How Fulham-Brentford Evolved Into One of the Most Heated Derbies in West London

In what has recently reignited into a fierce rivalry, we take a look at the evolution of Fulham vs. Brentford over the years. 

Arsenal vs. Tottenham and West Ham vs. Millwall are just two of the decade-long rivalries between London clubs that have enthralled supporters for years. Fulham vs. Brentford can be now added to the list of must-see derbies on offer in the nation’s capital.

Despite the clubs sitting just a few miles apart and having similar sized followings, the rivalry between them has been a slow burner, mostly because the two sides often haven’t been in the same league. Since the 2000-01 season, the two clubs have played together just six times: from 2014-20 in the Championship, and this season in the Premier League.

Fulham had London clubs like Chelsea and Queen’s Park Rangers to contend with, but as they have recently brushed shoulders more often with Brentford, that rivalry has begun to heat up.

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So when did the Fulham-Brentford derby begin and why is the rivalry so strong now? Between 1920 and 1950, the two teams were often matched together in various leagues. These games drew huge crowds and there was often tension on and off the pitch between the West London clubs. Then followed decades of separation as Fulham competed at a higher level until the 1980s and 1990s, where the two teams re-ignited their feud in the lower leagues.

With Fulham’s subsequent promotion to the Premier League in 2001 and Brentford struggling in leagues below, the contest between the clubs entered another hiatus. This passionate derby would be dramatically revived with Fulham’s relegation back into the Championship in 2014. Brentford awaited them there and the intense battle between the two teams entered a dramatic phase as they competed against each other to gain promotion back into the Premier League. It is this gladiatorial fight to earn the right to play at the top level, and recoup the reward of the riches on offer that has solidified the derby’s importance for fans and entertained football lovers.

The 2019-20 playoff final between the two Championship titans sealed the rivalry in the public’s imagination and intensified the bragging rights between the supporters. Played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the battle to reach the Premier League was televised live from Wembley Stadium to millions of viewers.

The playoff final is named as the richest match in football with rewards of as much as £200 million on offer to the team who gains promotion. Pubs were packed with supporters from all over West London to see who would come out on top. A cagey match was finally decided by a heroic brace from Joe Bryan of Fulham to seal a 2-1 victory.

Fulham gloated and Brentford licked their wounds as the loss was their second playoff defeat in six Championship seasons. For Brentford fans however, the tide was beginning to turn in their favor. In the 2020-21 playoff final, Brentford won promotion by beating Swansea 2-0, a moment made even sweeter by Fulham’s subsequent relegation. The Bees would enter the top flight for the first time in 74 years, and they’d pass their rekindled rivals on the way up.

The only disappointment for the Fulham-Brentford derby was another season where the fans had lost the opportunity to feel agony or ecstasy over their team’s titanic tussles. With Fulham’s promotion back to the Premier League after 2021-22, the competition between the two clubs has reached its most exciting phase. Both sets of fans have enjoyed amazingly entertaining and highly competitive games at both Craven Cottage and Brentford’s new Gtech Community Stadium.

In the last six games between them they have both celebrated three wins apiece with no draws, which signals the tight nature of this rivalry. The games have been keenly fought and because they have been high scoring affairs, they have produced compelling entertainment.

The three games leading up to last month’s encounter at Craven Cottage were all 3-2, with this score line finally being broken by the Bees’ impressive 3-0 win away from home. The Brentford away fans singing “Fulham get battered everywhere they go” in the Cottagers’ backyard after the win only intensified the animosity in West London.

As things currently stand, Fulham and Brentford sit ninth and 10th respectively in the EPL table, both right where they expect to be.

The close proximity of the London rivals in both physical distance and standings in the Premier League adds spice to the growing derby drama unfolding before our eyes. Fulham will be looking for revenge in their away game at Brentford, and with both teams still in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, they might meet each other yet another time.

Fulham vs. Brentford has been added to the lexicon of London derbies that add excitement to not only the capital, but to lovers of football everywhere.

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