.

But after one season his time in Greece is at an end. He disappointed in the Greek Superleague. Olympiakos had a poor campaign, finishing 3rd, and many of the club’s foreign players were told to no longer attend training at the club. Engels, however, was not one of those players – playing in the final four games of a disappointing season. But his form was patchy and he did find himself in and out of the squad.

But Brentford have an excellent ball-playing defender on their hands who perhaps just needs to take a step back before he takes another one forward. Engels could be a star in South-West London.

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