Brentford manager Dean Smith came out swinging in his pre-match press conference today, believing his side can capitalise on Sunderland’s recent and well documented struggles at the Stadium of Light when his side visit Wearside tomorrow afternoon.
Chris Coleman's men come into the fixture sitting in 23rd place having won just five league games all season - the fewest of any Championship side.
Brentford are enjoying a decent season under Smith, and his side are sitting pretty in 10th position having successfully dispatched of the likes of Fulham and Aston Villa. A win at the Stadium of Light could help to cement their position in the top half of the Championship table.
But Smith spoke about being cautious to the threat that Sunderland pose, especially given our well documented 'Bristanbul' comeback from 3-0 down to rescue a point at Ashton Gate against Bristol City last weekend.
Speaking to Go West London, Smith said:
I think they’ve got a lot of character in the team to come back from that. It’s common knowledge that their home form hasn’t been great over the year and we’re hoping to capitalise on it.
Bristol City have been a good team and on a good run including their cup exploits and to go 3-0 down at Ashton Gate and come back shows they have a lot of quality within the team so we have to be wary of the threat they pose.
The former Walsall gaffer is hoping to capitalise on Sunderland’s struggles at the Stadium of Light when Brentford visit Wearside on Saturday.
In somewhat fiery comments, the Bees head coach stated that the passionate crowd at the Stadium of Light won’t entertain the possibility of losing to ‘little old Brentford’, which could lead to complacency from Chris Coleman's men:
Whenever we go away from home our game is to get on the ball, frustrate the opposition. I’d think Sunderland fans are expecting a home win.
We’ve not played there for a while and they probably see us as a small club and little old Brentford.
They took a 3-1 half-time lead and we came back in that game. Hopefully we can surprise a lot of their supporters and show what we’re about.
The 46-year-old ex-Leyton Orient player also explained the narrowing gap between the Premier League and Championship which - according to him - goes someway to explaining why Sunderland have struggled to adjust to life in the second tier of English football:
The season before, it was Aston Villa who came down and took a while to adjust to the Championship and they’re flying at this moment in time.
Sunderland have come down and found it tough as well. I don’t think it is as easy as it was coming down from the Premier League.
Because of the parachute payments a dozen or so teams have the finances to compete at the top level.
Smith then turned his attention to his opposite number, admitting he was surprised to see the former Wales boss move to Wearside, given the job he had done with his country:
It took a lot of people by surprise as he’d done so well with the Welsh national team. They were fantastic in the European Championships and he did a great job there everyone has respect for what he did.
It’s like a lot of these big clubs and Leeds United comes to mind. As a coach, you believe you can turn them around and get them where their fanbase believes they deserve to be. He’ll be arresting the slump they’ve been in.
Smith’s comments, particularly regarding Sunderland supporters, are interesting. He seems to have something of an inferiority complex when it comes to the bigger clubs, and is most likely annoyed at the footballing public's perception of Brentford as small club despite their over-achievement in the league so far.
It feels as though the Brentford boss is trying to paint the picture of a non-league team going into a big FA Cup tie - plucky underdogs Brentford versus ex-Premier League side Sunderland.