Cardiff are on their best run of the season as they prepare to visit Griffin Park for the final time, on Wednesday night.
Since Neil Harris replaced Neil Warnock as manager in the middle of last month, the side has won its last three matches following a draw in Harris’s first game in charge.
The former Millwall manager made his debut in the Bluebirds hotseat back in south London as his new side fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Charlton.
And they have followed that with wins over Stoke (1-0), at Nottingham Forest (1-0) and against Barnsley on Saturday (3-2).
Under Warnock, Cardiff, who were relegated from the Premier League after one season last term, had slipped to 14th in the table following a 1-0 defeat by Bristol City just before the last international break.
However, under Harris they have risen to one point and one place above us.
Since 2004/05, City have spent all but two seasons – 2012/13 and 2018/19 – in the Championship. The odd seasons out saw them in the Premier League but they finished 20th the first time and 18th this time around.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Former Millwall striker Neil Harris took over as manager last month as mentioned above.
At the time of his departure from Millwall in October, he was the longest-serving boss in the Championship and the fifth overall in the country behind Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche of Burnley and Accrington’s John Coleman.
He had been caretaker manager for the closing weeks of the previous 2013/14 season and nearly saved them from the drop a year later with two wins and four draws in his nine matches in charge.
That was his second temporary spell at the helm following one at the end of 2013.
Harris is Millwall’s all-time record goalscorer – finding the net 138 times for the club in two spells as a player lasting 10 years in total.
He also played for Nottingham Forest and finished his career at Southend, while he had loan spells at Cardiff and Gillingham.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford have met Cardiff in four of our five seasons in the Championship and do not have a good record.
Of the eight meetings so far, Cardiff have won five and the Bees only two while there has been one draw.
In the first two seasons – 2014/15 and 2015/16 – the four games were split into two wins each.
There were two away wins in the first of the campaigns – Brentford triumphing 3-2 away just before Christmas, and Cardiff winning 2-1 at Griffin Park the following March.
The following season featured two home wins – the Bluebirds triumphing 3-2 on a December Tuesday night and the Bees winning 2-1 in another midweek game in TW8 the following April.
In 2016/17, the sides shared a thrilling 2-2 draw at Griffin Park on Boxing Day, thanks to two late equalisers for us from on-loan Crystal Palace winger Sullay Kaikai.
Peter Whittingham’s first half penalty put Cardiff ahead but substitute Kaikai curled home his first in the 83rd minute. Kenneth Zohore restored City’s lead six minutes later, but Kaikai rescued a point with a header in the first minute of stoppage time.
We lost the return 2-1 in south Wales. Sergi Canos gave us the lead just before half-time, but Steve Morrison levelled straight after the interval and Peter Whittingham won it with a 76th minute half-volley.
In 2017/18, we suffered another defeat in Cardiff, with the infamous Neal Maupay miss coming in-between City’s two first half goals in a 2-0 win from Joe Ralls and Danny Ward.
The Bluebirds completed the double in another Tuesday night game the following March when, despite a fifth-minute goal from Neal Maupay, they bounced back to win 3-1 with goals from Sol Bamba, Callum Paterson and Kenneth Zohore.
BBC Wales Football Correspondent Rob Phillips analyses the start of Neil Harris’s reign at Cardiff, the end of Neil Warnock’s reign at the club and recalls a visit to Griffin Park for a match in which Brentford were not involved.
Q – What has Neil Harris done to get Cardiff winning again?
A – There has certainly been a “Bomber Bounce” – Harris being dubbed “Bomber” during his playing career.
Tweaking, rather than huge change has been the secret to the upturn since Harris’s arrival. The defensive strategy has been altered slightly and the players definitely have more licence to go forward.
Harris has not been able to change too much too soon, but a first away win of the season at high-flying Nottingham Forest was a big moment for him.
There are doubters still to be won over and these are early days, but Harris has started in encouraging fashion.
Q – How surprising was Neil Warnock’s departure and how would you assess his time at the club?
A – Truth be told, Neil Warnock’s departure was not particularly surprising. Cardiff had started the season in stumbling fashion, their League position only respectable because of their home form.
But something was missing. The direct style did not change, but their performances lacked verve and desire. They looked a most un-Warnock-like team.
Never was this more apparent than in the South Wales derby. Bluebirds fans were not just unhappy at the 1-0 defeat in Swansea, they were furious at the timid manner of the performance.
Warnock had said in the summer, this would be his swansong season and even talked of reviewing his future at Christmas.
The departure happened earlier than some expected, but was no real shock.
Yet, no Cardiff fan will forget his contribution to the club. Warnock will go down as one of the great Cardiff managers.
He not only turned them from Championship strugglers in October 2016, to surprise promotion winners in 2017. He also ensured the fans enjoyed their time in the Premier League, as opposed to their previous visit in 2013/14, where kit colour controversy and enmity at the top of the club, spoilt the adventure.
To his credit, Warnock coped with the tragedy of Emiliano Sala, which consumed the club during their top flight campaign.
His greatest achievement was reconnecting the fans with the club after the tumult of the kit colour changes. His fond place in Cardiff’s history is assured.
Q – What were the expectations at the start of the season – promotion push, mid-table or relegation battle and has Neil Harris’s arrival revised those?
A – Expectations at the start of the season were definitely for a strong tilt at promotion. Though the squad had been found wanting in the Premier League, many of the players who had performed so well to win promotion a season earlier remain at the club.
Now ambitions among fans appear to have altered, though the improvement under Harris has come quicker than some expected.
I suspect January will hold the key to the fortunes of Cardiff City. If Harris can continue to keep the team upwardly mobile and add to his resources, maybe play-offs are not out of the question, despite the start to the campaign.
Q – What transfer business – in and out – did Cardiff do over the summer?
A – Cardiff ‘s greatest summer outlay was £5.5m on German striker Robert Glatzel, from Bundesliga B side, Heidenheim. They paid Middlesbrough £4m for big centre-back Aden Flint; splashed out £2m to lure Marlon Pack away from Bristol City and also signed Northern Ireland winger Gavin Whyte and defender Curtis Nelson, from Oxford.
Q – It’s Cardiff’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park, barring a cup tie or play-off, so what are your memories of previous games in TW8?
A – Saw one of Cardiff City’s shock FA Cup exits at Griffin Park – and it didn’t involve Brentford!
Non-League Hayes dumped the Bluebirds out of the cup 1-0 in a first round replay in November 1990, having earned a goalless draw at Ninian Park.
More recently there was a remarkable game at Griffin Park in 2015 when Cardiff finished with nine men following the late dismissals of Kadeem Harris and Federico Macheda and still won 2-1 after falling behind early on to Andre Gray’s goal.
Q – What style of football should Brentford fans expect to see from Neil Harris’s Bluebirds – different to under Neil Warnock?
A – It’s early days in the Harris reign and, as I said earlier, he has not had time to change a lot. But they should certainly expect a hard-working side, who have shown more adventure since Harris arrived.
Their away win at Nottingham Forest was all about being good on the counter-attack and putting bodies on the line to thwart a home team who dominated possession but did not overly test goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – Lee Tomlin, the most creative player in the Cardiff line-up, has been revitalised, having previously struggled to become a regular fixture in the Bluebirds side.
That in itself is a statement of Harris’s intent to give more freedom to his players going forward.
Big striker Gary Madine is another who has emerged from the shadows to earn a fresh start under Harris and he will look for supply from the flanks where Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Junior Hoilett have been mainstays this season.
Strapping centre back Aden Flint and recent recruit Curtis Nelson dovetailed into a decent defensive partnership in recent days.
Versatile midfielder Leandro Bacuna has been one of Cardiff’s best players this term.
Q – Finally, I know it’s before the weekend’s matches, but can you give me a possible Cardiff starting line-up and formation?
A – Possible starting line-up: – Etheridge; Peltier, Nelson, Flint, Bennett: Pack, Bacuna, Tomlin; Mendez-Laing, Madine, Hoilett.
Rob was writing before Saturday’s 3-2 win over Barnsley, in which Leandro Bacuna was injured – making him a doubt for Wednesday’s match.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Cardiff fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, 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 newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
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.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. Whereas The Ealing Park Tavern (back in the day, the infamous Penny Flyer) is fairly busy now that they seem to have lifted their “no football fan” policy.
If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. 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. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. 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.
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.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.