Ollie Watkins is set to make his first return to Brentford on Saturday while in some of the best form of his career.
The ex-Bee, who missed Aston Villa’s visit last season, has enjoyed a huge upturn in form since the appointment of Unai Emery as head coach and since the World Cup has scored 12 Premier League goals, including five in his last four games. He had only found the net twice before the break, with one of those coming against us in October.
Watkins’s form has helped Villa rocket up the table into sixth place at the start of the weekend. In their last eight games, they have drawn once and won seven times, including all of their last five – their best top-flight run since 1989/90.
When Emery replaced Steven Gerrard in October, Villa were 14th in the table, only three points above the relegation zone. But he has completely turned round their form and after last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle, some pundits wondered if they could finish in the top four at the end of the season.
Villa have scored in all of Emery’s 20 games in charge, 18 of which have been in the Premier League and have also hit the first goal in each of their last nine matches.
This is Villa’s fourth season back in the Premier League, after winning promotion via the play-offs in 2019. They have finished in the bottom half of the table in each of the previous three, including an 11th-place finish two years ago, which was their best in the top flight since 2010/11.
Apart from their three seasons in the Championship from 2016, Villa had only been outside the top division for one season after 1975 following eight years in the old Division Two and Three as the 1960s became the 70s.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
As mentioned earlier, Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard as Villa head coach last October.
Emery left Spanish side Villarreal to move to the Midlands after winning the Europa League with them by beating Manchester United in the 2021 final.
The Europa League has become a favourite competition for Emery, who also won it three years in a row with Sevilla.
This is not his first job in England as he had an 18-month spell at Arsenal, who he also led to the Europa League final, this time losing to Chelsea.
Among the other clubs he has managed are Valencia, Spartak Moscow and Paris St Germain, where he won the treble of league and both domestic cup competitions in 2017/18.
His playing career was spent mostly in Spain’s second division, before it was ended early by a knee injury.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford have a good recent record against Aston Villa, with our defeat in October our first against them in nine games from 2016.
Last season, we took four points off them in the Premier League.
Our trip to Villa Park at the end of August was only our third Premier League game and just the 13th league meeting between the sides.
Ivan Toney gave us a seventh-minute lead with his first Premier League goal, after Pontus Jansson played a Sergi Canos cross into his path, but Emiliano Buendia equalised with a fierce shot from the edge of the penalty area six minutes later, and the match finished 1-1.
In the return at the start of January, Danny Ings gave Villa an early lead but Yoane Wissa equalised just before the break and Mads Roerslev scored his first Bees goal in the 83rd minute to clinch a 2-1 win.
The match in October was slightly different. Villa had sacked Steven Gerrard following a Thursday night defeat at Fulham before facing us on the Sunday. And they came out at a packed Villa Park fired up and blew us away with three goals in the first 14 minutes.
Leon Bailey opened the scoring and then Danny Ings struck twice, the second from the penalty spot. Ollie Watkins completed the scoring just before the hour mark as Villa cruised to a 4-0 victory.
We had the better of our Championship matches at the end of the last decade.
In 2016/17, we drew 1-1 at Villa Park after John Egan hit a late equaliser to cancel out Jonathan Kodjia’s early opener, while two goals from Lasse Vibe and one from Nico Yennaris gave us a 3-0 win in the return. While the match was taking place, Scott Hogan was signing for Villa and Sergi Canos was joining Brentford.
In the following season’s first meeting, the Bees earned a 0-0 draw at Villa Park in a match we could have won.
Villa keeper Sam Johnstone was the home side’s hero – twice denying Ollie Watkins, while Nico Yennaris, Yoann Barbet and Neal Maupay all went close.
The Boxing Day return was moved to an evening game as it was shown live on Sky, and a goal in each half from Romaine Sawyers and Lasse Vibe – either side of an equalising header from Josh Onomah – gave us a 2-1 win, our second successive festive victory, and extended Villa’s winless run to five matches.
Villa snatched a last-gasp point in our first meeting in 2018/19 on a Wednesday night in August, as a see-saw game ended 2-2.
Neal Maupay put us ahead midway through the first half but Jonathan Kodjia equalised before the break. Maupay restored our lead in the 82nd minute, and we seemed on course for a rare away win before Kodjia struck in the fifth minute of injury-time.
The Griffin Park return the following February was settled by a last-gasp Neal Maupay goal to give us a 1-0 win – again in front of the Sky TV cameras.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME IF YOU CAN’T BE THERE
If you can’t get to the Gtech Community Stadium for Saturday’s sold-out 3.00pm kick-off and want Brentford commentary, audio coverage is available via the new Buzz Box, currently on a free trial.
Coverage starts half an hour before kick-off and is advert-free, with Mark Burridge and Carl Hutchings.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Aston Villa fans coming to the Gtech Community Stadium, there are plenty of pub options pre and post-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
The pub areas are split into two zones. There is the area around Brentford’s old Griffin Park stadium. The pubs there are still very busy on match day frequented by Bees locals before heading down the road to the stadium at Kew Bridge which is only 15 mins walk.
Then there is the area in and around the stadium in Kew Bridge.
It is possible, if you have a good early start, to savour a few pubs in and around Griffin Park and Brentford zone before heading off to the pubs in the Kew zone or even vice versa if you so fancy.
Pubs in Griffin Park/Brentford zone
When at Griffin Park, Brentford was well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. Three are still operating.
The Griffin is closest to the old away end and has always been very popular with both home and away fans and has its regulars who still make the journey down to the new stadium from there on matchday. The New Inn is on the other side which used to also be popular with away fans before the move. The Brook pub is the other option if you want to savour a pub in and around what is left of our old home. Worth a peep if you want to reminisce about old Brentford.
About five minutes’ walk away from the old ground are two pubs which are enormously popular. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is a “lively but comfortable” pub on matchday. Incredibly friendly and cosy, it has always been popular with a selection of away fans who fancied having a beer a few minutes further walk away from the ground without having to queue six persons deep. After the move to the new ground, The Globe has retained many of lot its regulars from the Griffin Park days and with screens throughout the pub and in its sheltered beer garden, it shows both Premier League and EFL football before and after each match.
Meanwhile around the corner, The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) is another incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs about one minute walk from The Globe. Again with a TV screen for live sports and a lovely beer garden, this is another pub frequented by “away fans in the know”.
The other pub worth checking out in the Griffin Park region is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, if you like your real ales.
There are plenty of other pubs in and around Brentford High Street including real ale pub Magpie and Crown (Brentford High Street) and the cosy Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) near the river.
For a Griffin Park area pub crawl before heading over to Kew we recommend the following: Take the Piccadilly line to Northfields station. Turn left and walk for 2 mins and you will come to The Plough (Northfields Ave). Then walk to The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & then The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before hitting The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) and then The Black Dog (2 mins from The Griffin). You can also try and do the other three pubs on the corner whilst down here if you fancy.
Then you can then either walk (15 minutes from The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog ) or take a train from Brentford station (which is five minutes walk away from both The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog) or a bus (237/267) to Kew Bridge.
Trains run at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour to Kew Bridge from Brentford and take 2 mins.
Pubs in the Kew Bridge zone
Right next to Kew Bridge station, you will find the Express Tavern – an ale pub with a retro feel. The pub has been refurbished in readiness for the new football season and needless to say, is popular before the match due to its close proximity to the stadium.
Across the road by the river is One Over the Ait – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
Across Kew Bridge and the River Thames, there are two pubs on Kew Green – the Cricketers and the Greyhound – very close to the pier where Brentford fans have embarked on their away journeys by water to F*lham, Orient, Charlton, West Ham and even Southend.
North of the river along hoity-toity Strand on the Green, you will find The Steam Packet, in an old Cafe Rouge, and The Bell. A bit further down are The City Barge and the Bulls Head – two pubs side-by-side in which you would often see Ant and Dec hanging out.
There is also The Pilot which you can get to coming out of the BACK entrance of Gunnersbury station and we believe the old John Bull pub at the front of the station has been refurbed as The Gunnersbury but we have never been there so can’t give it a 👍🏾or a 👎🏻
Transport to Brentford and Kew Bridge
KEW BRIDGE STATION CLOSED THIS WEEKEND – NO TRAINS GOING THERE
The simplest on paper this Saturday to get to Brentford FC from town is to get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) and then take the Overground train to Richmond, and then get the 65 bus.
Or you could jump on the tube from King’s Cross or Euston and head to Northfields or South Ealing on the Piccadilly Line as it is quicker (including the time getting across London and waiting at Waterloo) and trains are more frequent.
It is only 40 mins max station by tube to station meaning you could be in a Brentford pub within an hour of embarking your train at Kings Cross, Euston or Liverpool Street.
The other station option is Gunnersbury. You can walk to the stadium from Gunnersbury tube station (District line) in 25 minutes or take a bus (H91, 237, 267, 110), but note that it is closed for entry for one hour after the match.
For the Brentford/Griffin Park pubs you can get the Piccadilly line tube to Northfields station from King’s Cross or Euston (35 minutes) then walk down to The Plough, The Globe, The Lord Nelson and The Griffin and other pubs from there.
The new stadium is around 25 minutes’ walk from South Ealing station – if you don’t fancy Gunnersbury – or you can get on the 65 bus from across the road which will drop you almost outside in 15 minutes.
You can also pick up the 65 bus from Ealing Broadway (district and central line) which will take you to the new stadium in 25 minutes.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.