BEES TO BLUES

De­fender Har­lee Dean on the ex­o­dus from Brent­ford to Brum

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By John Wragg

THANKS to Harry Redknapp’s hive of ac­tiv­ity on trans­fer dead­line day, there are Bees ev­ery­where in Birm­ing­ham.

Redknapp paid a club record £6.5m for stylish at­tack­ing mid­fielder Jota, £2.5m for raid­ing right-back Maxime Colin and £2m for cen­tral de­fender Har­lee Dean – all of them from Brent­ford.

But that’s not the end of it. Scott Ho­gan, a £12m buy from Brent­ford last sea­son, was al­ready at As­ton Villa on the other side of the city.

And who was play­ing at Villa Park yes­ter­day? Brent­ford. Well, what’s left of them.

“The thing is,” says Dean. “None of the three of us knew we were com­ing to Birm­ing­ham City. Not at all.

“I said ‘bye’ to every­one on the Wed­nes­day, came up for a med­i­cal, then I rang Jota just to see what was go­ing on. He said to me ‘I’m go­ing to Birm­ing­ham’.

“We were on a What­sApp group. Max was on there as well, and the next thing it was him say­ing ‘I’m on my way as well’.

Re­build

“It was all quite funny, but I’m glad the boys are here be­cause we have been to­gether a long time and it makes bed­ding in a lit­tle bit eas­ier. There was like a group hug when we all got here.”

The £11m Redknapp has handed over to Brent­ford will ben­e­fit the club’s fi­nances but leaves them with a tough job to re­build one of the best teams to watch in Cham­pi­onship foot­ball.

Birm­ing­ham’s Three Bees will be back at Brent­ford on a Tues­day night in February, with the game at St An­drew’s com­ing up a lot quicker, on Novem­ber 1.

Redknapp signed a team and a bit in the trans­fer win­dow, 14 play­ers, and now has the job of turn­ing the mass of new and what is left of the old into pro­mo­tion win­ners.

Dean says ‘Arry will do it, but then he is bi­ased.

“I am a West Ham fan and Harry was the manager,” says Dean. “To play for him was a boy­hood dream of mine.

“There was a game against Brad­ford in the League Cup and I think we were three-nil down.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting there with my dad and my grandad and we came back and won 5-3.

“I’m sure it was Harry who was the manager. I don’t want to get it wrong and find it was some­one else, but that’s what I re­mem­ber from West Ham.

“It was one of the first games I went to. From then, I was hooked.

“I used to go down to Chad­well Heath and watch ‘em train – or try and watch through the fence.

“So, to come and play for Harry Redknapp, that is some­thing spe­cial to me. I’m not just say­ing it. I was born around there, grew up around there.”

Dean’s mem­ory isn’t spot on, but it was 17 years ago and he was only eight.

It was a ter­rific Pre­mier League game and the Ham­mers were 4-2 down, Frank Lam­pard get­ting the win­ner seven min­utes from time.

“That game is what it’s all about for sup­port­ers,” said Redknapp at the time. “They come to be en­ter­tained and they cer­tainly got their money’s worth that day. It was a mag­nif­i­cent game.” Dean says that, from the week’s train­ing he’s had, he doesn’t think Redknapp’s new-look Birm­ing­ham will be free-flow­ing like that Ham­mers day. “We were all-out at­tack at Brent­ford,” says Dean. “We scored a lot, but we con­ceded more than I would have liked. We outscored teams but I don’t think that foot­ball will get you pro­moted from this league. From w I’ve seen so far in train­ing a how they work here, it will b lot more about a pride in defe ing and get­ting clean sheets.

Lead­ers

Dean was Brent­ford’s pla of the year last sea­son, a lea of the team who joined a c that was just av­er­age in third tier of English foot­ball a helped take them to the top ten the Cham­pi­onship.

“Lead­ers make more leader says Dean, who Redknapp ho

I’m glad the boys are here, too, be­cause we’ve been to­gether a long time. There was like a group hug Har­lee Dean Birm­ing­ham de­fender

will have an in­flu­ence both in the team and in the dress­ing room. Dean is blunt. Hon­est. Was he sur­prised Birm­ing­ham City slumped so dra­mat­i­cally last sea­son and needed Redknapp to res­cue them from rel­e­ga­tion with a last game win?

“Hon­estly? No. From play­ing them, I think once (Gary) Rowett went it was ob­vi­ous he (Gian­franco Zola) was strug­gling. Birm­ing­ham are too big a team to go down. “But the Cham­pi­onship doesn’t care how big a team is. It will drop you if you are not play­ing up to the stan­dard. “So, I wasn’t sur­prised. This sea­son is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent. There’s been a big turn­around. The am­bi­tion: you can feel it when you are on the train­ing ground. You can feel the drive. “When I spoke to the pow­ers- that-be here, the mes­sage was we want to get pro­moted this sea­son. We want to be in the top six, min­i­mum. Any­thing else is a fail­ure. “Hav­ing that ex­pectancy and pres­sure on your shoul­ders is a good thing be­cause that’s what I want as well. I want to get pro­moted. I don’t want to come to the end of the sea­son again with noth­ing to play for.” Redknapp had been frus­trated he was un­able to get in more sign­ings and the first few games have pe­tered away with Blues mak­ing no im­pres­sion on any­one. Now, he has to find his best side. Jota has been bought to dic­tate how Birm­ing­ham play and score goals. He has the promis­ing pedi­gree to join Trevor Fran­cis and Christophe Du­garry as play­ers Blues fans sigh about with ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Ini­ti­a­tion

“The pres­sure and the club record fee is not some­thing I can do any­thing about,” says Jota. “All I do is play to my best and try to win. Ev­ery game will be the same like that.” At din­ner on Fri­day, on the overnight for yes­ter­day’s game at Nor­wich, Jota, Colin and Dean had to give their ini­ti­a­tion songs. There were oth­ers as well, out of the pack of 14 who hadn’t yet got up and given it full pelt. “I was brick­ing it,” says Dean. “There were a good few of us, so it took like an hour. Enough of us for a choir.” It looks as if the city of Birm­ing­ham is slowly mov­ing Brent­ford to the Mid­lands “Scotty’s at Villa. Then, you’ve got me Jota and Max here,” says Dean. “It’s a strange one. “Brent­ford were a good team, we played good foot­ball and we had a good bond on the pitch. “Now we’ve got that whole right side of the Brent­ford team here, so hope­fully we can carry on with that chem­istry and un­der­stand­ing we’ve got and show it for Birm­ing­ham City.” Dean ad­mits he was sur­prised Brent­ford let three go so late in the trans­fer win­dow. “That’s what Brent­ford do,” he says. “Ev­ery player has a price on his head and, if that is met, then you go.” But es­pe­cially let­ting them go to Birm­ing­ham be­cause manager Dean Smith is such a big As­ton Villa fan? “I know,” he added. “He called me a Bluenose when I told him I was com­ing up here.”

BOSS: Harry Redknapp

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

RED TO BLUE: Brent­ford’s Har­lee Dean in ac­tion and, in­set top, Jota and Maxime Colin, in­set bot­tom

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