Stoke have had an awful start to the season and arrive at Griffin Park bottom of the table with a solitary point from their first seven matches.
They lost their first two games – at home to QPR (2-1), at Charlton (3-1) – before earning a 2-2 draw with Derby.
And they have been beaten in their last four fixtures, losing at Preston (3-1) and Birmingham (2-1 ), as well 3-0 at home to Leeds and 2-1 to Bristol City last Saturday.
Their only crumb of comfort has come in the Carabao Cup where they won 1-0 at Wigan and 5-4 on penalties at Leeds after a 2-2 draw to set up a third round tie at Crawley next Tuesday.
It has been the club’s worst-ever start to the season, beating the previous worst in the 1900/01 season – although they did recover to avoid relegation from the top flight that time around.
They have two ex-Bees on their books in Ryan Woods and Scott Hogan, but neither has been able to establish themselves this season.
Woodsy has only started three league matches so far.
He left us early last season after playing 128 games in all competitions, while Scott joined Villa right at the end of the January 2017 transfer window after scoring 21 goals in 36 full and substitute appearances in our colours.
Hogan, who is on loan from Aston Villa, has been more involved than Woods so far, starting three Championship games and coming on as a substitute in another three. He also scored both goals against Derby to match his total for the whole of last season when at Villa and Sheffield United.
Stoke’s 10-year spell in the Premier League, during which they finished in a highest position of ninth three times, ended the season before last.
They also reached the FA Cup final in 2011, losing 1-0 to Manchester City but qualified for the following season’s Europa League, in which they reached the last 32, where they were beaten 2-0 on aggregate by Valencia.
Last season they finished 16th in the Championship, having drawn more games (22) than anyone else.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Nathan Jones took over as Stoke manager in January in place of Gary Rowett.
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 the following season, winning automatic promotion as runners-up behind Accrington before he left midway through last campaign to move to the Potteries.
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 last 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.
The return in early January was Nathan Jones’ first game in charge of Stoke, but there was no new manager bounce as the Bees cruised to a 3-1 win. There was a frantic start with three goals in a 16-minute spell. Brentford went ahead thanks to a Ryan Shawcross own goal and Said Benrahma doubled the lead, before Benik Afobe pulled one back. But a superb solo effort from Rico Henry – his first Bees goal – made the game safe early in the second half to stretch our unbeaten Championship run to five matches.
“Nathan Jones comes into the game, a repeat of his very first fixture in charge of Stoke, in desperate need of three points to relieve him of some of the pressure that he’s currently under.
“It’s safe to say the season hasn’t gone how Jones or anybody connected with Stoke expected; four points adrift at the bottom of the Championship, having lost six of their first seven league games. A win at Griffin Park would be just the stress reliever that the Stoke manager is looking for.
“Scott Hogan has impressed in spells when he’s featured, that despite the fact that quite a few supporters raised their eyebrows when he was signed on transfer deadline day. He’s scored two goals despite being somewhat in and out of the team, as Nathan Jones has been shuffling his squad.
“Ryan Woods has also impressed in spells, despite it looking like he was on his way out of Stoke in the summer. He’s proven to be a strong anchor in the Stoke midfield when he’s featured, and has started to look like he did when he first joined the club last summer.”
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s game.
2-0 Bees Stoke decide to stick out an old friend of Brentford in Mr Woods, who runs the midfield (coughs?!). Bees however, show their quality at home and score two unanswered goals. Edward the Headward
2-1 Brentford in a nervous, narrowly-fought win and underwhelming game of football. It’s a big game for some of the new recruits to try and prove their worth and nail down a place in the side. The Bees will scrape by and Nathan Jones will be gone by Monday morning. Robin Hood
3-0 no danger The Amazing Gem
2-0 victory for the Bees Two managers/head coaches who each, for different reasons, need a win. It’s vital for Brentford that given away form, points are won at home. Liberal Nick
0-0 Dogged backs to wall Stoke. Bees still misfiring. Gerry the cabbie
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Stoke 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 out 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.
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 guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.