With Brentford set for a mid-table finish and Ipswich all but relegated from the Championship, the focus for Wednesday’s match among Bees fans at least is on one thing – the Griffin Park return of Alan Judge.
Judgey will always go down in Brentford folklore as the man who “scored the goal that took us up” and also as part of the squad that won us promotion into the Championship and made us competitive here.
Alan joined us on loan from Blackburn halfway through that promotion season – in January 2014 – and was a regular for the rest of the campaign. He signed permanently that summer and continued to be one of the first names on the teamsheet for almost the next two seasons, until he suffered his horrific injury at Ipswich in April 2016.
At the time he was on the shortlist for the Championship player of the year award, having scored 14 goals and produced 12 assists, and had just made his senior debut for the Republic of Ireland in the build-up to Euro 2016.
He made his comeback in an FA Cup tie against Notts County in January last year, and was used mainly as a substitute for the rest of the campaign. He was again used mainly off the bench this season, before making his move to Portman Road.
His first goal since his injury, came at the Emirates in September with that superb free-kick which put us back into our Carabao Cup tie against Arsenal. He scored his final Bees goal at home to Middlesbrough in November.
Last week, Judgey signed a permanent two-year contract with Ipswich, with an option for a third year.
He told the East Anglian Daily Times that one reason for his decision was the chance to potentially play in a promotion-chasing team next year. Reflecting on the time he signed for the Bees, he said: “I was at Blackburn, it wasn’t working out for me. I could have stayed in the Championship but I saw Brentford doing quite well in League One and thought ‘I’d like to be a part of that, maybe get a promotion’.
“Getting that promotion was probably one of the best things in my career. I look forward to hopefully getting another one.
“I had five years at Brentford and had lots more good times than bad.
“Going up from League One, the first year in the Championship (finishing fifth) and then being named in Team of the Year…
“People never expected us to even survive in that league, so to finish fifth and out-pass and out-play so many teams was unbelievable.”
Looking ahead to his Griffin Park return, he added: “Wednesday is just another game to me at the moment, but it will be good to go back and I’ll probably think about it more afterwards.
“I had unbelievable support from the backroom staff there after my injury. If it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t have got back playing. They put a lot of work in with me as I did with them.
“I’d like to think I’ll get a good reception. I did a few good things for them and I always had a good rapport with the fans there.”
IPSWICH SEASON REVIEW
This season has been nothing short of disastrous for Ipswich, who are set to lose their status as the Championship’s longest-serving club with an almost certain relegation to League One.
In fact, they could even be relegated at Griffin Park if they lose to us and both Millwall (at home to QPR) and Reading (away to Norwich) win their games.
Ipswich have been in the second tier for so long – 17 years – that when they were relegated from the Premier League in 2003, the division was still called Division One.
In all those years, they have made the play-offs three times, finished elsewhere in the top half of the table five times, but finished below halfway in each of the remaining eight seasons.
Paul Hurst replaced Mick McCarthy as manager in the summer, but was sacked at the end of October after only achieving one win in 14 league matches.
Paul Lambert took over two days later, but has failed to arrest the slide and the Blues look set to fall into the third tier of the game for the first time since 1956/57, when they were promoted from Division Three (South) as champions.
Ipswich have only won four games this season, although one of those was on Saturday, when they triumphed 2-1 at Bolton.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Paul Lambert took over in October as previously mentioned.
His managerial career began at Livingston and he went on to lead Wycombe, taking them to the Carling Cup semi-finals, and Colchester before joining Norwich, who he led from League One to the Premier League in successive seasons.
After three years at Carrow Road, he moved to Aston Villa, where he had another three years at the helm, before brief spells in charge of Wolves and then Stoke.
As a midfielder, he had long spells in his playing career at St Mirren, Celtic and Motherwell and also played for Borussia Dortmund, where he won the Champions League, and Livingston.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Like Saturday’s visitors Derby, Ipswich are another team who we have played in every season in which we have been in the Championship.
Our record against them is mixed with three wins, four draws and two defeats.
They had the better of things in 2014/15 with a 4-2 Boxing Day win here followed by a 1-1 draw at Portman Road.
Ipswich were our first opponents the following season and earned a 2-2 draw here, with the Bees winning the return 3-1 in the game in which Alan Judge suffered his injury.
We finally earned our first home Championship win over the Blues in 2016/17 – 2-0 in another August meeting and once again drew 1-1 in East Anglia later in the campaign.
Last season saw both matches end in home wins.
Our miserable start to the season continued at Portman Road in August as we stretched our winless league run to four matches with a 2-0 defeat, which dropped us to the bottom of the table.
Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner scored either side of the break, with the second goal confirmed by the new goalline technology after Nico Yennaris had cleared the ball, as Ipswich moved up to second.
Neal Maupay’s second half penalty was decisive at Griffin Park just over a year ago as it clinched a 1-0 win in the return that just kept alive our faint hopes of reaching the play-offs.
We drew 1-1 at Portman Road in September, with Neal Maupay’s first half header being cancelled out by Kayden Jackson’s first Championship goal for Ipswich after the break.
BBC Sport journalist and Ipswich fan Adam Williams looks at what has gone wrong at Portman Road this season, what they would need to do to bounce straight back from relegation and the impact that Alan Judge has had at the club.
Q – What has gone wrong at Ipswich this season?
A – How long have you honestly got?!
Everything that could’ve possibly gone wrong, has gone wrong. You can probably trace it as far back as the somewhat protracted process that went on at the end of last season/summer before Paul Hurst was confirmed as the permanent successor to Mick McCarthy.
Depending on which group of supporters you talk to, opinion is quite split on whether or not Hurst or Jack Ross (now of Sunderland) was the first-choice candidate. But the fact that Shrewsbury and Hurst made it to a play-off final at the end of May, and Hurst’s own holiday, delayed that announcement until early June, it felt like we and he were slightly on the back foot from the start.
Once Hurst got the job – it was like he was a kid in a sweet shop left to spend all the money on anything and everything he wanted.
The massive turnover of playing personnel just ripped the core out of the squad and it was a case of too many, too soon.
Q – Was such a dreadful campaign anticipated by fans back in August?
A – I think the most pessimistic of supporters probably had us down to finish in the bottom six and face a season of rebuilding both on and off the pitch as a new manager tried to implement his style of play and coaching philosophy.
Personally, I had us down to finish 12th to continue our dictionary definition trend in recent seasons of mid-table, but I don’t think anyone was honestly saying they had us as relegation candidates.
Most of those predictions probably got made before the August sales of Martyn Waghorn, Adam Webster and Joe Garner, while David McGoldrick was not offered a new deal.
Q – What differences in performances or results did replacing Paul Hurst with Paul Lambert make?
A – Well, statistically – Lambert’s points per game return is actually worse than Paul Hurst’s was.
However, Hurst had to go when he did as he was clearly out of his depth in the Championship. The constant chopping and changing of line-ups and systems were evidence that his plan A that had worked so well the previous season for Shrewsbury couldn’t be transferred a division higher.
Lambert inherited a god-awful situation in November that I’m not sure many people gave him much of a chance of getting us out of.
But, we and he just didn’t seem to get that clichéd “new manager bounce” and couldn’t hold on to a couple of leads in his first two games that finished as draws. There’s just not been any chance to build even the smallest crumb of momentum since.
I think the best summary I can give of what’s characterised Town under Lambert is: Impressive and inventive on the ball in the middle third with plenty of effort, just lacking in cutting edge and decisiveness in both boxes.
He’s very much been given a free hit by supporters for this season since taking charge. The real crunch time will come early next season when we start all over again from scratch in League One.
Q – It seems that Ipswich are doomed to relegation, so what do you think they need to do to give themselves a chance of instant promotion from League One next season?
A – Well, getting your old boy Alan Judge to commit to a contract beyond the end of this season is probably a good start (more on that to come).
Overall – Paul Lambert has to identify the core group of players he wants to build a team around next season and Judge will hopefully act as one of those.
Putting some faith in a crop of the homegrown players like Teddy Bishop, Andre Dozzell, Flynn Downes and Jack Lankester will also win over a lot of supporters.
He’s also already convinced club captain Luke Chambers to commit to a new two-year contract and his experienced head will be invaluable alongside some of those younger players I’ve already mentioned.
Q – How has Alan Judge done since arriving at Portman Road?
A – Some good, some bad is probably the best summary.
He’s very much been handed a free role by Lambert, but that’s also frustrated quite a few supporters who’d rather see him stick to a more structured one on one of the wings.
He loves taking all the set-pieces doesn’t he?! I think that’s also been a bone of contention for a few who’d rather see them shared out a bit.
Once he settles into more games and more of a rhythm, plus hopefully weighs in with a goal or two, I think he’ll be really pivotal next season.
Q – What style of play can Bees fans expect to see from Town on Wednesday?
A – Hard to say really, as it’ll largely depend on who he picks seeing as this is a midweek fixture with two Saturday games either side.
It’s very much been treated as an extended pre-season since about early February I’d say with Lambert keen to have a look at as many different players as he can before the summer comes round and he ultimately has to decide who to hang on to and who to let go.
But, whoever does start – expect them to try and play it around a lot and attempt to be industrious on the ball.
Q – Apart from Judgey, who are the main players who Bees fans should watch out for?
A – Could be the odd rare appearance for some of those fringe players I just referred to as they look to stake their claims for further down the line.
I imagine Chelsea loanee Trevoh Chalobah will come back in for a start having been on the bench at Bolton on Saturday. He’s been fantastic in a very difficult campaign and really grown into his central midfield role throughout the season.
If they start, look out for Andre Dozzell (son of Jason) and Teddy Bishop in midfield. Two bright young things and proud products of the academy who are both looking like they’re coming out the other side of their respective long-term injury issues.
Q – Finally can you tell me a likely Ipswich line-up and formation please?
A – Again, it’ll be difficult to predict who features after that Bolton game on Tuesday. I expect they’ll be a bit of rotation, especially at centre-back with James Collins. Toto Nsiala will probably get the nod there.
But, I think it’ll be very much a 4-3-3 with Judge (if fit) as one of those up top roaming around.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Wednesday’s game.
Bees are motivated by the return of our past hero Alan Judge to Griffin Park and while he gets a friendly welcome, Brentford overturn the form book and come away with a 2-0 victory. Liberal Nick
2-0 Bees. After an enthralling game on Saturday, Brentford show their class against lowly Ipswich with a Watkins double. Alan Judge to be given a warm welcome. Cham de Silva
3-0 Bees. Brentford’s home advantage and ability to shine through against a plucky Ipswich Team fighting for their life
Judge to get great reception. Edward the Headward
1-0 Bees. Dour game settled by Maupay tap-in. Greville Waterman
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Ipswich 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.
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.
And another new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road.
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.
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.
By tube, 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 Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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