Ryan Woods’s first return to Griffin Park since completing his permanent move to Stoke last week was supposed to be the headline for Saturday’s visit from the Potters.
But a managerial change at the bet365 Stadium has stolen the spotlight away from our former midfielder.
Stoke have had a dramatic week, with boss Gary Rowett paying the price for their indifferent league form with his job and Nathan Jones being appointed as his replacement.
The Potters have struggled to justify their position as pre-season promotion favourites in their first season back at this level since 2008.
And Rowett, who left Derby to take charge at the bet365 Stadium in the summer, was sacked on Tuesday as a result.
Rory Delap, part of Rowett’s coaching team, was put in temporary charge immediately, with Kevin Russell and Andy Quy as his assistants.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Jones left Luton to become the club’s new permanent boss.
He will of course be keen to make his mark immediately as he visits Griffin Park and near the top of his agenda will be trying to improve the club’s away form this season.
While Stoke have proved hard to beat on the road – losing only three of their 13 matches – they have failed to close out matches, drawing eight and only winning two of the other 10.
They have done better at home with six wins and three draws from 13 fixtures.
Returning to Woodsy, he has been a mainstay in the Stoke midfield since arriving in the Potteries in late August.
Although he came on as a substitute in his first game at West Brom, he has started every Championship game since then and so already has 20 full appearances to his name.
Ryan was at the heart of our midfield for nearly three years after signing from Shrewsbury early in the 2015/16 season.
In all, he played 122 Championship games in our colours, and 128 in all competitions, scoring three league goals – all of which were memorable. The first was the screamer at Reading at Christmas in his first season, closely followed by another belter in the end-of-season win at MK Dons.
His only Bees goal at Griffin Park came right at the end of the 3-1 win over Leeds in November 2017 – a strike that confirmed our victory.
Woodsy was voted players’ player of the year in 2016/17 and I’m sure will get a good reception from the home fans before kick-off on Saturday.
Stoke’s 10-year spell in the Premier League, during which they finished in a highest position of ninth three times, ended last May.
They also reached the FA Cup final in 2011, losing 1-0 to Manchester City but qualifying for the following season’s Europa League, in which they reached the last 32, where they were beaten 2-0 on aggregate by Valencia.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
As mentioned earlier, Nathan Jones took over as manager this week.
Nathan had become Luton boss in January 2016, after leaving his post as first-team coach at Brighton, and in his first full season led the Hatters to the League Two play-offs, where they lost to Blackpool in the semi-finals.
However, they made no mistake last season, winning automatic promotion as runners-up behind Accrington.
He leaves Luton in the thick of this season’s League One promotion race – they are second, five points behind Portsmouth and a point ahead of third-placed Sunderland.
Nathan played more than 500 senior games in a 21-year career in defence or midfield for Merthyr, Luton, Numancia (Spain), Badajoz (Spain), Southend, Brighton and Yeovil, where he became player/assistant manager.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford and Stoke haven’t met regularly over the years – in fact, this is only the 12th season in which we have been in the same division as each other.
Our first meetings since the mid-1950s came in Division Three (now League One) in 1990/91 and the Potters had by far the better of things, following up a 2-2 draw at the Victoria Ground with a 4-0 victory at Griffin Park.
The following season, both games ended up in home wins – with goals from Lee Luscombe and Dean Holdsworth giving us a 2-0 victory at Griffin Park, before John Butler and Mark Stein made Gary Blissett’s reply only a consolation as City won the return 2-1.
However, the season ended in our favour as we won the Third Division title, with Stoke having to make do with the play-offs, where they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Stockport in the semi-finals.
Stoke did the double when we next met in the same division – by then called Division Two – in 1999/2000, winning each game 1-0, the away one being our first trip to the Britannia (now bet365) Stadium, with goals by Peter Thorne.
We also failed to beat them the following season – losing 1-0 to a Rikhardur Dadason goal in the Potteries and drawing 2-2 at home. Andy Cooke gave City a first-half lead, but two quick goals late in the second half from Mark Williams and Lloyd Owusu gave us the advantage before Dadason snatched a point for the visitors.
It is the 2001/02 campaign, which will live long in the memory however.
Both sides won the home matches – Stoke 3-2 in a game in which they took the lead three times through Brynjar Gunnarsson, Chris Iwelumo and Sergei Shtanuk and we equalised twice through Ben Burgess and Lloyd Owusu – and the Bees 1-0 with Steve Sidwell’s second-half strike in a match, in which City’s Arnar Gunnlaugsson had been sent off.
We met again, however, in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where an opening goal from future Bee Deon Burton and an own goal from Burgess promoted Stoke with a 2-0 win and added to our list of failures in the end-of-season competition.
Our paths finally crossed again this season as we were Stoke’s first visitors of the season. A mix-up between Dan Bentley and Chris Mepham gave Benik Afobe the chance to put City ahead but a superb team goal finished off by Ollie Watkins midway through the second half earned us a well-deserved point in a 1-1 draw.
BBC Radio Stoke Sport commentator Mark Sandoz looks back on a tumultuous week for the Potters, analyses what went wrong for Gary Rowell and what Nathan Jones will bring to the club and assesses the impact that Ryan Woods has made in the Potteries.
Q – What has gone wrong at Stoke this season for Gary Rowett to be sacked so soon?
A – There are two answers to this question. Firstly the most obvious answer is results and league position. Gary Rowett was brought in to build a promotion-chasing team but in his 29 games in charge he only won nine. The football was slow, lacking in creativity and for the supporters it was hard to watch.
Another nail in his coffin was how he would respond to the fans in post-match interviews. When supporters would express their opinion he would respond in quite a dismissive and blunt manner. Once you lose the fans, you are walking a tightrope.
Q – What do you think of the appointment of Nathan Jones and what can he bring to the side?
A – Nathan Jones is a very interesting choice that nobody expected. Wide opinion was that the Stoke hierarchy would opt for a manager with Premier League experience. However this is a fresh approach and one that has got fans excited. Jones is regarded as a young upcoming British manager and deserves a chance at a higher level. The question will be how patient will the club be with him while he settles into the new role and builds a squad to challenge for promotion. I get the feeling supporters will give him time and are looking forward to a new approach on and off the pitch.
If Jones can command the dressing room and the get the players to buy into what he wants to do (attacking football), then he will become an instant hit.
Q – Were the expectations at the start simply promotion or bust – or was a season of consolidation seen as acceptable?
A – The goal was and still is promotion. Gary Rowett was backed financially; he brought in Tom Ince, Benik Afobe and Ryan Woods for big fees and, as I mentioned earlier, the football and poor results didn’t reflect that investment. On paper Stoke have one of the best squads in the Championship so the ambition will still be promotion IF Jones can get a tune out of the players in the dressing room.
Q – Most of the experienced players seemed to stay on after relegation – how have they adjusted to playing in the Championship?
A – It took a while – most of the squad who remained following relegation suffered from a confidence hangover. Captain Ryan Shawcross started the season slowly, Jack Butland took a while to adjust, while Joe Allen also needed several games to find his feet. However, since then Allen has arguably been one of the best players for Stoke this season.
Q – Ryan Woods was a massively important and hugely popular player for us but how he has done for Stoke? What role has he played, has he performed well and have the fans taken to him?
A – Ryan made an instant impact in midfield. Very tidy in possession and always available to protect and help the back four. He flourished when he was given the captain’s armband during Ryan Shawcross’s absence. It seemed he played better with more responsibility.
However, as results have dipped, so have Ryan’s performances. He’s been sitting far too deep and been largely ineffective in games. If Nathan Jones can get him playing further up the pitch and utilise his quick feet, vision and energy then I think we will see a different player again.
Q – What style of play can Bees fans expect to see from City on Saturday?
A – We simply don’t know. It depends on how quickly Nathan Jones can get his view across. I think Stoke fans will happily walk away from the game losing 3-2 as long as they see their team attack and have a go.
Q – Do you have any memories of past Bees-Stoke games?
A – Not as a reporter, but who can forget the 2002 League Two play-off final in Cardiff.
Q – Finally can you tell me a likely Stoke line-up and formation please?
A – Again this is a bit of a shot in the dark given the club appointed a new manager this week, but here’s my starting 11.
Butland, Pieters, Shawcross, Williams, Edwards, Ince, Woods, Allen, Etebo, Afobe, Berahino
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s tie.
– 3-1 Stoke now that the visitors have appointed Nathan Jones as manager, with players showing new freedom. Greville Waterman
– 2-1 Bees. Late consolation for Stoke bees dominant throughout. Gerry the cabbie
– 2-0 Bees – Dominant performance and Stoke to pressure at the end as we tire. Hope that Stoke don’t have new manager buzz. Edward the Headward
– 3-1 Bees – The Potters’ new-found lease of attacking verve could backfire and play into the hands of a Brentford side now built to withstand pressure and counter attack. Not a happy return for the ex Griffin Park general as Woods finds himself on the losing side. David Anderson
– 2-1 Bees – Maupay double to bring Brentford the first league win of 2019. Cham da Silva
For the Oxford game, we had one correct score prediction and two correct result predictions from our five Beesotted pundits.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Stoke 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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