Derby have had a rebuilding job to do over the summer after being beaten in the Championship play-off final and then losing manager Frank Lampard.
The Rams finished sixth last season to earn a play-off semi-final with Leeds, who they beat 4-3 on aggregate to earn a place at Wembley against Dean Smith’s Aston Villa.
However, for the fourth time since relegation from the Premier League in 2008, they failed to win promotion in the end-of-season competition – this time losing 2-1 – to make it two final defeats and two semi-final exits.
Lampard left the Rams to become Chelsea manager in early July and was replaced by Phillip Cocu, who has had a mixed start to his reign so far with one win, three draws and one defeat in his five Championship games in charge.
The Rams’ away record is actually better than their home record so far.
They started the campaign with a televised 2-1 win at relegated Huddersfield, before drawing 0-0 at home to Swansea and 2-2 at Stoke. A 2-1 home defeat by Bristol City was followed by another televised game last Saturday – a 1-1 draw against West Brom.
They did reach the second round of the Carabao Cup with a 1-0 win at Scunthorpe, but went down to a 3-0 defeat at rivals Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night.
Apart from Lampard’s departure, however, the main headline surrounding the club has been the signing of former England captain Wayne Rooney.
The ex-Manchester United and Everton striker will join the Rams as player-coach in January, after finishing the season with his current club DC United.
Rooney, England’s all-time record goalscorer, has agreed an 18-month deal and, on joining, said: “I’m sure I can make a big contribution.”
He added that he was “excited” to be able to both join the coaching staff and first-team squad and to begin his coaching career with the club’s first team and academy.
When he arrives at Pride Park, he will find two ex-Bees in the squad with goalkeeper Ben Hamer joining Florian Jozefzoon over the summer.
FloJo, who spent a season-and-a-half with us before moving to Pride Park, will miss Saturday’s game through injury, after starting the season in the side.
Hamer, who has arrived on a season-long loan from Huddersfield, has been the substitute keeper in the league so far this campaign – but has started in the Carabao Cup. He had four different loan spells from Reading at Griffin Park – including one lasting the whole of the 2008/09 season, when he helped us to win the League Two title.
This is Derby’s 12th consecutive season in the Championship – and 15th out of the last 16 at this level.
They have finished in the top half for the last eight seasons.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Phillip Cocu took his first steps into English football when he was appointed as Derby’s first overseas manager on a four-year deal at the start of July.
His coaching career started with PSV Eindhoven’s under-19 team, before progressing to assistant manager and then first team boss in 2013.
During five years in charge of the club, he led them to three Dutch league titles, which included one league and cup double, and also reached the knockout stages of the Champions League.
He started last season in charge of Fenerbahce, but was only at the helm for 15 league matches.
As a player, he won 101 caps for the Netherlands as a midfielder, playing in the finals stages of two World Cups, helping the side finish fourth in 1998, and three European Championships.
He spent six years with Barcelona after spells with AZ Alkmaar, Vitesse Arnhem and PSV, where he returned after leaving the Nou Camp. He finished his playing career at UAE club Al Jazira.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford have played Derby every season that we have been in the Championship, but our record is not great.
We have only won two of the 10 encounters, drawing another four, but losing four.
We had the upper hand in 2014/15 – following a 2-1 home win with a 1-1 draw at Pride Park – but the Rams got revenge over us the following season with a 2-0 home win and a 3-1 victory at Griffin Park.
Derby failed to score against us in 2016/17 as we picked up a midweek goalless draw in the East Midlands and followed that with a thumping 4-0 Good Friday win back in TW8.
The following season, we snatched a point from a midweek game we had dominated at Griffin Park. Joe Ledley headed Derby into an early lead on his debut, but we were on top after that – winning the shot count 14-3. We finally equalised through Ollie Watkins in the 86th minute to give us a 1-1 draw.
The least said about the return game the better. We lost Sergi Canos to a straight red card in the 21st minute and then Tom Huddlestone and Cameron Jerome, with his first Rams goal, scored within five minutes of each other to put Derby 2-0 up. Matej Vydra made it 3-0 with a penalty in second-half injury-time.
Things weren’t much better in last season’s September away match as we lost 3-1 in a game in which all the goals came in the first half.
It had all started so well when Henrik Dalsgaard gave us the lead after only 44 seconds, but Harry Wilson, David Nugent and Mason Mount wrapped things up for Derby to inflict our first defeat in five games in all competitions.
The return at Griffin Park saw the Bees equalise three times to earn a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
A four-goal burst in 19 minutes meant it was 2-2 at half-time.
Harry Wilson gave the Rams an early lead, Julian Jeanvier equalised, Jayden Bogle restored Derby’s advantage with his first goal for the visitors, before Neal Maupay tied things up again.
Wilson hit his second in the 78th minute, but Said Benrahma made sure Brentford earned a share of the spoils.
BBC Radio Derby’s sport presenter Chris Coles analyses the personnel changes at Pride Park over the summer, tells us how new manager Phillip Cocu is getting on, and reveals what he loves about Griffin Park.
Q – How do you assess Derby’s start to the season?
A – Challenging. The fixtures have been tough, and given the uncertainty over the summer following the Lampard to Chelsea saga – things haven’t been easy. It was a brilliant start, however, with a good victory over recently-relegated Huddersfield away from home. But recent performances haven’t matched that night, and draws to Swansea, Stoke and West Brom followed.
The two defeats to Bristol City and Nottingham Forest have also been hard to take for fans (the latter for obvious reasons!) But it’s also worth mentioning the Rams have missed two crucial penalties that, if converted, would see them fourth in the league – so perspective at this early stage is needed. New team, new manager….etc, so things might take time to click.
Q – What are the expectations for Derby this season – promotion push, mid-table or relegation battle and why?
A – Given the size of the club, it just has to be a promotion push. Play-off finalists last year, play-off semi-finalists the year before – this is a team used to challenging at the higher end of the division. There is a caveat this season though. New manager Phillip Cocu has a four-year contract, with a greater emphasis on bringing through younger players – and there’s an acceptance this campaign could be the dreaded “transitional” season.
There’s no Mason Mount, no Harry Wilson – two loan signings who were absolutely key last time around. But there is Wayne Rooney to come. He could be a crucial factor if Derby are still “in and around it” come January.
Q – Was there always a fear that Frank Lampard would go and what impact has Phillip Cocu had so far?
A – Only one club could tempt Lampard away from Pride Park. And that one club came knocking. As soon as Chelsea made their interest clear, that was that. There was an inevitability it would happen after Maurizio Sarri left Stamford Bridge – and fans gradually accepted they’d be without Lampard for the new season.
The news was softened by Phillip Cocu’s arrival, though. Here came a man with numerous league titles under his belt with PSV, over 100 caps for the Netherlands, and a big name in the game. His calm persona has been impressing supporters – but results and performances now need to follow.
Q – How would you assess this summer’s transfer activity?
A – A mixed bag. Firstly, replacing the successful loans last season was nigh-on impossible. Mason Mount is a future England star in the making, and had a brilliant time at Derby. It was great to see him named in Gareth Southgate’s squad on Thursday and Chelsea are already benefiting from his talent. Same with Harry Wilson – he got 18 goals for the Rams. And defender Fikayo Tomori was the club’s Player of the Season. Good luck replacing those!
Kieran Dowell has come in on loan from Everton, and has struggled to really make an impact yet. Matt Clarke from Brighton looks promising at the back. Jamie Paterson and ex-Brentford goalkeeper Ben Hamer on loan from Bristol City and Huddersfield are stopgaps. The two marquee signings are Kristian Bielik from Arsenal for a club record fee, and of course, Wayne Rooney. Both will be key this season.
Q – It’s Derby’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park, barring a cup tie or play-off, so what are your memories of previous Rams games in TW8?
A – Well last year’s game was a lot of fun! The 3-3 draw which saw Derby throw a lead away three times. In the end it was a very important point! I have to be honest, I’ve only been covering Derby for just over a year so I’m a terrible person to ask this question (!) But I will say I’ll miss Griffin Park. One of my favourite grounds to visit and a terrific atmosphere guaranteed. Did you know it has a pub on each corner? 🙂
Q – What style of football are Derby playing under Cocu?
A – At this early stage, it’s difficult to categorise. It’s definitely possession-based, with the goalkeeper encouraged to play out from the back. But there seems to be more purpose to the passing, whereas last year there was a lot of “sideways and backwards”.
There’s great emphasis on “a controller” in midfield – which Tom Huddlestone has been doing. He’s perfect for it really. Calm in possession with a great range of passing. But given the changes Cocu has made – which has included drastic formation changes to three at the back at half-time of two games – it’s hard to know exactly what style the manager is going for.
Q – Which players should Bees fans watch out for?
A – Jack Marriott is always good for a goal. He’s been slowly working his way to full fitness and should start at Griffin Park. You also can’t fail to be impressed by Kristian Bielik. He could play at the back or just in front of the defence. He’s big and powerful, but with excellent ball control and will be vital for Derby this season.
The youngsters are worth a mention as well. Max Lowe has played well at right-back (despite being a left-back) and 18-year-old Jason Knight in the middle of the park shows promise. Derby have match-winners in Martyn Waghorn and Tom Lawrence, but lack of consistency from both means you’re never sure what to expect.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Rams starting line-up and formation?
A – (4-2-3-1)
Max LOWE Richard KEOGH Kristian BIELIK Scott MALONE
Tom HUDDLESTONE Jason KNIGHT
Tom LAWRENCE Kieran DOWELL Martyn WAGHORN
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s game.
Crucial game for the Bees and one that Thomas Frank will, I expect, be desperate to win. Really difficult to call a result as Derby too haven’t had that great a start to the season, but I’ll go for Brentford winning by the one goal. Liberal Nick
Scrappy 2-1 to the Bees. After a few poor results, a much needed victory needed, purely to raise the spirits of an expectant fan base. Cham de Silva
A tight but comfortable 2- 0. Brentford getting nearer to their best. Gerry the cabbie
1-1. Third home score draw in a row v Derby. Bees tight defensively but still stuttering and failing to create chances. Greville Waterman
2-1 Brentford. The first goal is crucial on Saturday, but I think we will scrape through with a narrow victory. Robin Hood
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Derby 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.
However, there is some strike action on South Western Railway this weekend, so you can check on the service here.
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 Easter guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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