The last time Brentford were preparing to face Manchester United, there was one topic that dominated the agenda.
It was the middle of January and Christian Eriksen had been offered an unlikely return to football by Brentford after he had suffered a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark against Finland at last summer’s European Championship. The 30-year-old was a free agent after he left Inter Milan by mutual consent in December due to rules in Italy that prohibit people with a heart device from playing football professionally or at an amateur level.
Thomas Frank, who had coached Eriksen when he was in charge of Denmark’s under-17 side, decided to give him a ring over Christmas to talk about the possibility of playing in the Premier League again. When the midfielder picked up the phone, he confessed he had considered calling Frank — it seemed like fate had intervened.
Yet during that press conference in January, Brentford’s head coach tried to quash the rumours. “This is a player that only plays for the top clubs,” Frank said. “Something unfortunate happened to Christian and now things changed a bit. He deserves to play at the highest level and I hope he will. Under normal circumstances there would be no rumours with a club like us. I guess we should be flattered that there are rumours with a player of his qualities.”
However, this was an unusual situation. After further discussions with Frank, Eriksen decided to join Brentford but, due to the complex medical tests and checks they carried out to ensure he could play football safely, the deal was not announced until 8am on deadline day. At an event hosted by the University of West London on Wednesday, Phil Giles, the club’s director of football, spoke about how the Denmark international immediately pushed their global profile onto another scale.
Despite the goodwill around his move, nobody knew what to expect from Eriksen. The midfielder said he had “no anxiety” about playing football again and that his body was building up with excitement ahead of his Brentford debut. He eventually made his first appearance since that traumatic day at the Parken Stadium as a substitute for Brentford in their 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United on February 26. Supporters had to wait patiently for a glimpse of their superstar, but it was more than worth the wait.
Over the last few months, Eriksen has played a crucial role in helping Brentford move away from the relegation zone as they have won five of the six matches he has started, including a superb 4-1 victory at the home of their West London rivals Chelsea. Yet his influence runs much deeper than that. For a club that was playing in League Two as recently as 2009, the 30-year-old Serie A title-winner has been a joy to behold — and nobody is taking that for granted.
The Athletic invited Brentford fans to share what it means to watch Eriksen play for them.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) April 24, 2022
Gemma Teale, LGBeeTs
Like most Brentford fans I laughed when I heard the first rumours about Eriksen joining us. I thought it was just a joke based on our strong Danish connections. When it actually happened, it was incredible seeing Brentford everywhere in the news — even more so than when we were promoted.
I was sceptical at first about having a superstar in the squad, especially for such a short time and with an eye on a move straight away, but the way he has settled in with the others and his performances have more than proved that it’s been a good thing for us and for him.
Eriksen’s quality was never in doubt. His positive impact on the rest of the squad has been evident from our change in form and their performances, but his arrival has also shown what we were lacking in our lull: creativity. He has provided and inspired that in spades.
This team has been a pleasure to watch many times this season, especially with Eriksen in it. I would love to see what this group can achieve with a whole season together — I’m hoping Christian feels the same! Whatever happens at the end of the season though, it’s been fantastic fun seeing him play for us, and an absolute privilege to be part of his incredible journey back to form.
Ali Mullaley, #HerGameToo ambassador for Brentford
I’ve always had a soft spot for Christian Eriksen. He was one of those players who made playing football look easy — seeming to always have time on the ball, a sublime range of passing and the ability to make set pieces undefendable. Never did I imagine I would one day get to watch him in a Brentford shirt, but those near-tragic events of June 12 2021 changed that.
We’ve had some wonderfully skilful players at Brentford over the years and we have some fantastic (and hugely underrated) players now, like Rico Henry and Christian Norgaard, but it’s safe to say Christian Eriksen is our first truly world-class player. His ability to make a pass that other players don’t see, or aren’t brave enough to make, is astonishing and something you only truly appreciate when you see it in person.
He is deceptively quick — not many players keep up with Bryan (Mbeumo) in full flight as he did for his goal against Chelsea. His ability to plant a dead ball in exactly the right place is something we have not really seen at Brentford before — although Sam Saunders may want to argue that point! Pontus (Jansson) would have been hard pushed not to score that header against Watford, the ball was that good.
So many of our players have benefited from him being in the team, too. Ivan Toney has been given more freedom in the box to score rather than having to go deep hunting for the ball, while Vitaly Janelt has gone back to being the box-to-box midfielder he is best suited to.
Brentford are playing joyful, expressive football again because Eriksen lifts them and makes them believe they have an absolute right to be in the Premier League. If and when he does leave, this may well be his greatest legacy.
Watching Eriksen play for Brentford is like a joyful, intense summer fling — you desperately hope it will last, even though you know it probably won’t, and it leaves you with the most wonderful, lifelong memories.
I am immensely proud that we will always be part of his incredible journey from that awful day at Parken.
Natalie and Woody O’Rourke
I do not know if you are familiar with the film ET, but to me this is how it feels. Christian Eriksen chose us, the Brentford family, and of course Thomas Frank.
Now the whole world wants him.
I feel like Christian needed us as much as we needed him; he needed somewhere welcoming with team-mates he knew well and a manager he could trust. At the time, Christian had a certain vulnerability and we were overjoyed to welcome him and wrap our arms around him. Christian believed in us and we believed in him.
Christian has lifted us so much as a team and as a fanbase. It is amazing to see all our Bees playing with such confidence. From the stands, it looks as though Christian has lifted every single player.
I feel that many people are forgetting what Christian and his family went through — he is the epitome of resilience. He is a human being, part of a family and more than a footballer. I truly hope he chooses to stay with us where he is valued, appreciated and will be forever looked after.
The fact that he makes time for fans with additional needs just speaks volumes for the person that he is. Christian has so much weight of responsibility to carry with the whole world watching him but he still makes time for others. We have been so fortunate to watch him play and whatever he chooses I hope he stays healthy forever.
Jonathan Burchill, author of A Pub On Each Corner: Stats and Facts from Griffin Park
In 45 years of watching Brentford, players come and go. We have had some well-known players, but often at the start or end of their careers.
The signing of Christian Eriksen has been something different. Little over a year ago he was at Inter Milan and was the potential star for Denmark at the European Championship. Even though Brentford had been promoted to the Premier League through the play-offs, players of his class seemed way out of our league on the pitch, both in terms of his salary and his transfer fee!
Fast forward through the well-told story that brought him to the Bees and it has been simply amazing to watch him. He is one of those players who seems to have so much time on the ball and the vision to make one of his trademark pinpoint passes. He also seems to be everywhere on the pitch! The ground he covered for his goal against Chelsea was stunning. He’s on the left, then the right, then defending — he’s a great role model and the players around him seem to have gone up a level too.
If we only see him in a Brentford shirt for just another four games he has been an absolute joy to watch — and could be a contender to be in our Hall of Fame already.
Natalie Sawyer, broadcaster and lifelong Brentford fan
May 29 2021 is a date that will live long in the memory for us Brentford fans. Making the impossible possible by reaching the Premier League and making global headlines. Fast forward to January 31 2022 and those global headlines were back as the club signed Christian Eriksen. Christian Eriksen!
It has been another moment in our Premier League history that I just can’t fathom. Seeing Eriksen in our red and white, being the creator we expected him to be and helping us tick is incredible. He has brought such an uplift to a team that already was tight-knit. He’s helped to add some sparkle, so how can we not smile right now as Bees fans?
Eriksen’s signing has been the cherry on the cake during a whirlwind season that has stardust sprinkled all over it. I just hope we can keep hold of him to continue our journey in the Premier League.
Without doubt Christian Eriksen is the best player I have ever seen wear a Brentford shirt. When he first came in, after what had happened in the summer, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how good he’d be for us. I always had faith he could have a big impact, but never to the point where we can go into the last four games of the season without any worry of a relegation battle, knowing we will be watching Premier League football again next season.
Eriksen has not only been brilliant himself, but he makes everyone else around him better. Of the six games he’s started we have won five, and are unbeaten, which is quite remarkable considering at the time of his first start we had not won in the league for over two months, and had one point in our previous eight games.
Every time I watch him play he makes everything look so easy, to the point where passes that a few months ago would’ve seemed extraordinary now just seem normal. While a lot of people look at his goal against Chelsea, or his assists in the wins over Burnley and Watford, the game that always stands out to me is West Ham. He completely controlled that game to the point where it almost seemed it was played at his own tempo. It was quite comfortably for me the most dominant performance from us all season, against a team that just days before had qualified for the Europa League semi-finals.
He’s a player that is a genuine joy to watch, and having watched Brentford in the lower leagues for so many years it is crazy to think that he plays for Brentford. Whether he stays or not in the summer, he’s a player that the fanbase will find very hard to forget about. I don’t think many would disagree he is the best ever to wear the Brentford shirt.
Paul Thompson, lifelong Brentford supporter
Johnny Brooks. Jimmy Bloomfield. Stan Bowles. Terry Hurlock. Steve Perryman. Many more.
We’ve had some excellent creative midfielders in my lifetime. But none comes close to Christian Eriksen for skill, application and impact. He has transformed a team, a crowd, a club. We were drifting slowly towards relegation. Player confidence seemed gone, the crowd muted, performances poor. Results worse.
To attract a player of his quality was incredible. Players around him visibly lifted. He has brought out the talents they have. The supporters re-energised. Opposition cowed by his presence. I’ve seen every minute of his appearances. Has he been fouled once? I can’t recall. Aura.
We are in the Premier League. We are playing like a Premier League team. We are not scrapping for results. Our one season in the Premier League will be two — or more. We are taken seriously by opposition. Above all, Eriksen has exemplified what the club is now: modest but ambitious. Successful. And thoroughly enjoyable to be part of.
Billy Grant, co-editor of the Beesotted podcast and blog
I remember my late next door neighbour Mike proudly taking me to see Tottenham play a European team at White Hart Lane. I don’t remember much of the game but what I do recall was asking Mike ‘Who is that guy there. He’s pretty good’. It was Christian Eriksen.
He ran the show that day and scored a goal. Never in a million years did I think that the Dane would be pulling on a Brentford shirt less than a decade later.
When the rumours of Eriksen were circling, I refused to get too excited. It was part self-protection. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then be let down when he decided to go off to Man United or return to Tottenham. But also, it was lodged in the back of my head that players like Eriksen don’t come to Brentford.
As it goes, the Danish connection in TW8 weaved its magic — luring Eriksen to live in Kew. For Brentford fans, this was yet another wonderful episode in a magical story. A story where the final chapter is a lot less obvious than was thought nine months ago.
Eriksen is a class act. But I also believe that he is the perfect fit for Brentford. The Bees have given him room for him to make mistakes without him being lambasted and this has helped him raise his game. A big fish in a relatively small pond, he is able to run the show at Brentford, bringing his very talented team-mates into the game.
His ease on the ball coupled with his ability to pick out a pass has teams clambering for his signature at the end of the season. But whatever happens, this is a win-win for Brentford. If Eriksen signs, we have another season with a world class player at the heartbeat of our team.
And if he doesn’t sign, Brentford now know exactly the type of player we have to sign in the summer to maintain their position at the Premier League next level.
(Top image: Tom Slator/Getty Images)