Thomas Frank ‘can’t wait’ to get fans back as Brentford host QPR in final game behind closed doors

Malik Ouzia
·4-min read
<p>Thomas Frank is eagerly anticipating the return of fans to Brentford</p> (Getty Images)

Thomas Frank is eagerly anticipating the return of fans to Brentford

(Getty Images)

When Brentford beat QPR in the final west London derby at Griffin Park back in January, this writer suggested that it might be their last meeting anywhere for some time.

That prediction proved wide of the mark; of all the things that have changed in the ten months since, the Bees’ Championship status is not one of them.

But as Thomas Frank’s side prepare to welcome the Rs to the Brentford Community Stadium for the first time, there is another optimistic “last” to attach to the fixture, with the game likely to be the final one played at the new ground before 2,000 lucky fans return for next weekend’s meeting with Blackburn Rovers.

“We can't wait to get the fans back in,” manager Frank said on Thursday, shortly after it was confirmed that London would fall within Tier 2 of the Government’s new coronavirus restrictions when the national lockdown lifts next week.

“We need to take it one step at a time but to be allowed to get 2,000 fans back is fantastic. I think [CEO] Jon Varney and his staff are going to have a good challenge to choose who is going to be the 2,000 but just like everything in life, we need to be patient and their time and turn will come.”

Brentford have yet to play a match at their new home with fans in attendanceGetty Images
Brentford have yet to play a match at their new home with fans in attendanceGetty Images

Debate has already begun over the fairness of allowing some clubs to have 2,000 supporters in attendance while those in Tier 3 regions are stuck playing behind closed doors (none of the three Tier 1 areas, where up to 4,000 fans would be allowed, have a professional football club).

Such protestations were never likely to strike a chord with Frank, a man in charge of a club that had the third-lowest average attendance in the division last season while they played in a stadium three times smaller than that of some of their traditionally larger rivals.

“It can be an advantage and can help us, but I don't think 2,000 or 4,000 fans can move the needle on whether we're going to win the game or not,” he said.

“A full crowd, yes, we all know that's massively important, but 2,000 or 4,000? I think people should start worrying about something else. We have a world pandemic and the leaders of this country are going to take some very tough decisions. Start worrying about something else in the world.”

In a week in which football finally began to see light at the end of the tunnel, it has also bid a sad farewell to one of its greats, Diego Maradona. Frank was a 12-year-old boy watching on television in his native Denmark as the Argentine genius lit up the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

“The World Cup in '86 was my first big tournament where I really watched everything and of course Diego was amazing,” he said. “The two goals he scored against Belgium in that World Cup semi-final are unbelievable, I think they're better than maybe the one against England - the good one, not the handball!

“He was unique and the way he did things for Napoli [was] just unbelievable. He carried one city and one club on his shoulders and made sure they became proud people.

“We all know that he was a boy from the street and unfortunately that was maybe also part of why he didn't live a longer life but let me put it this way: he definitely enjoyed the 60 years he lived and maybe that's the way to live your life."

Frank was also critical of The Daily Star, whose front page report of Maradona’s death led with the headline ‘Where was VAR when we needed it most?’, accompanied by a picture of the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final.

He said: “All of us who love football, he gave us some joy, some crazy moments that we will never forget, and I think we need to honour that.

“Respect the man. Yes, there was a handball and all that, but today is a day to honour and hear all sides, the black side and the white side, but we need to remember all sides.”

When it came to suggesting a more fitting tribute, the Bees boss was on the same page as Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis, who wants the club’s Stadio San Paolo renamed in Maradona’s honour.

“Either name the stadium after him or the city,” Frank added. “They can choose.”

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