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Birmingham City preview and pub guide: Blues “brothers” return to GP

Birmingham City preview and pub guide: Blues “brothers” return to GP
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Birmingham’s visit on Tuesday night means a second return to Griffin Park for Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin and Jota since their triple move to St Andrew’s last August.

The three are all ever-present in the Championship so far and have played their part in a steady if unspectacular start for the Blues.

City have so far proved very hard to beat, with only two defeats in their opening 10 matches, and in fact, they would be much higher in the table if they hadn’t drawn seven of their other fixtures, including all five at St Andrew’s.

Their only victory so far was an impressive one, however, as they became the first team to beat Leeds when they won 2-1 at Elland Road two Saturdays ago.

Home games with Ipswich and Norwich (both 2-2), West Brom (1-1) and Swansea and QPR (both 0-0) have ended all-square, as have trips to Nottingham Forest (2-2) and Sheffield United (0-0).

Their only defeats have been 1-0 at both Middlesbrough and Bolton – and 2-0 in round one of the Carabao Cup at Reading.

However, their good work on the pitch may be undone by events off it with various newspaper reports suggesting they may face a hefty points deduction for breaching spending regulations. They will face a Football League Disciplinary Commission on a date to be decided to discuss the situation.

This is the Blues’ eighth consecutive season in the Championship – they finished in the play-offs once, just avoided relegation once and have been in mid to lower mid-table the rest of the time.

They have had seven seasons in the Premier League over three spells with a best place finish of ninth in 2009/10.

They also won the League Cup in 2011, after beating us on penalties in the fourth round, but were relegated from the top flight at the end of that season.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Garry Monk took charge of Birmingham in March, replacing Steve Cotterill to become the club’s fifth permanent manager in only 15 months.

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The former Swansea defender began his managerial career with the Swans, where he was in charge for nearly two years until December 2015. He kept them in the Premier League in his first half season before leading them to an eighth-place finish but was sacked after a poor run of results.

He then took charge of Leeds for the whole of the 2016/17 season, just missing out on the play-offs, before resigning at the end of the campaign and moving to Middlesbrough a couple of weeks later.

However, he left the Riverside just before Christmas 2017, after only six months in charge.

Garry spent most of his playing career with Swansea – playing more than 250 games in an 11-year spell, mostly as captain, and leading them from League One to the Premier League, picking up winners’ medals in the League Cup and LDV Vans Trophy along the way.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

Last season was a superb one for Brentford against Birmingham, with the two games ending 7-0 on aggregate to us.

There was a lot of needle around the two matches, following the triple transfer on deadline day, so the midweek 2-0 win at St Andrew’s in November and 5-0 hammering at Griffin Park in February were very satisfying for Bees fans.

Neal Maupay proved the catalyst for the victory in the West Midlands. The striker came on as a 70th-minute substitute for Lasse Vibe and within four minutes had been fouled in the area by Michael Morrison, with Ollie Watkins converting the resultant penalty. Maupay then made the game safe with his fourth Championship goal for us 10 minutes later.

The 5-0 win in the return was our joint-biggest victory in the Championship since we returned to this level in 2014.

Ollie Watkins and Florian Jozefzoon put us 2-0 up before the break and Neal Maupay then found the net twice in four minutes early in the second half, although his second strike later went down as an own goal by Marc Roberts. Watkins headed his second and Brentford’s fifth late on to take us to within three points of the play-off places.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Radio WM’s Birmingham City reporter Richard Wilford discusses the impact Garry Monk has made at St Andrew’s, how the fears of possible Football League punishment are affecting the club and analyses the first 12 months at the club for Messrs Dean, Colin and Jota.

Q – Birmingham have followed last season’s poor campaign with a solid start to this campaign, which was boosted by the win at Leeds – but what were the pre-season expectations?

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A – Expectations were lowered by the restriction on new faces coming in, but Garry Monk and his coaching staff have fostered a tremendous team spirit during pre-season training and that togetherness has been very evident over the first couple of months of the season.

The win at Leeds was the well-deserved culmination of real hard graft and a host of really good performances.

Q – With the ban on new signings, how confident are the club and the supporters that, barring a possible points deduction, a comfortable position in the table can be achieved?

A – The current squad looks capable of staying out of trouble provided they find some consistency in front of goal. If Che Adams takes the bull by the horns and starts to realise his true potential they could have a 20-goal striker – he was excellent at Leeds 10 days ago.

This is a well-organised and committed group and Blues supporters are buying into the Monk regime really well. In particular, St Andrew’s has become a difficult ground to visit again.

Q – How much is the worry about a possible punishment affecting things – if at all?

A – Of course it lingers in the background – or more appropriately hangs over the club like a sword. The uncertainty is unfair on the players and most certainly on the supporters. Blues will be a test case for the enforcement of the new EFL regulations and there are some clubs that would like to see them severely punished.

Other clubs, however, are fearful that they will face similar scrutiny for potentially worse breaches in 12 months’ time. The bottom line is that a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later so that everyone at Birmingham City knows the hand they have been dealt and can try to move forward again.

Q – What impact has Garry Monk had since his arrival at the club?

A – Monk and his coaching staff have been something of a breath of fresh air following a series of questionable appointments that preceded his arrival. Pre-season was a massive upgrade on last year, and the players have been given a clear plan that they understand and believe in. His desire to play with two up top and wingers is a crowd pleaser, and his reluctance to complain about circumstances off the pitch is refreshing.

He hasn’t been afraid to make strong decisions either when he believes they are in the best interests of the football club. If – and in modern football it is a big if – he stays at St Andrew’s in the medium to long term, then it’s a partnership that could work extremely well for the futures of both the club and the manager.

Q – Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin and Jota have all been regulars in the City side in their first year at St Andrews – how would you assess how each of them has done?

Jota, Harlee Dean and Maxime Colin in Brentford colours

A – Other than a rather uncomfortable night at Griffin Park last season, Harlee Dean has made a really good impression with Blues. A front-foot defender, a strong leader at times, and an increasingly ideal foil for skipper Michael Morrison at the centre of defence.

Maxime has been one of the club’s most consistent players throughout the last 12 months and has shown himself to be a real club man – he was asked to play rather more often than he’d have liked on the left-hand side last season, but he did it with real determination and integrity. As Bees fans will know, he is a really good pro.

Jota’s first season was blighted by the uncertainty and inconsistency off the field, and he never really got into a rhythm. However, over the first couple of months of this season he has produced some scintillating moments for Blues and looks far more like producing goals and assists. The current coaching staff have found a way of unleashing the Brentford version of Jota, and he has produced the goods.

Q – What style of play should we expect to see from Birmingham on Tuesday?

A – They have been a thoroughly well-organised 4-4-2 so far, and although the squad is thin on senior players they play with real energy and often employ a high press. And in almost every game they have created a lot of decent chances.

Q – Finally can you give me a possible Blues starting line-up and formation?

A – Depending on any knocks from the weekend, you’ll be looking at something like….

Camp;

Colin, Morrison, Dean, Pedersen;

Jota, Gary Gardner, Kieftenbeld or Lakin, Maghoma;

Jutkiewicz, Adams

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

Tuesday is a special night for me as it is the 47th anniversary of my first-ever trip to Griffin Park.

My grandfather and father brought me along for the Division Four game against Northampton in 1971 and it was an inauspicious start as Dixie McNeil put the visitors ahead after only 35 seconds.

Things improved from there, however, and after equalising before the break, we ran riot in the second half and ended up winning 6-1 with John O’Mara hitting a hat-trick.

Brentford v Northampton programme cover

I couldn’t help but be hooked after that and we went on to win promotion after finishing in third place. I thought it would always be like that but sadly O’Mara, my first Bees hero, was sold in the early stages of the following season and we went on to be relegated.

IAN WESTBROOK
@ianwestbrook

 

PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS

For Birmingham fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

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Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.

Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.

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Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford, although because of strike action there is only one train an hour this Saturday.

This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube because of waiting times (the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 minutes on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from King’s Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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