Eriksen returns on ‘landmark day’

Christian Eriksen, Brentford, Newcastle United
Christian Eriksen came off the bench seven minutes into the second half of Brentford’s 2-0 defeat at home to Newcastle

The emotion was tangible as Christian Eriksen walked on to complete one of sport’s most remarkable comeback stories 52 minutes into Brentford’s meeting with Newcastle United.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank had promised Eriksen would see action here 259 days after he suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark against Finland at Euro 2020 in June.

The day so many had waited for did not quite go to plan, when Brentford went down to 10 men early on in the game and eventually lost 2-0.

However, although the timing was not ideal with the Bees already 2-0 down, Eriksen’s arrival on the pitch was something that rose above sport.

Brentford’s fans had celebrated every moment of Eriksen’s presence, from when he ran out to warm up at 14.21, to when he did a brisk trot down the touchline during the first half and then when he received his final instructions from Frank’s coaching staff.

As he entered the action, the whole stadium rose in recognition, in joyous delight, to see this most classy of players and personalities restored to full health and doing what he loves. Something that seemed a distant prospect on that dark day in Copenhagen on 12 June.

There was symmetry, too, as the player he replaced was fellow countryman Mathias Jensen, the man who took his place on the night the action resumed between Denmark and Finland in June.

Newcastle’s fans, in high spirits as their side dominated, generously joined in the standing ovation. Ryan Fraser touched Eriksen’s hand while Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton joined the applause.

A landmark day despite defeat

In the football context, this was a grim day for Brentford as this latest loss made it eight games without a win and saw relegation fears increase. The bigger picture was that this was a great day to see Eriksen back – and showing he may be a vital addition in the closing tense weeks of the season.

Brentford supporters are rejoicing in having Eriksen among them, one young fan taking the microphone before the game to announce he would inspire them to a 6-0 win.

It was wide of the mark but this was still a landmark day for Eriksen and all those who have been at his side through harrowing times, many of whom were here at Brentford to witness the moment.

Eriksen was the predictable cover star of Brentford’s match-day programme, reliving his ordeal saying: “I remember it all. Except those minutes I was in heaven.”

Christian Eriksen, Brentford, Newcastle United
Christian Eriksen was the cover star of Brentford’s match-day programme.

I have admitted I was “gone from this world for five minutes” but was now back playing after being fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), which can reset the heart after a cardiac arrest.

And Eriksen was back showing plenty of quality and promise, with those trademark touches of class in 38 minutes which contained 24 passes, 13 on target for a 54.2% accuracy rate.

Eriksen’s early contributions were, understandably, a little uncertain and betrayed the rustiness but the fact he was cruising around midfield lifted the mood in a subdued stadium, another factor that will make him such a valuable commodity as Brentford seek the results that are currently eluding them. .

He will carry a heavy weight of responsibility and expectation but Eriksen is good enough to shoulder those aspirations rather than shy away from them.

The game was as good as gone when he came on but he was instantly demanding the ball, showing his full range of short and long passing.

‘I’m one happy man’

There was a moment of vintage Eriksen late on when a left-foot volley created an opening for Ivan Toney and another raking ball in behind Newcastle’s defense hinted at the creative point of difference he will offer.

Eriksen made a modest walk of acknowledgment around the pitch after the final whistle, with Brentford’s fans setting aside their disappointment to give him another warm reception.

He said afterwards: “If you take away the result. I’m one happy man. To go through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling.

“Thomas didn’t say much [when I came on]. I’ve been speaking to him every day for the last few weeks. He just said good luck and enjoy the game.

“You can never predict the game. I don’t think anyone predicted we’d be down to 10 men so early. The guys did what they could. It was a good fight in the end.

“It’s been very special since day one. [Brentford] have taken good care of me. Everyone’s been really happy about it and everyone’s been really helpful.

“Everyone is here. My family, my parents, my kids, my mother-in-law and some doctors who have been helping me back and forth. What they’ve been through is even tougher than what I’ve been through.”

Christian Eriksen, Brentford, Newcastle United
Eriksen shakes the hand of Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe at full time

“I think for everyone in football, it was a big moment,” added Bees manager Frank. “He got a big reception, from the Newcastle fans and all our fans, and it was big for Christian and his family from him. It was nice to see and hopefully now he can talk with his feet from him and speak only about football.

“I’ve been privileged to see him in training over the last three weeks, and you saw some glimpses of brilliance here, the balls in behind, some of the passing.

“I’m convinced 100 per cent he will help us going forward, He’s a top, top player and he’s going to add a lot of value to our team.”

It may have been a day when Brentford lost, when the worries that a season held so much promise lurched further into trouble, but Christian Eriksen out on the football pitch showing the ability that lit up so many games, even if it came in brief flashes, was a glorious feel-good story.

Now the inevitable attention on the debut of the man Frank claims could be the club’s greatest signing is over, Eriksen can get down to the main business of inspiring the sort of form that made the Bees such a refreshing addition to the Premier League in the early months of the season.

If he can do that, Eriksen will indeed be regarded as Brentford’s greatest purchase and this heart-warming story will have another remarkable chapter.

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