Former Middlesex Chronicle Brentford reporter, sports journalist and life-long Bees fan, Tim Street, is one of Beesotted’s great new signings. Look out for Tim’s weekly column, as well as a host of articles from other writers, on the Beesotted network over the coming weeks. Welcome aboard Tim.
It was so, so fitting that Brentford’s first ever Premier League goal was scored by Sergi Canos on Friday night.
Not only does the affable Spaniard wear the shirt with such boundless enthusiasm and so clearly love playing for the club, but for me, he also personifies the bridge between Brentford Old and Brentford New.
Indeed, his development as a player has progressed alongside Brentford’s as a club. Signed initially on loan from Liverpool in August 2015, Canos arrived at a difficult time for the Bees. The initial euphoria of a hugely successful first season in the Championship, in spite of Warburton-gate, had been wiped out as the team struggled under Marinus Dijkhuizen and a raft of new signings failed to bed in.
As the season progressed, Brentford first stabilised under Lee Carsley before Dean Smith, after a difficult start, continued the shoots of recovery. All through this, Canos started to feature more regularly and became a key figure in Smith’s side, even scoring Brentford’s Goal of the Season with a brilliant solo strike at Reading which promoted his now famous song ‘I want to knooooooooow how you scored that goal’.
So it was with some disappointment when Canos was snapped up by Norwich that summer. But while the youngster endured a frustrating six months at Carrow Road, Brentford continued to grow under Smith, and he made a welcome return to Griffin Park in January 2017 when he this time signed permanently, for a then club record of £2.5million. His return, along with that of Jota, injected new life into Smith’s side which had endured it’s struggles, but was beginning to evolve into the Brentford we know today.
A frustrating first full season as a Bee saw Canos beset by injury and a lack of form as he struggled to reproduce his impact as a loan player, his frustrations culminating in a first ever red card. But it wasn’t until midway through the following season that the tactical switch that would eventually breathe new life into his Brentford career came about, when new boss Thomas Frank countered a full-back injury crisis by deploying Canos at right wing-back.
The following season, Canos was back on the wing but suffered a serious knee injury just a few months in – although the delay to the season caused by the covid pandemic meant he was able to still play a part in Brentford’s run-in. Although the injury was a huge setback at the time, the Spaniard would later look back on it as a positive, helping improve his mental toughness.
That summer saw Brentford move to their new stadium, and Canos claimed the honour of scoring the first goal there during a pre-season friendly against Oxford – something he seemed hell bent on as he’d claimed and missed a penalty just before opening the scoring – and celebrated like it truly meant the world to him.
That summer also saw the departure of Said Benrahma to West Ham, and Canos thus became more prominent on the wing once more. But a failure to recapture past form, despite a brilliant hat-trick against Cardiff City, saw him targeted by a section of the fanbase frustrated by the Benrahma’s departure and Canos’ inability to live up to the Algerian’s silky wing play, like he perhaps once would have been able.
At this point, Canos was receiving a certain amount of stick on social media, which he has since admitted had a negative effect on him. One gets the impression that while some players would simply shrug off such criticism or be completely unaware of it, Canos is the sort who would read every single jibe and feel it like a dagger to the heart he wears so proudly on his sleeve for the Bees.
Towards the end of the season, however, Frank’s successful 5-3-2- experiment saw Canos return to the wing-back role with huge aplomb, as regular right-back Henrik Dalsgaard was used as a third centre-back. He was a vital cog in the Brentford side finally promoted to the Premier League, and you could see just how much it meant to him.
The smile that had once lit up a provincial train station as he videoed a sea of Brentford fans signing his name was back – and worn no bigger than when he opened the scoring against Arsenal.
Hands up time – I wondered whether Canos would have what it would take to be a Premier League wing-back, and was surprised such a player wasn’t brought in over the summer – but he dispelled such thoughts with a display of such maturity against the Gunners that was about so much more than just that goal.
Canos has matured, adapted and grown as a player, just like the Bees have during his time at the club. But it’s also lovely to see that his childlike enthusiasm has not been lost, evident when a wide-eyed Canos had to be guided off the pitch at half time by Ivan Toney on Friday, as he milked the moment for all it was worth.