This embarrassing Newcastle United defeat is a thankfully a distant memory

Brentford are new to the Premier League, but Newcastle United aren’t new to the Brentford Community Stadium.

The 17,250-capacity stadium, built a stone’s throw from the now-demolished Griffin Park home, was the scene of an embarrassing Carabao Cup demolition job midway through last season.

It felt like the beginning of the end for Steve Bruce, even though the club’s head coach was to last another 10 months in the job.

Newcastle were 12th in the Premier League table at the time, and, amid dissent from fans at a series of below-par performances, Bruce named a strong team for the Carabao Cup quarter-final.

Promotion-chasing Thomas Frank, by contrast, made six changes and left former United striker Ivan Toney, his team’s talisman, on the bench.

Sadly, Newcastle were second-best in every department, and Brentford deservedly won 1-0 thanks to a Josh Dasilva strike to book a place in the last four.

Fortunately for Bruce, the game was played behind closed doors due to Covid-19, though less fortunately for him, it was broadcast live, and there were calls for him to go on social media after the final whistle.

The performance was shambolic, and didn’t bode well. As it was, Bruce’s side didn’t win again until late January.

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Isaac Hayden reacts to Newcastle United's Carabao Cup defeat to Brentford last season.

“I’m as frustrated, disappointed and bitterly upset as the huge following we have,” said Bruce, now in charge of Championship club West Bromwich Albion. “I have to accept what’s coming our way and be ready for the challenge of it and dust ourselves down for a busy Christmas period.”

Bruce was right. He and his players had to accept whatever was going to come their way.

Only he didn’t. At the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day, Bruce said: “We had a bad week, but some of the mass hysteria, in my opinion, was unfair. A lot of it was not right, in my opinion.”

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Fast forward to today, and Newcastle are preparing for their first Premier League fixture against Brentford on the back of another very good week. Frank could hand Christian Eriksen his debut.

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe applauds fans at the London Stadium on Saturday.

The team, without Callum Wilson, Kieran Trippier and Allan Saint-Maximin, took a point from Saturday’s visit to fifth-placed West Ham United thanks to an equaliser from Joe Willock.

United, now managed by Eddie Howe, are unbeaten in six games, and a win over Brentford – who have taken one point from their last six games – would take them above Frank’s 14th-placed side.

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Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Fraser and Joelinton were all involved in the cup defeat, so there should be no complacency in the visiting dressing room. They will know not to underestimate Frank’s team, despite the form table.

After the cup defeat, I wrote that Bruce was “losing it” at Newcastle. Bruce himself said: “I do think the players are playing for us. Maybe they’re just not playing well enough.”

Certainly, the players are playing for Howe right now.

There’s been an individual and collective improvement under Howe, whose first game in charge was against Brentford in November. That fixture ended 3-3.

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The team has a settled formation, a way of playing, and the players know their jobs.

As with Brentford last season, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as underlined by the team’s response to the loss of Wilson, Trippier and Saint-Maximin.

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