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First Team

Brooks hopes Bees fans can make Cherries feel at home


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Playmaker David Brooks is hoping Brentford fans can be AFC Bournemouth’s 12th man.

Brooks supplied the assist for Arnaut Danjuma to give the Cherries a 1-0 lead to take into the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against the Bees.

His sublime pass picked out the Netherlands international who applied a typically-clinical finish to bring up his 16th goal of the season ten minutes into the second half.

Danjuma’s goal was cheered by around 2,000 home supporters with spectators returning to Vitality Stadium on the day Covid-19 restrictions were eased.

The Brentford Community Stadium is expected to welcome more than 4,000 home fans for Saturday’s second leg and Bees head coach Thomas Frank has urged them to create a “hostile environment”.

However, having revelled in front of supporters this season, Brooks, who scored once and assisted three times in wins against Huddersfield, Wycombe and Brentford, is relishing playing in front of a crowd.

He told afcb.co.uk: “If you gave any footballer the option to play in front of 4,000 away fans or no fans at all, they would always pick the 4,000.

“It’s better to play in front of a home crowd but it will give us extra motivation to try to put a spoiler on their party, try to get through to the final and try to get back to the Premier League.

“Seeing fans in the stadium on Monday, it was completely different. We may have lacked a bit of intensity in parts of the season and a crowd just seem to motivate you.

“I think we should have been a lot higher in the league and played a lot better throughout the season.

“When you play in front of an empty stadium, you can get drawn into that friendly feeling and it’s not good for performances.

“It doesn’t matter if they are home or away fans, they are fans in the stadium and they give you that extra lift, especially when you’re at home.

“It gives you that extra boost so it was fantastic to see the crowd there and I thought we put in a really good performance and everyone was right at it.”

Brooks was also delighted to see his Wales team-mate Chris Mepham play an important role as the Cherries kept a clean sheet against the Championship’s top goalscorers.

Mepham, who joined the Cherries from Brentford in January 2019, replaced Steve Cook on the stroke of half-time and played his part as the hosts prevented Ivan Toney adding to his tally of 31 goals for the season.

The defender, who started 17 of the Cherries’ first 18 league games this season before injury robbed him of his place, received a round of applause from his team-mates in the dressing room following the final whistle.

Brooks said: “Since the new gaffer came in, he hasn’t really played as much as he would have wanted. He has had to be patient and wait for his opportunity to come back round.

“It was a tough game to come into, especially considering we lost twice to them during the season so to come on and put in a performance like that was a credit to him.

“When you put in a performance like he did and get the recognition from all the lads, I think it will do his confidence the world of good.

“He needs to take that confidence and what we know he can do into the second leg and try to help us progress.

“He’s a very talented centre-half and you only have to look where he’s played. He’s played for Wales and he’s played for Bournemouth in the Premier League. He is a very good player.

“When you lose your captain and leader on the pitch, it’s not an easy thing to replace but Meps came in and did really well.

“Confidence plays a big factor in football and he has had to wait patiently for his chance to prove what he can do in the team. He did fantastically well and, hopefully, he can continue it.”

Brooks and Mepham will both be hoping to be named in the Wales squad for this summer’s European Championship, their group including Italy, Switzerland and Turkey.

Asked about the possibility of featuring in a Wembley double, with the delayed Euro 2020 final being staged at the venue six weeks after the Championship play-off final, Brooks replied: “I think reaching the final of the Euros would be a different task from reaching the play-off final!”

He added: “Going away with Wales would be fantastic and, hopefully, I can stay fit and manage to get in the squad.

“I just want to go and try to represent my country the best I can and, hopefully, we can have a run like the boys did last time (when they reached the semi-finals).

“Every footballer would tell you that they want to be involved in the biggest games possible and, domestically, they don’t come much bigger than the Championship play-off final.

“In terms of trying to get back to the Premier League, you would always want to win the league but these big games are what you thrive on. Everyone here wants to try to help get the club back to the Premier League and that’s what we will be trying to do.”

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