Brentford host Millwall on Saturday in the SkyBet Championship, and the game will see bees fans’ favourite Tony Craig return to Griffin Park for the first time since his move back to The Den in 2015.
Craig spent three seasons at Brentford making over a hundred appearances for the bees, helping the bees win promotion from League One and reach the Championship playoffs in their inaugural season back in the second tier.
Signing from Millwall in the summer of 2012, Craig’s first season at Griffin Park saw him set a personal record for the most appearances he has made in a season, turning out fifty-five times for the bees in all competitions. One of Craig’s most memorable moments for Brentford came during the penalty shootout victory over Swindon Town in the League One playoff semi-final at the end of that season. Craig calmly placed his spot-kick into the top left corner, before immersing himself in a Stuart Pearce-esque celebration in front of Brentford’s Ealing Road terrace.
Brentford went on to lose to Yeovil Town in the final, but the next season saw the West London outfit promoted to the second tier for the first time in twenty-one years, with Craig wearing the armband for most of the campaign in the absence of captain Kevin O’Connor. A stand out moment for him that season was his 5 vs 1 defending heroics when Brentford beat Oldham 1-0, in Mark Warburton’s first game as manager. Faced on his own against five Athletic attackers, Craig miraculously managed to fend off the attack and prevent the bees from conceding.
During the 2-1 victory over Gillingham in January 2014, despite breaking two bones in his hand, Craig remained on the pitch until the final whistle. He refused to let it sideline him and played with his hand in a cast while it recovered.
Craig’s final season at Griffin Park saw Brentford defy the odds and finish fifth in their first season in the Championship. The remarkable campaign ended with a defeat to Middlesbrough in the playoffs, and Craig returned to his boyhood club, Millwall, in the summer.
Such was the mutual affection between Craig and Brentford, when Millwall rewarded his services to the club with a testimonial match in 2016, it was Brentford who were chosen as opponents.
Craig told the Daily Mail: “To share that day with Brentford is that little bit extra special. I have got nothing but good words to say about the club. It was a very successful time, and my aim when I signed for them was to get them into the Championship. I’m grateful I could fulfil that.”
After helping the Lions to promotion, Craig has struggled for appearances this season, having only played twice so far in the League Cup. However, he may find himself in contention for more opportunities now as defender Byron Webster is expected to miss most of the season after rupturing a cruciate ligament.