‘Europe would be great’: Rico Henry reveals Brentford are dreaming big amid their high-flying season in the Premier League… but warns they have to be better ahead of Fulham clash
- Brentford are ninth in the Premier League but have games in hand on some sides
- Their progress under Thomas Frank has been good since promotion in 2021
- Henry has urged Brentford to be even better ahead of their game versus Fulham
There ought to be some west London representation in Europe next season, even if Chelsea, the third-best team in the neighbourhood can’t make the cut.
Brentford and Fulham are currently on a trajectory to finish in the top seven, the two of them battling it out with Brighton as outsiders among the giant-sized clubs.
But speak to Rico Henry, Brentford’s left back who is pushing to make the England squad, and you get the impression that qualifying for Europe is the minimum standard expected for Brentford in just their second season in the Premier League. After all, a comfortable mid-table position would be so last year.
‘I don’t think there is a limit for Brentford,’ he says. ‘Europe would be great, that’s what we want to do and what we’re aiming for. Finishing mid table again is like: “Oh we’ve been there before.”
‘Definitely achieving Europe would be a great feeling for club, give us confidence and be a big achievement for us. That’s where we want to be.’
Rico Henry has revealed Brentford are targeting a European spot next season
The Bees are currently ninth in the Premier League but have games in hand on those above
It’s a grand statement for the club who were once famously goaded by their other west London rivals, QPR (currently 18th in The Championship), as being ‘just a bus top in Hounslow’ and have been lower league fodder for much of their history.
Yet they can back it up with results. Brentford haven’t lost in the Premier League since October, an unbeaten run of 11 games, though even that isn’t entirely satisfactory.
‘We want to cut out some of those draws’ says Henry. ‘At times we played well and should have won.’
The last time Brentford were enjoying this kind of success, the monarch had died and there was turmoil in the Royal Family at the behaviour of an heir to throne and consternation over his American wife: it was the 1935-36 season and King Edward VIII was about to abdicate having succeeded to the throne following the death of George V and Brentford finished fifth in the old Division One.
For Henry and others at Brentford there is maybe a theme, a rationale behind their progress aside from the obviously fine coaching of Thomas Frank and the inspired data-led leadership of owner Matthew Benham.
Manager Thomas Frank has taken the club to heights they could have only dreamed of
The squad’s togetherness has been a key factor to their success in recent years
So many of the squad were rejected early in life by major football clubs and yet have worked their way back and are now among the top performers in the Premier League.
Henry, who played for England Under-19 and Under-20s and is looking to step up to Gareth Southgate’s squad, is Birmingham-born and was an Aston Villa fan as a child, coming under the influence of his father.
‘Growing up, Dad was fan. Then I went on trial at Villa when I was about eight or nine, I didn’t get and my dad stopped supporting them. He was a fan but you not any more. He’s just a fan of me now.’ Villa said he was ‘too small.’
‘I went on trial to a few teams, Birmingham, West Bromwich Albion, who said that. Growing up, people wanted big players to attack the ball from corners. But as I grew up, it helped me be more physical and aggressive in challenges. And I was quick, quicker than most payers.
‘But players have late growth spurts, it happens. It helped me and I never looked back. It was definitely taking the hard route and there are others like that here, especially Ethan Pinnock, coming from non-league football, which is a crazy story. We’ve got that about us.’
For those with longer memories, Brentford have the spirit and defiance of the old Wimbledon Crazy Gang but with finesse and without the gamesmanship.
It was Walsall who picked him up and there he came under the mentorship of Dean Smith, who took him to Brentford. Even then, it wasn’t a smooth ascent, hip and knee injuries holding him back.
Henry was picked up by Walsall before joining Brentford under former manager Dean Smith
The club are unbeaten since October, a run of 11 games, but Henry has warned they have to be better if they want Europe
And, when Smith went to Villa and Frank came in, they had the disappointment of the extra-time defeat to tomorrow’s opponents Fulham in the Covid season Play-Off final of 2019-20.
‘The one thing about us is we never stop believing, we know what we can achieve. And even after losing the play off, everyone thought we wouldn’t bounce back and we’d be down. But the next season we bounced back.
‘We know what we can achieve and Europe is definitely at the back of our minds but we need to focus on our form and stay consistent.’
From a bus stop in Hounslow to the Eurosta, Gare de Nord and beyond: it sounds like the perfect finale for one of football’s modern fairy tales.
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