Brentford left the field against Celtic yesterday in their third proper pre-season friendly under a bit of a green cloud. The match should have been a celebration, with the Bees testing their resolve against the Scottish champions, but at the end of the day, the stay-away home support, segregation issues, hefty pricing, pitch invasions and Celtic parading their ‘B’ team unfortunately turned this event into a negative PR exercise for the club.
The Celtic fans were certainly looking forward to their first visit to Griffin Park with reports of coaches leaving Glasgow at 4am with Celtic fans converging from 7am in Watermans’ car park to start their pre-match party – it was an impressive turn-out that’s for sure.
Due to injuries, Brentford started the game with their third choice keeper (Bonham) in goal and their fourth choice striker (Hayes) up front. Missing from the action was their 40-plus goal a season pairing of Donaldson and Grigg as well as captain Douglas, midfielder Diagouraga, keepers Moore and Lee and striker El Alagui. Saying that, the incredible strength in depth of the squad resulted in the players who stepped in really showing their worth by taking the game to our illustrious visitors.
The match started brightly with the Celtic attack creating a few half-chances early-on, but the Bees soon got into their stride continuing the passing game which saw them tear Millwall apart the previous Tuesday. And on ten minutes, fantastic build-up play saw Forshaw play a quick one-two with Hayes before chipping Zaluska, the Celtic keeper, to put Brentford 1-0 up, which silenced the chanting from the Celtic fans housed in three side of the ground… well, for a few moments anyway!
The Bees were on a roll from here on in with Forshaw commanding in midfield. Saville was also a proper little livewire and a constant aggravation to Celtic. Zaluska was to be kept busy all afternoon and was called to pull off a save from Craig who should have put the Bees two up. That would have been no less than they deserved. Then out of the blue, Celtic undeservedly pulled a goal back hitting the Bees on the break. Bálde’s weak shot from within the area went through players, took a deflection and wrong footed Bonham. 1-1.
The goal was greeted with all sorts of celebrations, including pitch invasions from Celtic’s over-exuberant fans, but the leveller only prompted Brentford to take them game even more to the Celts with Saunders, Hayes, Craig and Forshaw all pulling the best out of their keeper.
At the other end Brentford had a lucky let off when Bonham was caught in no-mans-land and somehow Celtic conspired to hit the crossbar twice in quick succession, the let off meaning the Bees went in level at the break.
The second period continued in much the same way the first half ended, namely with Bees playing great football and Celtic happy to hit them on the break. Hayes missed a gilt-edged chance to put the Bees ahead again, heading wide when unmarked, before Celtic once again hit on the break with Calum McGregor curling a shot into the net to put his side 2-1 up, sparking more pitch invasions, flares being let off and raucous singing from the Celtic massive.
Brentford continued to play some excellent football with chances going begging and the Celtic keeper remaining busy – Hayes, Forshaw and Dallas all producing saves from Zaluska, with chances also going begging from Olyeke, Hayes, Reeves, Dallas and McCormack. But it wasn’t to be and Celtic ended up 2-1 winners with the game conjuring up a lot of positives for the Bees, although there were some negative injury worries too.
Brentford had more than matched their opponents and will be disappointed to have lost this game. Brentford fans will be encouraged with the style of football being played as the team looks a class above the one who lost to Yeovil in the playoff final at Wembley.
Alan McCormack looks commanding – a midfield general. George Saville’s early outings look like getting fans uttering “Harry who?” as his attacking prowess is suitably matched by his eagerness to roll his sleeves up and close players down. Javi Venta, who was only on the pitch for 15 minutes, showed composure on the ball and the ability to utilise the wings delivering the most sublime passes. Adam Forshaw showed what a key player he is: skilful, intelligent, with an eye for goal and the ability to bring his team mates into the game.
Paul Hayes was a revelation too. Leaner and fitter, Hayes looked as lively as he’s ever been and dangerous with it. Over last two games Hayes has looked like a new player, creating opportunities (his one-two with Forshaw set up the goal) and getting himself into good scoring positions.
On the negative side, Harlee Dean went down with an injury which could see him sidelined for a few weeks. His leg has been strapped up will be assessed in the next few days, which highlights the need to pull in an additional centre-back before the start of the season.
And as for the day, the post match pitch invasion by Celtic fans made the national press and, although over all it was positive and good- humoured (ie. drunken as opposed to aggressive), it did no favours to our Scottish visitors in dispelling the notion that certain so called ‘big clubs’ come down to so called ‘small clubs’ and a section of their fans arrogantly abuse the hospitality extended to them… we saw the same from Portsmouth last season.
We would like to make it perfectly clear, however, that the vast majority of Celtic fans we met both before and after the game were friendly, hospitable and were truly delighted to visit Brentford. Needless to say, if you take 6,500 fans to an away game, many of whom have been drinking since the early hours, then there are bound to be incidents at some stage during the day.
On the flip side, this was just a friendly. In the bigger scheme of things it wasn’t really that important. The pre-match build-up made this game seem more serious than it really was. The closed doors Tottenham game was probably a better test for Uwe’s troops to see where they are at. But by the end of the 90 minutes, Brentford fans were wondering to themselves how the Celtic defence would have handled the attacking prowess of a Donaldson Grigg double act.
It went a bit wrong in places against Celtic, yes, but the club should also be commended for upping the ante and this should not put Brentford off the idea of hosting bigger pre-season friendlies in the future. Lessons will be undoubtedly be learned from this game and hopefully they will be thrown into the pot so that next season ….. Brentford can do it all again. That will be fun.
Words and camera work: BillytheBee (@billythebee99) and Dave Lane (@beesotted100)
BRENTFORD (4-4-2): Bonham; Logan (Venta 73), Bidwell, Forshaw, Craig, Dean (O’Connor 50), Saunders (Dallas 65), McCormack (Reeves), Hayes, Saville (Olyeke 73), Fillo (Clarke 79)
Subs not used: Boldt, Norris
CELTIC (4-4-2): Zaluksa; Fisher (Waters 82), Ambrose, Mouyokolo, Miller; McGregor, Rogic, Irvine (Herron 80), McGeouch (Henderson 43); Balde, Watt (Atajic 65)
Subs not used: Fasan