Gareth Ainsworth says he’s proud to have seen his squad prove they can compete with any side in the Championship, but knows one of the toughest challenges to that assertion lies ahead with the visit of Brentford on Saturday.
The Bees reached the second tier play-off final last term and have made a solid start to the new term, with summer signing Ivan Toney in particular standing out with 10 goals in just 11 league appearances so far.
Wanderers went into the two-week international break on the back of a defeat to Nottingham Forest but a succession of accomplished performances had yielded seven points from the previous three games, to suggest that they had found their feet at this level after a seven-game losing streak at the start of the season.
And Ainsworth is now looking forward to a return to the touchline in the brand-new Adams Park dugouts after missing the previous three matches following emergency surgery on a back problem.
“They’re a really good side,” he said of Brentford. “They’ve got a lot of talent and an excellent manager in Thomas Frank who’s a good friend and has always been very complimentary about us. They’ve recruited really well down the years and they get it right when they sign players.
“We need to make sure we’re super-prepared and take the performances over the past few games into this match. Even when we were losing games to Millwall, Reading and Norwich, the performances were there and then the points started to come.
“The boys can compete at this level, they’ve proved that. We’re working to finish higher than at least three teams in this division and I see absolutely no reason why we can’t do that.”
It’ll be the first league meeting with the Bees since the 2011/12 campaign, with Brentford becoming a shining light in the EFL for their modest progress towards the brink of the Premier League – a journey that Wanderers can relate to and one that Ainsworth is proud to have played a part in.
“There are aesthetic improvements coming all the time around the place, both at Adams Park and at the training ground. This is a Championship club now and we want to reach that standard in everything we do.
“We’re building it all the time and I’ve been able to add to my staff this summer to give us every chance of sustaining ourselves at this level. We’ve probably got more staff and players than we’ve ever had but we’re still a million miles off some clubs in the Championship in terms of the resources they’ve got.
“With the help of Rob, Missy and Pete Couhig, we’ll be improving every aspect of the club. Now we just want the fans to be able to come back in to the ground so they can show their support and be a real part of it instead of having to watch from home. I had to do that for three games after my operation and it just isn’t the same.”
Fortunately he’ll now be able to lead the team in person, joining forces again with assistant manager Richard Dobson who manned the fort in his absence – and Ainsworth was delighted to see the team perform so well under his guidance.
“Dobbo and I go way back and I think we work really well together, so I had full faith in him and the staff to deliver results and it was no surprise to see them do it. We were in constant contact, we spoke countless times a day and picked the team together, but it was down to him to deliver the team talk and make on-the-spot decisions during the game and he handled it brilliantly.
“We’re in a brilliant position. I know people will look and see us in the bottom three and wonder why I can say that. But we’re in the Championship for the first time in our history. And when you look back down the years, so many teams have been where we are now and stayed up; a couple of clubs did it last year. I’m so confident we have what it takes to stay in this division because of the togetherness we’ve got, the talent in the squad and the hard work that everyone is putting in every single day on and off the pitch.
“That’s why I’m so proud to be manager of this club and why I can’t wait to be back out there on the touchline on Saturday.”