Aston Villa preview and pubs: Rare visitors return to Griffin Park
Aston Villa have been very rare visitors to Griffin Park over the years – so rare in fact that Tuesday’s match is only their fourth league game in TW8 and their first for one day short of 70 years.
It is also their first in any competition since 1953.
Our full record against Villa is later in this piece but one fact that stands out is that we have never beaten them in nine league and cup meetings.
We have drawn three of those encounters, including our trip to Villa Park in September which is one of 12 league draws in 27 games for Villa this season – the highest total in the Championship.
Steve Bruce’s side are in their first season outside the top flight since 1988 and those dropped points have hit their hopes of promotion, especially as their total of seven defeats is the second lowest in the Championship – with only Brighton (three) having been beaten fewer times.
Villa are also the only team in the division still unbeaten at home.
Don’t expect a goal feast on Tuesday as Villa’s 14 away games seem to have been tight affairs with a total of 22 goals scored between them and their opponents.
Villa’s seven make them the division’s lowest away scorers but the 15 they have conceded is the Championship’s joint fifth best record.
Bruce is their second manager of the season with Roberto Di Matteo, appointed in the summer, only lasting 12 games.
And Bruce has been extremely busy in the transfer market, bringing in five new players this month, including Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane.
Also arriving have been Hourihane’s Oakwell colleague and right-back James Bree, another Championship captain in Nottingham Forest’s Henri Lansbury, Iceland international midfielder Birkir Bjarnason from FC Basel and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone on loan from Manchester United.
There could be more new faces by the time the teams come out of the tunnel on Tuesday as Villa have also been linked to a move for former Bees loan striker Jordan Rhodes, currently at Middlesbrough, and Bury defender Jacob Bedeau.
Villa have a rich history in the game.
They were one of the 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888 and have won the title seven times, the FA Cup seven times, five League Cups and of course were crowned European champions in 1982.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Steve Bruce took charge of Aston Villa in October, the eighth different club he has managed.
The former Manchester United captain has taken charge of more than 800 games in stints with Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan (two spells), Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Sunderland and Hull.
He has won promotion to the Premier League four times – twice with Birmingham and twice with Hull, who he also led to the FA Cup final.
As a player, he spent most of his career with United, winning three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and a Cup Winners’ Cup, while he also spent time with Gillingham, Norwich, Birmingham and Sheffield United.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
As mentioned earlier, Brentford have never beaten Aston Villa.
In nine previous meetings, seven in league games, we have drawn three times and lost the rest.
The most recent of those draws, in the sides’ first league meeting since 1947, came at Villa Park in September when John Egan’s last-gasp effort cancelled out Jonathan Kodija’s first half strike to earn us a point.
Our first-ever meeting came at Griffin Park in our debut season in the old First Division (pictured below).
A full list of our results:
1935/36 – Division One – Bees 1-2 Villa, Villa 2-2 Bees
1938/39 – Division One – Villa 5-0 Bees, Bees 2-4 Villa
1946/47 – Division One – Villa 5-2 Bees, Bees 0-2 Villa (Exactly 70 years ago on Wednesday)
1952/53 – FA Cup fourth round – Villa 0-0 Bees (Exactly 64 years ago on Tuesday), Bees 1-2 Villa
2016/17 – Championship – Villa 1-1 Bees
BBC WM Sport’s Mark Regan looks at Villa’s campaign, explains why he has a soft spot for Dean Smith and reveals which Brentford player Villa fans wanted to sign after our game in the Midlands in September.
Q – How would you assess Villa’s season so far – as expected, better than expected or worse than expected?
A – So far this season has been one of unfulfilled potential for Aston Villa. It all began with new owners, a new manager and a host of new signings that it was hoped would shed the skin of seasons past. But under Di Matteo they were guilty of letting leads and points slip through their fingers by conceding late goals. If they’d have found a way of holding on they would be far better off than they are now.
But then came the change of manager and there’s no doubt in my mind they have a man that can take them back to the Premier League, the question is can he make up for lost ground to do it this season? It looks a big ask, but not an impossible one.
Q – Is the minimum expectation the play-offs or would fans settle for missing out this season?
A – I think there`s a certain level of acceptance that this season from here may be a bridge too far. But at the same time there`s a hope that new faces and a “run” of games that feature back-to-back wins could make it an exciting second half of the season.
If Villa aren’t in the mix many will look back on the start to the season and those dropped points. But they should be in a position to mount a challenge next season – the context to that though is that for a club like Villa every season that’s outside of the top flight means there’s more ground to catch up when they do get back there, so the sooner the better!
Q – What impact has Steve Bruce’s arrival had on the team?
A – Steve Bruce has brought some football “common sense” to Villa. He won’t stand any messing around (as has been shown with the Ross McCormack episode) but he also knows what it takes to be successful in the Championship and is starting to get his players in to make improvements with the hope of still mounting a challenge this term.
The best that Villa have played was the first half at home to Preston last time out, the team looked balanced and threatening…sadly it didn’t last for the full 90. That has been a frustration for Villa this season – the 90-minute performance hasn’t appeared, that’s a challenge that Steve Bruce is still working on.
Q – What are your memories of this season’s Villa-Bees game at Villa Park – were there any unusual incidents or anything out of the ordinary happen?
A – The game at Villa Park was another of those “what if” games where they took the lead and looked good only to fade as the game wore on and then conceded a late goal to drop points!! It was a familiar tale at that stage of the season.
Q – Have you worked at a game at Brentford before or been to Griffin Park as a spectator and if so what memories do you have?
A – I haven’t done too many games at Griffin Park, I was there when Birmingham City won 2-0 in September 2015. I remember how cold it was!! But I have many memories of dealing with Dean Smith during his time at Walsall.
He was always great to deal with and the kind of manager you want to see do well. He has a lot of friends up in the media community here in the Midlands thanks to the way he dealt with us and also the way he got his teams playing.
Q – Has the Ross McCormack gates/fence story had any impact on the rest of the squad or the club?
A – For Villa fans this sort of story is a regular thing. Over recent seasons there have been too many players that have made the wrong kind of headlines, so this latest instalment wasn’t so much of a shock – but still a disappointment. McCormack was one of those signing everyone greeted with a sense of anticipation, only for it to go wrong! He had scored goals everywhere else and yet found life very different at Villa for some reason.
The supporters were behind the manager – as I said earlier he won’t stand any messing around, whereas before there was the feel that some of the players were taking one or two liberties, not so under Mr Bruce. So the saga hasn’t dented things around Villa Park – in fact it’s shown the fans that the manager is in charge… there have been times at Villa that’s not been the case!!
Q – With Scott Hogan potentially off, which other Bees players will you be wary of?
A – Ryan Woods caught the eye at Villa Park – we had Villa fans calling our phone-in saying they should try and sign him!
Given the flurry of recent signings made by Villa, their side for Tuesday is hard to call.
They played a 4-2-3-1 formation in their last game against Preston two Saturdays ago.
January signing Sam Johnstone continued in goal behind a back line of former trainee Nathan Baker at right-back, Jordan Amavi (ex-Nice) at left-back and former Scotland international Alan Hutton (ex-Spurs) and Wales international and captain James Chester (ex-West Brom), who has only missed one league match all season, in central defence.
In front of the back four were debutant Henri Lansbury and another homegrown player Andre Green, with another former trainee Jack Grealish forming part of an attacking trio with Ashley Westwood (ex-Crewe) and Ghana international Albert Adomah (ex-Middlesbrough).
Long-serving former England international Gabriel Agbonlahor played the lone striker’s role.
The substitutes were goalkeeper Mark Bunn (ex-Norwich), defenders Micah Richards (ex-Manchester City and England), Tommy Elphick (ex-Bournemouth) and Curacao international Leandro Bacuna (ex-Groningen), midfielders Aaron Tshibola, who has been linked with a move away from the club, and ex-trainee Gary Gardner and young striker Keinan Davis.
Australia captain and midfielder Mile Jedinak (ex-Crystal Palace) missed out because of injury, while top scorer Jonathan Kodjia (ex-Bristol City) and fellow striker Jordan Ayew (ex-Marseille) were both away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Kodija’s Ivory Coast are out so he could return on Tuesday, trying to add to the goal he scored against us at Villa Park, but Ayew scored one of the goals that took Ghana into Thursday’s semi-finals so will still be missing.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Villa fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
There are now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
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 is the other option.
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) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & 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 (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out Transport for London’s travel guide here.