Beesotted contributor and former Brentford FC programme writer Ian Westbrook looks ahead to the most anticipated match of the season.
When the fixtures came out in the summer, the first one that most Bees fans looked for was Fulham’s visit to Griffin Park.
The fact we have already played them this season in the Capital One Cup takes nothing away from the excitement – and having the game taking place under lights and in front of a sell-out crowd, as well as being live on Sky, just adds to the occasion.
Things have changed a lot since Fulham won that League Cup second round tie here at the end of August – condemning us to four months without cup football.
The Bees were still finding their way in the Championship and were 15th after four games but Fulham were rock bottom without a point to their name.
Now however Brentford go into the match in sixth place off the back of three wins against Derby, Nottingham Forest and Millwall – and the Cottagers have climbed out of the relegation zone with a run of five wins and three draws in nine matches.
That sequence of results came after manager Felix Magath was sacked following a 5-3 defeat at Nottingham Forest.
Their first league victory came in their ninth match – 2-1 at Birmingham and they followed that up by hammering Bolton 4-0 at Craven Cottage four days later.
Although they then lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough, they are unbeaten in six league games since – with home wins over Norwich (1-0), Charlton (3-0) and Huddersfield (3-1) and a 2-2 draw with Blackpool and two 3-3 away draws at Rotherham and Wigan.
This is Fulham’s first season in the second tier for 14 years.
They finished 19th in the Premier League last season – four points adrift of safety – to end their long stay in the top flight. They finished in the bottom half in nine of those seasons but also finished in the top nine in three of the four campaigns between 2008/2009 and 2011/12, while they reached the Europa League final in 2010.
WHO’S THE GAFFER?
Kit Symons was appointed as permanent Fulham manager at the end of October after a spell as caretaker-boss following Magath’s departure.
Symons played for Fulham for three years at the turn of the century, making more than 100 league appearances, while he also represented Portsmouth, Manchester City and Crystal Palace – clocking up more than 400 senior domestic games. He also won 36 caps for Wales, scoring twice, in a nine-year international career.
This is his first permanent managerial role following caretaker stints at Crystal Palace (twice) and Colchester.
Before taking over at Craven Cottage he was working as Fulham’s academy coach and was also part of the coaching staff with the Wales national team – a role he is set to continue.
Fulham were last here just three months ago in the Capital One Cup tie, mentioned earlier, at the end of August.
After a goalless first half, £11m striker Ross McCormack scored the only goal midway through the second half, just a few minutes after he had seen another effort disallowed for offside.
Jota hit the post just before the break for the Bees, but it wasn’t our night.
Bees line-up: Button, Odubajo, Bidwell, Dean, Tarkowski, Tebar, Dallas, Toral (Diagouraga 63), Jota (Gray 74), Smith, Proschwitz (Hogan 74). unused subs: Bonham, O’Shaughnessy, Reeves, Moore.
Brentford’s league record against Fulham:
At Griffin Park:
Bees wins – 7 Fulham wins – 9 Draws – 4
Last Brentford win – 4-0 (26/4/92 – Division Three)
Biggest Brentford win – 5-1 (22/2/30 – Division Three (South))
At Craven Cottage:
Bees wins – 4 Fulham wins – 8 Draws – 8
Last Brentford win – 1-0 (5/10/91- Division Three)
Biggest Brentford win – 3-1 (13/9/86 – Division Three)
THE FULHAM VIEW
Fulham defender Dan Burn has told their club’s website how much he enjoys facing the Bees.
He has lined up against us three times so far in his career and come away with three victories – two while with Yeovil, including the play-off final in which he scored the winner.
“Friday is a massive game and I love playing against Brentford and I’ve always got a pretty good result. I hope I’m not jinxing myself but I do seem to do well against them, so let’s hope it carries on,” he said.
“They’ve got a similar squad to what they did in League One and when you come from a league where you’ve spent most of the season winning, your confidence is really high.
“They’re sixth and they’re playing very well. All the lads know we can’t be complacent on Friday.
While most of Fulham’s experienced players left the club following their relegation from the Premier League, some remain and are having an impact this season.
Midfielder and captain Scott Parker is a virtual ever-present so far in the Championship, starting 16 of their 17 games and coming on as a substitute in the other.
Striker Hugo Rodallega has chipped in with six goals from 11 full and one substitute appearance while summer signing Ross McCormack has four goals from 15 starts and one game as a substitute.
Another close season arrival Tim Hoogland has also made an impression – the defender chipping in with four league goals from his 13 starts.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fulham have twice achieved 101 league points in a season – when winning Division Two (now League One) in 1998/99 and again when topping Division One (now the Championship) two seasons later.