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Newcastle have arguably been the Premier League’s most talked-about side in the past couple of months after the Saudi takeover that reportedly made them the richest club in the country.

The move, which saw the end of the ownership of the unpopular Mike Ashley, among other things allowed them to bolster their squad during the January transfer window and boost their chances of avoiding relegation.

When Eddie Howe took over in the middle of November, the Magpies were five points adrift of safety with five points from their first 11 matches.

As they make their first visit to the Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday, they are outside the relegation zone with 22 points from 24 matches and on an unbeaten Premier League run of six games.

Howe had a shaky start with a 3-3 draw against the Bees on his debut, which he took charge of remotely, followed by a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal and a 1-1 draw with Norwich.

He led the team to their first victory of the season at the start of December – 1-0 over Burnley – but after three back-to-back defeats, Newcastle have since won three and drawn three of the following six fixtures.

Their only loss of 2022 came in the third round of the FA Cup, when they suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to League One Cambridge.

They also went out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle – losing 4-3 on penalties to Burnley after a 0-0 draw at St James’ Park in the second round.

The Magpies’ visit is the first match in a vital three-game spell that could go a long way to deciding our fortunes, ahead of meetings with Norwich and Burnley.

A Bees victory would mean we maintain our record of winning one Premier League game in every calendar month of the season so far.

Newcastle are currently in their fifth successive season in the top flight.

They have been in the Premier League for all but three of its seasons and were runners-up in 1996 and 1997, while they finished third in 1994 and 2003. Their best finish in the last decade was fifth in 2012.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Eddie Howe replaced Steve Bruce as head coach in November.

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He is best known for his time at Bournemouth, who he led from League Two to the Premier League in two spells as manager, which were interrupted by a brief stint in charge of Burnley.

Eddie kept the Cherries in the top flight for five seasons, before leaving following their relegation in the summer of 2020.

He also started and finished his playing career as a defender at Bournemouth, with a spell at Portsmouth in- between, but injury forced his retirement at the age of only 29.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

Brentford and Newcastle have barely met over the years – with only nine league games and four meetings in cup competitions.

We have won three, lost five and drawn one of the league encounters, while the Magpies have  triumphed in three of the four cup ties.

The most recent match was our 3-3 Premier League draw at St James’ Park in November.

It was Eddie Howe’s first match in charge following the departure of Steve Bruce, but the new manager couldn’t be at the game as he had tested positive for Covid – so had to follow it from his hotel room.

In an extraordinary match, we fell behind to a Jamaal Lascelles header from a corner in the 10th minute, but Ivan Toney equalised against his former club a minute later. Rico Henry put us ahead just past the half hour mark, but Joelinton made it all-square at the break.

Substitute Frank Onyeka’s shot deflected in off Lascelles for a 61st-minute own goal to put us 3-2 up, but Allan Saint-Maximin earned a point for the Magpies in the 75th minute.

We also met last season in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals, and we pulled off a shock 1-0 win to reach the last four of the competition for the first time.

Josh Dasilva scored the only goal midway through the second half as the Championship Bees claimed our fourth Premier League scalp of the competition.

Our other recent cup meeting was a second round League (Worthington) Cup tie in 2001 at St James’ Park.

It was quite a surreal experience as the match took place the day after the September 11 attacks in New York. Brentford chartered a special train to take fans to the match, and my memories of that journey are everybody silently reading any newspaper they could get hold of all journey.

It seemed odd to be going to football in those circumstances, but we did and the Second Division (now League One) Bees did us proud in taking our Premier League hosts to extra-time.

Lloyd Owusu gave us a shock 17th-minute lead. Shola Ameobi equalised in the 59th minute, but we took Bobby Robson’s Magpies, with Alan Shearer in the side, to extra-time.

However, that proved too much for us and a hat-trick by Craig Bellamy – who scored in the 108th, 117th and 120th minutes – gave Newcastle a 4-1 win.

Our FA Cup meetings came in the third round in 1938/39, when the Magpies won 2-0 at Griffin Park, and in the 1954/55 fourth round, when they beat us 3-2 in the north-east.

Our other eight league meetings have come in the second tier (now Championship).

We first met in the 1934/35 season and the Bees did the double on our way to winning the title, with a 5-2 win at St James’ Park and a 3-0 victory in the return.

Our next meetings came in 1947/48 and each game ended in a 1-0 home win.

The other league games are much fresher in the memory and were all won by Newcatle.

The first was on a Sunday afternoon in October 1992, in our first season in the second tier since 1953/54, and was live on ITV, with Brian Moore commentating.

David Kelly put Kevin Keegan’s Magpies ahead in the first half and Gavin Peacock doubled the lead after the break before in a grandstand finish, Gary Blissett halved the deficit and then Marcus Gayle, now a Brentford club ambassador and summariser in the Bees Player commentary team, missed a great chance to snatch a point.

We were hammered 5-1 in the return with David Kelly, Paul Bracewell, Lee Clark (two) and Robert Lee on target for the hosts – with our reply a Kevin Scott own goal, as we slipped closer to immediate relegation.

Our other league meetings came in 2016/17.

The game at St James’ Park in October was a good day off the pitch but a disappointing one on it, as we let in two early goals on the way to a 3-1 defeat.

Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle put the Magpies in charge by the 16th minute and Gayle made it 3-0 soon after the break, before Scott Hogan quickly pulled one back from a corner.


Brentford were unlucky to go down to a 2-1 defeat in the return the following January.

Dwight Gayle gave the Championship leaders a 20th-minute lead, but Lasse Vibe equalised in the 52nd minute, and then came within millimetres of giving us the lead when he lifted the ball over Karl Darlow and watched as his shot hit the post and rolled along the goalline before being cleared.

Daryl Murphy, a regular thorn in Brentford’s side, headed a 79th-minute winner for Newcastle with his first league goal for the club.

OPPOSITION VIEW

Matthew Raisbeck, Newcastle United commentator at BBC Radio Newcastle, analyses the extraordinary recent goings-on at St James’ Park, looks at the Magpies’ January transfer activity, and discusses the impact made by Eddie Howe since he has taken over.

Q – Wow – what a couple of months for Newcastle. How big has the impact been of all the changes?

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A – Newcastle may only be two points above the relegation zone, but things are going well, and the mood among the fans is very positive. 

18 months after a deal was first agreed, the Premier League announced on 7th October that the takeover had been completed – a date no Newcastle supporter will ever forget, and thousands of fans gathered outside St James’ Park to celebrate into the night. I have always maintained that any takeover was more about Mike Ashley leaving rather than who came in to replace him because supporters had spent much of his 14-year reign calling and campaigning for him to go. That the new people in charge are incredibly wealthy is certainly a bonus. But, they have described themselves as “long-term, patient investors”, “process driven”, and have plans to improve every area of the club. 

A few days after the takeover, the windows at the stadium were cleaned. This may seem like a small thing, but to many fans, it represented a big change in attitude from the club, after what they saw as 14 years of neglect under a disinterested Ashley. 

Steve Bruce was an unpopular appointment back in 2019 and there wasn’t much support left for him when he departed in October with Newcastle still seeking a first win of the season. 

Eddie Howe may not have been first choice for the job – they had tried to get Unai Emery from Villarreal – but he is looking like exactly the right man for it. He has taken Newcastle from the foot of the table to 17th, improving both the style of play and the performance levels of several individuals in the team. 

Those who don’t follow Newcastle closely may think things have only improved because money was spent on new signings. But, they had already started to pick up points under Howe before the transfer window opened. 

They still face a battle to stay up but go into the match against Brentford on a six-match unbeaten run in the league and have given themselves a great chance of avoiding relegation. 

Q – The January signings seem sensible – almost all players with Premier League experience. What do you make of the transfer business?

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A – They needed to improve the squad in January and that’s exactly what they did with their five signings. 

Under Mike Ashley’s ownership, rarely did the club address problems mid-season by spending in the winter. Last month – in the first transfer window since the takeover – they spent about as much as in the 14 January windows under Ashley combined – roughly £90m. 

Having conceded 42 goals in their first 19 matches, they needed to improve their defence. Attempts to sign Sven Botman from Lillie and Sevilla’s Diego Carlos were unsuccessful. But, the three defensive arrivals –  Kieran Trippier, Matt Targett and Dan Burn – have made a huge difference already. 

Trippier is a high-quality player who also brings leadership and communication to the side. His two goals from direct free-kicks have been crucial. Burn hasn’t put a foot wrong yet, with a man-of-the-match display on his debut in the win over Aston Villa, and a strong showing at West Ham. Targett has been terrific. His positioning and timing is spot on and he has given the team better balance. 

Bruno Guimaraes was the most expensive of their January signings, but the Brazilian midfielder is still waiting for his first start, having only appeared as a late substitute in the last three games. However, there is much excitement about what such an intelligent and classy player will bring to the team. He will just have to shift one of the in-form Joelinton, Jonjo Shelvey or Joe Willock first! 

Chris Wood arrived from Burnley after they activated the £25m release clause in his contract. While signing defenders was their priority, a long-term injury to Callum Wilson meant they had to sign another striker. Wood is a different type of player, but has a good Premier League goalscoring record. 

However, he is still looking for his first Newcastle goal – and hasn’t had a clear opportunity to score yet. They are, though, unbeaten in the five matches he has played, and Eddie Howe has praised Wood for his unselfish work for the team and positive influence in the dressing room. 

To accommodate the new signings, three players – left-back Jamal Lewis, centre-half Ciaran Clark, and injured midfielder Isaac Hayden – were left out of their 25-man squad for the second half of the season. 

Q – What has Eddie Howe done differently to Steve Bruce to start to change fortunes on the pitch?

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A – Steve Bruce said he wanted the team to play more on the front foot, but regularly set up with a five-man defence because he felt the players weren’t suited to playing in a back four. They would sit deep and try to hit teams on the break with the pace and ability of Allan Saint-Maximin. While they went on a sensational run of results at the end of last season to secure their Premier League status, the football wasn’t particularly good to watch. 

Eddie Howe’s approach is much more positive. He has gone with a back four in most of his games in charge and has the team playing higher up the pitch. They look fitter and sharper, and have a clearer identity and style of play. It has been well-received by a grateful set of supporters. 

Players have spoken about Howe’s “intense” training sessions, and the work they are putting in is starting to have the intended effect.

Q – What do you remember of Brentford’s draw at St James’ Park earlier in the season?

A – It was officially Eddie Howe’s first match in charge – but he wasn’t there. He had to watch the action from a Tyneside hotel after going into isolation following a positive Covid-19 test result, leaving his assistant Jason Tindall in charge.  

Howe had been appointed almost two weeks earlier, so there had been a long build-up to his first game and it was certainly a strange way for his reign to begin. 

In the game itself, Newcastle carried a threat in attack but were vulnerable in defence – their season up to that point in a microcosm. Both teams could have won it, but the draw left Newcastle bottom of the table and without a win from their opening 12 matches.

Q – Who are the key men in the Newcastle side for Brentford fans to watch out for?

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A – They were without their three best players at West Ham last weekend but played extremely well in the first half and probably should have won the game. 

Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier will again be unavailable because of calf and foot injuries, respectively. Both will miss a significant chunk of the remainder of the season. 

The electric Allan Saint-Maximin had a calf problem that Eddie Howe said wasn’t serious – but it is not known if he will be fit to face Brentford. A report in The Times on Friday says the winger has been spending time in an oxygen chamber in Monaco in a bid to be able to play in the match.

Probably their best player since Eddie Howe was appointed has been Joelinton, who scored when the teams met a few months ago. Brought in as a £40m striker, he never looked comfortable as a lone forward and had mixed success when playing out wide. However, going down to 10 men against Norwich in late November saw him move into a central midfield position, where he has played ever since – and he has been a revelation. 

Jonjo Shelvey is another that is really benefiting from working under Howe, playing arguably the best football of his Newcastle career. The same could be said for winger Ryan Fraser, while Joe Willock, who scored last weekend, is starting to produce the sort of form he showed at the end of last season when he was on loan from Arsenal. 

Q – How much are you looking forward to your first trip to the Brentford Community Stadium?

A – We were unable to visit the Brentford Community Stadium in December 2020 for the League Cup quarter-final because BBC local radio commentary teams were banned from travelling to away matches due to Covid restrictions. So, it will be a new stadium and new commentary position for us – and also a new ground for Newcastle’s travelling fans – which is always exciting.

Q – Finally can you give me a possible Magpies line-up and formation please?

A – I don’t expect too many changes to the team, but if Allan Saint-Maximin and full back Javier Manquillo are fit, they should return. 

In a 4-3-3 system:

Dubravka 

Krafth/Manquillo, Schär, Burn, Targett

Willock, Shelvey, Joelinton 

Fraser, Wood, Murphy/ASM

HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME IF YOU CAN’T BE THERE

If you can’t get to the Brentford Community Stadium for Saturday’s sold-out 3.00pm kick-off, there are various ways of following the game.

Radio – There will be live commentary on BBC London 94.9FM as part of the Saturday Sport Show from 2pm.

iFollow – If you want Brentford commentary, iFollow audio coverage is available via monthly or seasonal passes. Coverage starts half an hour before kick-off and is advert-free, with Mark Burridge, Karleigh Osborne and Lisa Grant.

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS

For Newcastle fans coming to the Brentford Community Stadium for the first time, there are plenty of pub options pre and post-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

The pub areas are split into two zones. There is the area around Brentford’s old Griffin Park stadium. The pubs there are still very busy on match day frequented by Bees locals before heading down the road to the stadium at Kew Bridge which is only 15 minutes walk.

Then there is the area in and around the stadium in Kew Bridge.

It is possible, if you have a good early start, to savour a few pubs in and around Griffin Park and Brentford zone before heading off to the pubs in the Kew zone or even vice versa if you so fancy.

Pubs in Griffin Park/Brentford zone (still very  lively but easier to get a pint)

When at Griffin Park, Brentford was well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. Three are still operating.

The Griffin is closest to the old away end and has always been very popular with both home and away fans and has its regulars who still make the journey down to the new stadium from there on matchday. The New Inn is on the other side which used to also be popular with away fans before the move. The Brook pub is the other option if you want to savour a pub in and around what is left of our old home. Worth a peep if you want to reminisce about old Brentford.

About five minutes’ walk away from the old ground are two pubs which are enormously popular. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is a “lively but comfortable” pub on matchday. Incredibly friendly and cosy, it has always been popular with a selection of away fans who fancied having a beer a few minutes further walk away from the ground without having to queue six persons deep. After the move to the new ground, The Globe has retained many of lot its regulars from the Griffin Park days and with screens throughout the pub and in its sheltered beer garden, it shows both Premier League and EFL football before and after each match.

Meanwhile around the corner, The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) is another incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs about one minute walk from The Globe. Again with a TV screen for live sports and a lovely beer garden, this is another pub frequented by “away fans in the know”.

The other pub worth checking out in the Griffin Park region is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, if you like your real ales.

There are plenty of other pubs in and around Brentford High Street including real ale pub Magpie and Crown (Brentford High Street) and the cosy Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) near the river.

For a Griffin Park area pub crawl before heading over to Kew we recommend the following: Take the Piccadilly line to Northfields station. Turn left and walk for 2 mins and you will come to The Plough (Northfields Ave). Then walk to The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & then The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before hitting The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) and then The Black Dog (2 mins from The Griffin). You can also try and do the other three pubs on the corner whilst down here if you fancy.

Then you can then either walk (15 minutes from The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog ) or take a train from Brentford station (which is five minutes walk away from both The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog) or a bus (237/267) to Kew Bridge.

Trains run at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour to Kew Bridge from Brentford and take two minutes.

Pubs in the Kew Bridge zone (very busy on match days)

Right next to Kew Bridge station, you will find the Express Tavern – an ale pub with a retro feel. The pub has been refurbished in readiness for the new football season and needless to say, is popular before the match due to its close proximity to the stadium.

Across the road by the river is One Over the Ait – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.

Across Kew Bridge and the River Thames, there are two pubs on Kew Green – the Cricketers and the Greyhound – very close to the pier where Brentford fans have embarked on their away journeys by water to F*lham, Orient, Charlton, West Ham and even Southend.

North of the river along hoity-toity Strand on the Green, you will find The Steam Packet, in an old Cafe Rouge, and The Bell. A bit further down are The City Barge and the Bulls Head – two pubs side-by-side in which you would often see Ant and Dec hanging out.

There is also The Pilot which you can get to coming out of the BACK entrance of Gunnersbury station and we believe the old John Bull pub at the front of the station has been refurbed as The Gunnersbury but we have never been there so can’t give it a rating.

Transport to Brentford and Kew Bridge

The simplest on paper to get to Brentford FC from town is to get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) and then take the Overground train to Kew Bridge, which is right by the stadium. Brentford is one stop further on if you are on an ‘Original Griffin Park Pub’ mission.

With trains from Waterloo being only twice an hour (22 and 52) and taking 28 minutes, we normally recommend people jump on the tube from King’s Cross or Euston and head to Northfields or South Ealing on the Piccadilly Line as it is quicker (including the time getting across London and waiting at Waterloo) and trains are more frequent.

It is only 40 minutes max station by tube to station meaning you could be in a Brentford pub within an hour of embarking your train at Kings Cross, Euston or Liverpool Street.

The other station option is Gunnersbury. You can walk to the stadium from Gunnersbury tube station (District line) in 25 minutes or take a bus (H91, 237, 267, 110), but note that it is closed for entry for one hour after the match.

For the Brentford/Griffin Park pubs you can get the Piccadilly line tube to Northfields station from King’s Cross or Euston (35 minutes) then walk down to The Plough, The Globe, The Lord Nelson and The Griffin and other pubs from there.

The new stadium is around 25 minutes’ walk from South Ealing station – if you don’t fancy Gunnersbury – or you can get on the 65 bus from across the road which will drop you almost outside in 15 minutes.

You can also pick up the 65 bus from Ealing Broadway (district and central line) which will take you to the new stadium in 25 minutes.

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.