Wolves are having another solid season and look on course for their third top-half finish in four years since being promoted back to the Premier League in 2018.
They start the weekend eighth in the table on 31 points, only six points behind fourth-placed West Ham.
Most of their games this season have been tight affairs, with only four – including our 2-0 win at Molineux in September – having more than one goal between the sides.
They have picked up slightly more points away from home, with five wins and two draws from their 10 matches on the road, while at Molineux, they have won four and drawn two of 10 fixtures.
Saturday’s match will be only Brentford’s third Saturday 3.00pm home game of the season and our first for nearly three months – with the visits of Brighton in September and Norwich in November the others. We lost both of those fixtures.
It is also the club’s annual Remembrance Day, when Bees fans who died during 2021 will be remembered in the match programme and on the big screen before kick-off.
This is Wolves’ longest-ever spell in the Premier League, beating their three season stay from 2009 to 2012.
Their only other stint in the division was during the 2003/04 campaign.
They have finished seventh twice and 13th in the past three seasons.
Wolves used to be regular members of the old Division One, however, and from 1932 until 1984 (not counting the war years when the league did not take place), they only spent four seasons outside the top flight.
They won the league three times in six seasons in the 1950s.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Bruno Lage took charge of Wolves in June, following the departure of Nuno Espirito Santo at the end of last season.
Bruno had worked in English football before as assistant to Carlos Carvalhal at both Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea.
He also led Benfica to the Portuguese league title in 2019 after taking over halfway through the season. He had previously coached at all the club’s youth levels, having started his coaching career at the age of only 21.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
We claimed our first-ever Premier League away win when we visited Molineux in September and earned a 2-0 victory.
In a lunchtime kick-off – shown live on BT Sport – two goals in seven first-half minutes sealed the points to take us up to ninth in the table. Ivan Toney gave us the lead from the penalty spot in the 28th minute, before setting up Bryan Mbeumo to score his first Premier League goal.
Shandon Baptiste was sent off for receiving two quick yellow cards midway through the second half but we held on to claim all three points.
That was our first win over Wolves in five games.
We played them in five seasons in the last decade – four in the Championship and one in League One – but only won three of the 10 matches, losing five and drawing two.
When we met in League One in 2013/14 – the season we got promoted together – we failed to score as a goalless draw in the Midlands was followed by a 3-0 Wolves victory at Griffin Park.
That campaign was the first time the sides had played each other since 1992/93 – our last season in the league’s second tier.
Our biggest win came in 2014/15 when we earned a thumping 4-0 victory at Griffin Park in late November. Alan Judge opened the scoring in the 29th minute, before three goals in the last 17 minutes from Stuart Dallas, Andre Gray and Jota wrapped up the points.
A month later, Wolves got revenge with a post 2-1 Christmas win in the Midlands.
Nouha Dicko gave them a seventh-minute lead, which was doubled by an own goal by James Tarkowski in the 72nd minute. The hosts’ Kevin McDonald was sent off five minutes later and Danny Batth put through his own net in the 87th minute to give us late hope, but it proved just a consolation.
The following 2015/16 season we did the double over Wolves – starting with a 2-0 midweek win at Molineux in October.
Marco Djuricin gave us the lead in the 17th minute and Philipp Hofmann, on as a substitute, confirmed the victory with an 88th-minute second.
The Griffin Park game was also played under floodlights and once again we kept a clean sheet against as we ran out 3-0 winners.
A goal in each half from John Swift, sandwiching a strike from Sergi Canos, wrapped up a comprehensive triumph which ended a three-match losing run and took us up to 11th in the table.
Things flipped, however, in 2016/17, with Wolves winning both our meetings.
Joao Teixeira put Wolves ahead just after half-time in our September meeting at Molineux with his first goal for the club and added a second 10 minutes later.
Sullay Kaikai replied with his first goal for the Bees but Ivan Cavaleiro secured a 3-1 victory for the hosts in injury-time.
Brentford looked set for victory at Griffin Park on a Tuesday night in the middle of March after Maxime Colin gave us a first half lead. But two goals in the last four minutes by Matt Doherty and Helder Costa earned all three points for the visitors with a 2-1 win.
We failed to score against Wolves as they stormed to the title in 2017/18 – sharing a goalless draw with them in what proved to be their last visit to Griffin Park in August, and going down 3-0 at Molineux at the start of January.
BBC WM commentator Mike Taylor, fresh from previewing Aston Villa for us, is back again to look at Wolves’ season, to analyse the effects of their summer managerial change, and to explain just how good our win at Molineux was.
Q – How would you assess Wolves’ season so far?
A – Quirky, but increasingly exciting for Wolves supporters. Despite what would appear to be the very significant drawback of being (until very recently) painfully short of goals, Wolves have been settled in the top half of the Premier League table for three months, and for some of that time have looked better than the teams immediately above them, notwithstanding the wins for Tottenham and Manchester United on Wednesday night.
After a bizarre start – losing the first three games 1-0 to Leicester, Spurs and Manchester United, despite threatening furiously from half-time at Leicester onwards – Wolves were uneven for a while. Faced with a daunting fixture list in December, and alarmingly short of players to tackle it, Bruno Lage warned of a “harsh winter”. They responded by fighting hard in narrow defeats at Liverpool and Manchester City, and have scored 10 points out of 12 since, including a fully-deserved victory at Old Trafford.
They’re a small but happy and confident squad, looking up – but urgently hoping that some of their long-term injured players return to reinforce their squad soon.
Q – How did it feel being without Nuno Espirito Santo and how big an impact did he have on the club during his time in charge?
A – A couple of years into his time at Wolves, his face began to appear all over Wolverhampton, a black-and-white image looking a bit like a Banksy artwork, stuck on lamp-posts and posted in windows. How many managers at any club are feted to that degree? Hired after a queasy first year or so for the new Chinese owners, Nuno quickly became the individual around which the whole club revolved, as they surged not only to the Championship title but into the top half of the Premier League, and ultimately the Europa League quarter-finals.
Yes, there was a generous budget by Championship standards, and as was widely reported, strong connections helping them to bring in top Portuguese talent. But the success achieved under Nuno was by no means all down to money. The new signings were developed and the existing players improved – in some cases, as with Conor Coady’s move into defence, completely transformed. Things went stale during the lockdown season, and Nuno himself seemed ill-at-ease, not that he was ever a comfortable public performer.
Although some fans began to call for him to move on, the idea that he might be sacked still seemed almost heretical. One of the most fascinating characters I have come across in 25 years of reporting on West Midlands football, he will be fondly remembered by Wolves fans for decades, whatever the club goes on to achieve.
Q – What did Bruno Lage change and how has he done so far?
A – He promised a fresh, attacking style, and while their total of 17 goals in 20 Premier League games might suggest otherwise, they are settling into it more reliably after an uncertain spell in the autumn. The basic formation may not have changed much, but the way it is implemented is different from the last few seasons, with players more frequently seen pushing forward from their original stations in midfield and even the back three.
However, the basis of Wolves’ high league position is clearly the defence. Lage has in particular overseen the emergence of Max Kilman, from a talented but maybe under-used young defender to the most consistent player of Wolves’ season so far, and surely an England international of the very near future.
He is also a very different public personality to Nuno, chasing around the technical area wheeling his arms, and relaxed when giving garrulous responses in interviews. Many fans would have been understandably sceptical that anyone would be able to live up to the achievements of his predecessor, but Lage has converted most, and done it with a ready smile and a glinting eye.
Q – Most of Wolves’s games this season have only had a goal between the sides – why have they been so tight?
A – Their inability to convert chances!
There have been several games this season where Wolves have drawn a blank but really should have won. (The two games in which they have scored three goals, against Aston Villa and Southampton, have oddly been among the matches in which they looked less like scoring than the opposition for long spells.) At the other end, a settled and exceptionally well-drilled back three of Max Kilman, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss, have been in outstanding form.
The goalkeeper Jose Sa arrived as the understudy to his predecessor Rui Patricio in Portuguese football, but many Wolves fans would probably now consider him an upgrade after his recent performances. They have conceded only three goals in 10 games, all in slightly freakish circumstances – in the last minute against Liverpool immediately after a defensive injury, a distinctly contentious penalty at Manchester City, and a James Ward-Prowse free-kick that seemed not merely to swerve but slalom to the top corner.
Q – What do you remember of Brentford’s win earlier in the season at Molineux?
A – I am aware that Brentford fans who were at Molineux in September and have not seen Wolves otherwise will find all of the above hard to believe, and understandably so.
I’ve seen 17 of Wolves 20 League games this season for Radio WM, and in none of them have Wolves had as many headaches as they did against Brentford.
Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo ran the Wolves back three ragged that day, in a way that no other front line has – Manchester City ran up a huge tally of shots, but many of them were from miles out as the Wolves penalty area was almost impenetrable. Brentford’s confidence and spirit was admirable and left me convinced they had more than enough ability to stick around in the Premier League.
Q – Who are the key men in the Wolves side for Brentford fans to watch out for?
A – Daniel Podence has been their most influential forward player in recent times. He took a long time to flourish at Wolves, with his progress hindered by the form of others, the interruption to football in March 2020, and injuries. Over the last few weeks he has at last become a regular starter again, and prompted much of Wolves’ brightest attacking work. His diminutive size can all too easily lead to him being typecast, but there really is something sparky and impish about Podence, and he adds personality as well as technical skill to the Wolves team.
Joao Moutinho is among the finer players of the last generation in European football and still worth studying closely; and Ruben Neves may yet earn the same status in the next generation. As mentioned above, Max Kilman, a non-league player just over three years ago, has flourished alongside Conor Coady and will surely join him in the England squad soon.
And Adama Traore is the ultimate wild card – his explosive power and pace are without parallel in the Premier League, but in the last year they have so rarely been converted into anything that actually counts. On his day…
Q – Any particular past meetings between the sides stand out in your memory?
A – Wolves have had some major highs and lows on visits to Brentford in recent years. Michael Jacobs scored a couple in a big League One win in the season that saw both promoted; the following autumn Brentford gained handsome revenge.
Arguably, though, the game at Griffin Park in March 2017 that saw Wolves score twice in the closing minutes to win 2-1 is the most important recent meeting between the two. At that time, Wolves were in serious peril of dropping back to League One, within a year of the Fosun takeover, and had they lost, the outlook would have been dark.
Four days later they won at promotion-chasing Fulham; three months later they appointed Nuno, and signed Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota.
Q – How much did you enjoy your first trip to the Brentford Community Stadium for the Bees-Villa game – result apart of course?
A – I thought it was an excellent facility, and I must say the welcome from all the Brentford officials and stewards was friendly and efficient.
I couldn’t help wondering, if Brentford had known all along that they would be a Premier League club when they moved into the stadium, whether they would have explored making it bigger; then I looked at how tightly it fits into the surrounding area, and wondered if that would even have been possible anyway.
And, even though it’s a new site, in the best traditions of all the times I visited Griffin Park, I still got slightly lost arriving, and slightly lost going home again, as I no doubt will on Saturday!
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Wolves line-up and formation please?
A – (3-4-3)
Kilman, Coady, Toti Gomes;
Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Ait-Nouri;
Trincao (or Traore), Jimenez, Podence
(Toti Gomes was the unexpected replacement for Saiss, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations. He signed for Wolves 18 months ago and has been on loan at Grasshoppers Zurich throughout, until a couple of weeks ago.)
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 Digital.
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 Jonathan Douglas.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Wolves 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
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
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.