Spread the love



The question on the lips of every Brentford fan going into the Championship play-off semi-final against Middlesbrough will be “can it be eighth time lucky?”

A season which has given everything all of us could have dreamed off and so much more is now set up to possibly offer up the most amazing of finales – especially for Mark Warburton, who is set to take charge of his final Bees match at Griffin Park.

I am delighted to have been proved wrong when I wrote in the middle of last month that I thought we wouldn’t get this far.

But I am now wondering if we really can go all the way with the relaxed and excited feeling around the place.

The circumstances are very different to most of our other appearances – it’s only the second time we have been at home in the first leg, with the other occasion being on our debut in these matches against Tranmere in 1991.

Every other time it has been a consolation prize rather than a bonus – and we are only third favourites to go up now with the bookies – but we are definitely capable of upsetting the odds.

Boro have not fallen out of the top five in the table since the start of October and in finishing fourth have achieved their best placing since being relegated to the Championship in 2009.

Their home record is impressive with only three defeats, while they won 10 games on their travels in the league and also reached the fifth round of the FA Cup thanks to their 2-0 fourth round win at Manchester City.

Boro also drew 2-2 at Liverpool in the third round of the League Cup and with play-offs being just like another cup competition, their record this season is impressive.


Aitor Karanka was appointed as Middlesbrough manager in November 2013.

He previously worked as Real Madrid’s assistant manager to Jose Mourinho but this is the first time he has held the top job at a club.

He spent virtually all of his playing career in Spain with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid before ending it with a brief spell playing in the USA.

Karanka, a defender, also won one full cap for Spain.


We have not met Middlesbrough many times over the years – in fact their 1-0 win here in January was their first in the league since the last Sunday before Christmas in 1986.

That day was significant for the opening of the Brook Road “Wendy House” stand but for little else from a Bees point of view as we again lost 1-0.

Boro have been here since then however – in the second round of the Worthington Cup in October 2002. The then Premier League side fielded an entire team of reserves but still proved far too strong for us as they romped to a 4-1 win.

The last time we beat Middlesbrough in any competition was in an FA Cup third round tie in 1964 when we won 2-1.

Our last league victory over them was way back in December 1938 when we won an old First Division match 2-1.


Middlesbrough may have only taken part in the play-offs twice before this season – due to a large extent to their long spell in the Premier League – but they still have a better record than Brentford in winning promotion in this way.

Their first appearance was in 1987/88 – the second year of the play-offs which were under a very different format to what we have now.

The team who just survived relegation would be thrown into a competition with the three sides who were just pipped for automatic promotion in the division below – with the winners taking their place in the higher division for the following season.

Boro finished third in the Second Division (now the Championship) and missed out on promotion on goals scored to Aston Villa.

In the semi-finals they took on fourth-placed Bradford City, who had only finished a point behind them.

Middlesbrough lost the first leg at Valley Parade 2-1 but won the second 2-0 after extra-time to set up a two-legged final with Chelsea, who were trying to retain their First Division (now Premier League) status.

Boro scored a goal in each half of the first leg at Ayresome Park to win 2-0 and three days later survived conceding an 18th minute goal to hold on and earn promotion with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Their other appearance came three seasons later when they were again trying to win promotion back to the top flight.

The circumstances were very different with the numbers of teams in each division changing and in Boro’s case – the sides finishing from fourth to seventh in Division Two taking part.

Middlesbrough just squeezed into the competition by edging out Barnsley on goal difference and faced fourth-placed Notts County, who had finished 11 points ahead of them.

In yet another close couple of games, Boro could only draw 1-1 in the north-east and County’s 1-0 second leg win proved decisive as they went on to win promotion by beating Brighton in the final.


Manager Aitor Karanka has been doing his homework on the play-offs while the squad train and relax at the Marbella Football Centre ahead of their trip to Griffin Park.

He told the Middlesbrough Gazette: “For me and most of my players it will be the first time we have been in the play-offs but we have people in our staff who know about them.

“We will have to learn from them and prepare the players as well as we can.”

Meanwhile defender Ben Gibson has told the Northern Echo that his side are refusing to think about reaching the play-off final ahead of the tie with the Bees.

Gibson, nephew of Boro chairman Steve Gibson, said: “We haven’t talked about Wembley yet. But we’ve got an enormous task to beat Brentford over two legs. They’re a good team.

“I can’t wait. This is what you play football for, the big moments and the big occasions.

“As a Boro lad going into it, it could make my dreams come true and many other people in this town.”

For those of you who haven’t seen it, there were suggestions in the Middlesbrough Gazette that once their players found out the other scores during their game against Brighton last Saturday, they eased up to ensure they played Brentford and not Ipswich in the semi-finals.

The Gazette’s Anthony Vickers reported: “The pre-match projection of fans’ fears had focused on the need to avoid first Derby and then secondly Ipswich so being partnered with Brentford when the music stopped seemed a good result, a successful strategic silver lining hewn from a dismal grey day on the pitch.

“The Bees won’t be a pushover of course. Brentford’s achievement in sticking with the play-off pack despite dug-out turmoil is more impressive in many ways than Bournemouth’s title win.

“They have been organised and industrious and very hard to beat at home and showed great determination in refusing to stick to the script and fall away as the drama unfolded.

“Despite that, the west London club are still widely regarded as the weakest of the top six with the smallest, least expensive and least experienced squad and the hardest task in escaping football gravity.”

Looking back to last weekend, he added: “As news came in of results elsewhere and the bench kept track of the ‘as it stands’ table and the stopwatch, it looked as if a decision had been made to hold what we had – fourth place – and opt for Brentford rather than going flat out for the win that would take Boro back above Norwich and mean they would face Ipswich.

“Skipper Grant Leadbitter was summoned over to the touchline for a quick conflab with the gaffer and then he relayed the instructions to the team.

“It seemed that the team had been directed from the dug-out to ease off the gas, in itself a feat in a game that was slow so it appeared to be buffering.”


Adam Forshaw, who started the season as a Brentford player, ends it not at Wigan, the club he joined at the end of the August transfer window, but Middlesbrough – who signed him in January.

Friday is set to be the third time he has faced the Bees this season after starting our game at the DW Stadium in October and making his Boro debut as a substitute here.

He has mainly been used in that role so far by Karanka – coming off the bench 12 times in total in the Championship while only starting six times.

Adam was of course a regular here for two seasons, playing a key role in our run to the play-off final in 2013 and promotion 12 months later.


The main team news around the Middlesbrough side is whether top scorer Patrick Bamford will be fit or not.

The Chelsea loanee missed Saturday’s goalless draw with Brighton with a mixture of ankle and muscle problems but Boro are hopefully he will start Friday’s match.

Bamford has scored 17 goals in the Championship this season while midfielder Grant Leadbitter, who scored in both games against us, is on 11 in the league.

Leadbitter has been involved in 43 of Boro’s 46 league matches with other players to feature in at least 40, starting and as a substitute, are winger Albert Adomah (43), defender George Friend (42), midfielders Lee Tomlin (42) and Adam Clayton (41) and goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos (40).


Brentford are not the team with the worst play-off record – despite failing to win promotion from our seven attempts.

Preston, who ended up in the League One play-offs after losing at Colchester on Saturday, will be competing in the end-of-season competition for the 10th time and have still never been successful in going up.




Drinking in Brentford

For Middlesbrough fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming. Colours are fine and there is no ‘bouncer culture’ on the doors of our boozers – not yet anyway. All fans are welcome and most fans usually cite Brentford as their favourite away-day which we’re quite proud of.

As is etched in common folklore , there were four pubs around the ground until a few weeks ago – unfortunately one closed down to leave only three now. 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 is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option (The Royal Oak was the one that closed down).

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) include The Globe (Windmill Rd) which is the Beesotted fanzine main pub – a very friendly pub indeed. The other boozer is The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd)  – both incredibly friendly and cosy away-frienly pubs and 30 seconds walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’. Most Boro fans will remember they had one hell of a party before and after the match in both these boozers (despite us losing)- and The Plough (Northfields Ave – 1 minute walk from the tube) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route on the Northfields pub crawl).

Easily the best way to Brentford is to get the Victoria line from Euston to Green Park and the Piccadilly line from Green Park to either Northfields or South Ealing (35 mins). Northfields is preferred by fans in the know as it has a decent pub crawl run on the way to the ground (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe). South Ealing has one posh pub en route that doesn’t really like football fans so we won’t even give it a mention here. It’s 20 mins walk from either South Ealing OR Northfields to the ground or you can get the E2 bus from Northfields or 65 bus from South Ealing for the short 5 minute journey.

Some fans prefer to take the tube to Vauxhall then get the overground to Brentford mainline station. Depending on your connection time, this could be a slightly longer route as you could be waiting for up to 15 mins for a train and the train takes 26 mins to Brentford. Including your connection from Kings Cross this journey could take you the best part of an hour as opposed to under 40 minutes (plus the journey to the ground).

If you do take this route, there is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … er …  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. Great views over The Thames. It’s around 15 mins walk to the ground from here.

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 Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Rd or Windmill Rd.