The first home match of a new season is always an exciting moment – but unless it had been against Fulham or QPR, nothing could have spiced up this term’s Griffin Park opener more than Mark Warburton’s first return.
Warburton left the Bees in the summer of 2015 after leading us to promotion to the Championship and then into the play-offs in our first season at this level.
He went on to manage Rangers – leading them into the Scottish Premiership at the first time of asking – before leaving them this February.
A week after the Bees won at the City Ground in March, Warburton was appointed as Forest’s new manager with his Bees assistant David Weir alongside him, as he had been at Ibrox. Frank McParland, who had also worked with the pair in Scotland, joined Forest shortly before they did as the club’s director of football.
Warbs has been speaking about his Griffin Park return and told the Nottingham Post that he was eagerly anticipating Saturday’s fixture.
“You couldn’t write the script, could you? The first away game of the season, I am looking forward to going back there,” he said.
“It is an old-fashioned stadium and a magnificent atmosphere. They are a passionate, great crowd. I am looking forward to going back and seeing some old friends.
“You have to enjoy every challenge as a manager. I call this a proper football ground. It is tight on the pitch, the fans are right above you and they generate a really good atmosphere.
“It will be the first home game of the season for them in the league. We go there to face a really talented team. Dean and the staff have done a very good job with a very good group of players.
“But we are not too bad ourselves and we look forward to heading down there and playing a very good game of football.
“It is about us. We will respect them, absolutely. I saw them play Sheffield United. But it is about us and us delivering a good performance.”
Forest came within two goals of starting this season in League One – and Brentford did little to help their cause on a dramatic final day of last season.
Going into the last round of matches, Forest needed to better Blackburn’s result at Griffin Park in their game at home to Ipswich to survive.
They slipped into the bottom three in the live table when Rovers took the lead against us – but two goals from Britt Assombalonga, the second a penalty, either side of one from Chris Cohen eased the nerves and wrapped up a 3-0 win, which meant Forest stayed up on goal difference.
This season has started well with a 1-0 win over Millwall in their opening match, thanks to a long-range strike from Barrie McKay, before they beat Shrewsbury in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
LAST SEASON’S MEETINGS
Brentford did the double over Forest for the second consecutive season last term.
The home game, almost a year to the day before this season’s encounter, was settled by a first half Scott Hogan goal, with Forest having Damien Perquis sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
The away match, on the first Wednesday night in March, saw us race into a 3-0 lead with two goals from Lasse Vibe and another from Jota, who was applauded off by Forest fans when he was substituted, before late replies from Ben Brereton and Zach Clough made it a more nervy finish than it needed to be.
Robin Chipperfield, matchday presenter for BBC Radio Nottingham looks ahead to Forest’s season, assesses their dealings in the transfer market and the impact that Mark Warburton has had so far at the City Ground.
Q – How do you think Nottingham Forest will do this season?
A – It’s difficult to predict Forest’s season. A summer takeover has injected new life into a beleaguered, weary club – which only stayed up on goal difference at the end of last season (no thanks to Brentford!!). (Sorry – Ed).
There’s an awful lot of rebuilding work to do after a few years of neglect, and the new owners have made key appointments to restore some infrastructure. That will take time to filter its’ way throughout the club, but the restoration of stability has to be a good thing. They’ve not had any for nearly five years.
Q – How much of a loss is Britt Assombalonga?
A – He’s a huge loss – a natural goalscorer, who if he stayed fit, would all but guarantee you 20 League goals per season. But I think most Forest fans are realistic about his sale – £15m is an awful lot of money to turn down, and it should stave off the threat of another FFP embargo for some years to come (hopefully!). Being under embargo for so long had a huge effect on the club, and certainly contributed towards its downward spiral.
“I think that most Forest fans would agree that Brentford were the best side to come to the City Ground last season.”
Q – How do you assess Forest’s summer transfer dealings?
A – Quietly impressive so far. Mark Warburton, together with the shrewd Sport Director Frank McParland, have used some of the money from the sale of Assombalonga – and brought in Barrie McKay and Jason Cummings from Scotland, Tendayi Darikwa from Burnley, Kieran Dowell from Everton, Andreas Bouchalakis from Olympiacos and Daryl Murphy from Newcastle.
It’s early days for them all clearly, and it will take time to develop better understanding, but they’ve all made an impression so far.
Q – What sort of job has Mark Warburton done so far?
A – It’s still very early days for Mark. I think the way he tried to play in a relegation battle at the back end of last season impressed supporters – even if it didn’t work, they could see what he was trying to do. In a season where there didn’t seem to a cohesive plan, there finally appeared to be one in the final few games.
They were fortunate to beat Millwall on opening weekend, but there genuinely seems to be an ethos back at the club – it doesn’t seem as random as it did for large parts of last season.
Q – What do you know about Brentford’s summer signings and who will you be watching out for?
A – I think that most Forest fans would agree that Brentford were the best side to come to the City Ground last season. Though the scoreline was only 3-2, Brentford were absolutely brilliant – with Canos, Vibe and Jota tearing the Reds apart. I think, with another season under the same manager, that Brentford could be the surprise packet this season – that sounds patronising to a side that finished 10th last season, but I genuinely wouldn’t be shocked if you finished in the top six.
There are so many “big” clubs under huge pressure to mount a challenge, paying massive sums of money – and in the last few years we’ve seen Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Swansea and Burnley all make the top flight on lesser budgets than their fellow challengers. A well-run stable club, with a good manager who’s been in place for more than a season, can often overcome clubs who pay vast cash for players. Long may it continue to be that way!
Mark Warburton changed his entire starting 11 for Tuesday’s League Cup game with Shrewsbury, but the side which faces the Bees is likely to be pretty similar to – if not the same as – the 4-3-3 line-up which beat Millwall.
Former trainee Jordan Smith was in goal behind a back line of new signing Tendayi Darikwa (ex-Burnley) at right-back, Armand Traore (ex-QPR) at left-back and Michael Mancienne (ex-Hamburg) and former trainee Joe Worrall in central defence.
The midfield three were January signing Zach Clough (ex-Bolton) on the right, former trainee Ben Osborn on the left and David Vaughan (ex-Sunderland) in the middle.
The strikeforce featured two more new signings in Barrie McKay (ex-Rangers), who played down the middle, and Daryl Murphy (ex-Newcastle), who was on the left. while joining them up front was homegrown youngster Ben Brereton on the right-hand side.
The substitutes were club captain and midfielder Chris Cohen, who has made more than 300 appearances for the club in 10 years since moving from Yeovil, on loan Everton midfielder Kieran Dowell, centre-half Matt Mills (ex-Bolton) full-back Eric Lichaj (ex-Aston Villa), striker Apostolos Vellios (ex-Iraklis), another summer signing – Hibernian striker and former trainee Jason Cummings – along with goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov.
Players who appeared on Tuesday include midfielder Mustapha Caryol (ex-Middlesbrough), who scored the opener against Shrewsbury from the penalty spot, and recent arrival Andreas Bouchalakis (ex-Olympiakos) – another midfielder.
Don’t forget that there has been a request for a minute’s applause in the 17th minute of the game in memory of 17-year-old Brentford fan Jack Keene, who was very sadly killed on a trip to Snowdonia last month when his car collided with a minibus.
Last five meetings at Griffin Park (most recent on right)
Last five meetings anywhere (most recent on right)
Stats courtesy of https://www.kickoff.co.uk
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Forest fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
Last season, there were now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
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 is the other option.
But at last month’s friendly with Celta Vigo, a pop-up version of the Royal Oak was set up outside the now closed boozer to bring back the “four corners” feature again.
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) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & 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 (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out details of how the tube is running on Transport for London’s website here.