Thomas Frank’s Liverpool audition came at the worst possible time

Thomas Frank’s Liverpool audition came at the worst possible time

The first-ever meeting between Thomas Frank and Jurgen Klopp was a rather unorthodox one.

Then again, that’s been the story of the Dane’s managerial career. He was not a professional footballer, barely even an amateur one, spending time as a teacher before making headway in youth coaching.

Having worked his way into Denmark’s youth setup and becoming head coach of their Under-17 side, Frank was invited to Borussia Dortmund when Klopp was manager at Signal-Iduna Park. Alongside other coaches from the Danish FA, Frank spent a few days in Germany learning from the then-BVB boss.

“He [Klopp] was a little bit late, but he came into the room, sat there talking, and asked us all the questions. He was just full of energy, as we know him now. We then went out to the training pitch, he came over to talk with us.” Frank reminisced ahead of Brentford’s eventual 4-1 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday.

“Then, the day after, we were there again, but all the others had to go earlier, so I still stood there and watched training on my own and he still came over. I was there, a nobody, an U17 coach from Denmark, but he took the time. I like that, that human touch. He probably can’t remember that, but I remember it!”

Nowadays, Frank and Klopp are equals in that they are both successful Premier League managers. The former has even been tipped to succeed the latter in one of the most sought after hot-seats in world football.

Klopp and Frank have a good relationship / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Frank is seen as an outside contender to replace Klopp at this point, if in part because of the standout candidates – not least Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso – ahead of him right now. The vacancy has probably come a year too late for the Bees boss.

If Klopp had announced his decision to stand down this time last season, Frank would have been viewed as the perfect contender. Brentford were midway through a charge to a club-record ninth-placed Premier League finish, with their push for an unlikely European place going to the final day. They were streetwise and compelling in their own unique fashion, a philosophy not tethered to a single style.

The west Londoners were one of the 2022/23 season’s feel-good stories. They were thrust into the spotlight and vindicated for years of building sustainably and within their means, thinking smarter and harder than the competition. At the heart of their efforts was a cerebral head coach who perfectly embodied the characteristics of a community club on a Hollywood stage.

For a multitude of reasons, Brentford haven’t been able to sustain that upward trajectory this season. The sale of David Raya, Ivan Toney’s absence through suspension and various injury woes have curtailed the Bees’ progress and they have been demoted from European contenders into the lower-end of the mid-table pack.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Liverpool was their first at home to the Reds since promotion in 2021. Brentford earned a 3-3 draw in their maiden Premier League campaign before outwitting Klopp’s men 3-1 last season.

This current iteration of Liverpool is stronger than those who previously visited the Gtech Community Stadium, but Brentford are now much weaker as well. A rotating cast of players have been thrown together in any given matchday all season long and they have lacked that extra edge of cohesion.

The Bees were actually the better side until the opener – their passing and pressing were both decidedly crisper than in the first half of the campaign. But they were uncharacteristically poor leading to several of Liverpool’s goals and Frank has only been able to stop the rut so much. An underrated part of Brentford’s glory last year was their defensive solidity and mental toughness, two aspects stripped away amid the chaos of this season.

The doubts over Frank leaving Brentford relate to the relatively light weight of expectation in his current role, while there is a case he is but one part of a wider system within the club. Such a step-up to Liverpool might prove too daunting, though he’s done enough simply to be in the conversation with his flexible tactics and personable attitude.

Frank has often said while he won’t be at Brentford forever, it would take a special opportunity to lure him away from his current job. He has the tools to manage a club like Liverpool, but it’s simply a role he won’t take on soon.


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