Shandon Baptiste’s first-ever Premier League goal could be the watershed moment his career – and Brentford – need

4 min

Despite conceding a gut-wrenching late goal against Leeds on Sunday, Shandon Baptiste’s man of the match display was one Thomas Frank and Brentford could look back on with immense encouragement. 

Featuring for just the 26th time since joining from Oxford United in January 2020, Baptiste’s performance at Elland Road provided a different dimension to a Brentford midfield that has lacked an attacking edge over the last few games. 

Not only did he score his first Premier League goal and Brentford’s equaliser but the 23-year-old followed that up with some excellent footwork in the build-up to Sergi Canos’ strike for the Bees’ second.

Up until Sunday it had been an indifferent start to the season for the Grenadian – handed his first Premier League start against Brighton, it was followed by a red card for a second bookable offence in the next game at Wolves.

Baptiste then returned for a brief, albeit impressive, cameo off the bench in the 3-3 thriller against Liverpool before being forced off with a dislocated shoulder against West Ham United after a promising opening display in East London.

It seems just when the plaudits are coming and the player is ready to see his Brentford career finally take off, another setback is around the corner.

Indeed, Baptiste’s performance against Leeds further underlined that myth as he was forced off with suspected cramp in the 69th minute – though not  having played since October 3rd means it was hardly a surprise.

Despite only being 23, Baptiste has incurred a handful of long-term injuries that have blighted his career so far since coming through the youth ranks at Reading.

A subsequent move to Oxford helped showcase his talent alongside current Brentford teammate Tariqe Fosu, impressing in his debut season before an ACL injury in January 2019 (coincidently against Brentford in the FA Cup), ruled him out for the remainder of the season. 

However, the following 2019/20 season once again saw Baptiste catch the eye as Oxford produced an historic Carabao Cup run that saw them reach the quarter-finals.

As Oxford’s most influential player, Baptiste’s highlight of the season saw him dominate the likes of Jack Wilshere and Pablo Fornals as the O’s recorded a memorable 4-0 Third Round win over Premier League outfit West Ham as well as getting on the scoresheet.

READ MORE: Injuries, first-half frustrations and four successive defeats – Brentford’s Premier League reality check

That run would end at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on a night the youngster captained the side and provided an assist in Oxford’s equaliser.

Oxford United commentator Simon Watts was lucky enough to witness a star in the making, describing Baptiste as an all-around complete central midfielder that could produce a killer pass or strike when needed. 

“He has a great ability to pick the ball up and run with it effortlessly,” Watts exclusively told London Football Scene.

“Whenever he had the ball, he always showed immense composure and aways looked dangerous when carrying the ball forward as well.

“Baptiste has everything a Premier League club would want in a modern-day midfielder. He’s got a really high ceiling and looked every bit a quality Premier League player while at Oxford that he could eventually show himself to be at Brentford now.”

Watts also mentioned the importance of Oxford boss Karl Robinson on Baptiste’s development –  a manager who was influential in Dele Alli’s progress while at MK Dons and Ademola Lookman at Charlton Athletic.

And Watts believes that if Baptiste remains free of injuries he could reach heights even higher than both Alli and Lookman.

“Karl Robinson really saw Baptiste right up there in the category that could produce at the top-flight of English Football,” Watts added.

“He saw him potentially, if free of injuries, being better than both Alli and Lookman – that’s how highly he rated him.” 

READ MORE: Bryan Mbeumo: Is the Brentford forward misfiring or just unlucky?

A meniscus tear in September 2020 saw Baptiste’s first full season with Brentford cruelly cut short before it had even started with the Bees going on to secure promotion via the Play-Offs in his absence.

But in the here and now, Sunday’s performance could be a watershed moment for the player at Brentford.

With Matias Jensen and Frank Onyeka struggling to stamp their authority in Frank’s midfield, Baptiste has a huge opportunity to partner Christian Norgaard and Vitaly Janelt in the centre of the park. 

And with Emiliano Marcondes leaving for Bournemouth in the summer and Josh Dasilva still out injured, Baptiste could fill the midfield attacking void that has seen Brentford struggle to create chances and goals.

Barring any further injuries or misfortune, Baptiste could be finally set to be unleashed as the supreme advanced midfielder Brentford are in desperate need of right now…

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