CALL OF DUTY bonding sessions have skyrocketed Brentford’s Premier League dreams.
When the Bees clinched a £170m promotion to the top flight at Wembley last summer, it was a win for the little man.
And Rico Henry, Brentford’s longest-serving player, had every right to milk it.
When the 5ft 7in defender arrived from Walsall in 2016, just 10,000 went through the turnstiles at Griffin Park.
Now 17,000 fill their shiny new stadium just a few minutes’ walk away on Lionel Road – and they travel to European champions Chelsea today, just eight years after their League One days.
So far, game has not been over in what has been a troubled season for the struggling Bees, which left-back Henry attributes to a belief in the squad being built on post-training game sessions.
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The 24-year-old told SunSport: “There are a few wildcards in the group like Vitaly Janelt, Bryan Mbeumo and Ivan Toney.
“Everyone gets along well here, it’s a real family club. I’m close to the guys and we usually make sure we have Call of Duty sessions after practice so it feels like I’m with them and we’re together all the time.
“Bryan would say he’s the best at COD because he’s playing on PC, but I would say that myself. I’m fine, my KD [kill to death ratio] is two. Sometimes we also play Fifa.
“I knew from little things like that that with the unity of this team and faith, we would achieve great things.
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“We did that and now we’re playing in the Premier League week in and week out and it feels so good.”
It was impossible not to be delighted for the club as they played their first season in the top flight in three-quarters of a century.
There’s an undeniable sense of unity between the players, who, like any other friendship group, are discussing what Netflix shows they’ve binge-watched over breakfast are.
Henry added: “The guys told me to watch Drive to Survive but before that I was a Formula 1 fan.
“I have yet to watch it, I heard it’s really good and there’s a new season.
“I sort of got out of F1 because Lewis Hamilton was robbed last season but I’ll get back into it.
“I haven’t been to a Grand Prix yet, but I want to go to Abu Dhabi. Hamilton is my favourite, then Max Verstappen. Maybe one day I’ll meet Lewis.”
Christian Eriksen may not be involved with the COD sessions yet, but he made an immediate impression in west London.
The sizzling resurgence of BRENTFORD ace Rico Henry proves that nothing can top your mother’s cooking skills.
The left-back thought his footballing dreams were over after endless injuries wiped out his career shortly after arriving with the Bees from Walsall in 2016.
A dislocated shoulder, knee injury and torn cruciate ligament limited him to just 39 games out of 152 in his first three seasons at the club.
But what left the Birmingham-born ace hungry for more was his mum’s cooking up of his favorite Caribbean dish – yam and dumplings.
Henry, 24, said ahead of today’s clash at Chelsea: “When I injured my knee I was out for 12 months so I was always questioning myself.
“I started to believe no more and thought would I ever go back to the level I was playing at?
“But fortunately, my family has been with us since day one. When I was hurt, my mother would come down and help me and cook for me. My favorite is yam and dumplings.
“It’s thanks to her and my family that I’m sitting here now. The physios at Brentford were great too, I’m grateful for that.”
Henry has recently been hounded by the likes of West Ham, Southampton and Aston Villa as he is about to enter the final 12 months of his contract this summer.
He dashed speculation of a move last week when he penned a contract extension at Brentford until 2026. The defender played his 150th game for the Bees in the 2-0 win over Burnley earlier this month.
But when asked if he’s finally learned to cook his mother’s signature dish now that he’s over his injury hell, Henry replied: “No, no cooking! Well, I can cook a little, but I’m lazy. I usually take food from the training ground.
“I’ll ask my mom to teach me how to do it.”
Bees coach Thomas Frank is hoping for intensive talks with Christian Eriksen in order to extend the midfielder’s contract beyond the summer.
The 30-year-old Dane sealed a fairytale deadline-day transfer to Brentford just seven months after suffering cardiac arrest during his country’s Euro Opener game against Finland in June.
When asked if he could put an offer on the table, Frank said: “Hopefully as soon as possible. I don’t think it’s a secret that we would like to continue.
“I’m pretty confident that Christian is enjoying it here, but I’m also confident that nothing will be decided on either side before the end of the season.”
Frank is hoping the former Inter Milan schemer saved some goals to sink Chelsea after his blistering form for Denmark today.
He sensationally scored twice in friendlies against the Netherlands and at the scene of his cardiac arrest at Parken Stadium against Serbia.
Frank added: “The first thing I said to him when he came back was hopefully he saved a few goals for us! He is ready and looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
The club will be strengthened by the new contract of 23-year-old midfielder Vitaly Janelt until 2026.
Frank said: “Vitaly has a great future ahead of him and I hope that together we will achieve his ambitions and those of the club.”
The Denmark midfielder’s arrival on deadline day rocked the club again and they secured their first back-to-back Prem wins in his only two starts last month – just nine months after suffering cardiac arrest.
Henry said: “The first day he came in he was telling jokes at the training ground and I was like woah!
“He’s settled in really well. He talks to everyone in the canteen – and on the pitch his quality and experience help the lads a lot. May it continue like this for a long time to come.”
Loyal Brentford servant Henry has also played a key role in keeping the team afloat in their historic first Prem campaign – they currently sit in 15th place, eight points from the drop zone.
He has made 25 starts in his 26 games in his debut season in the top flight and it’s no surprise Bees boss Thomas Frank believes he’s destined for an England call-up.
The Birmingham-born star earned seven youth caps but his international dreams were dashed by injury.
Henry said: “That’s the next step. I want to focus on Brentford at the moment as we’re still at the bottom and fighting for points.
“Representing your country is everyone’s dream and you also want to do it on a big stage with the seniors. Hopefully it can come in the future.
“The guys who were called up deserved it. Tyrick Mitchell was great and Kyle Walker-Peters. I know they came in because of an injury but they were still good.”
Henry hopes to one day emulate his hero, former Chelsea and England left-back Ashley Cole.
The lightning-fast pair show similarities in their defensive know-how, powerful engines and ability to charge forward to change the game on the fly.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and what he’s doing now in the Premier League and with England makes me look up to him too. His numbers are insane.
Henry continued, “Cole was my idol growing up so I’d love to talk to him and talk to him about his position.
“The game has changed now, it’s more based on statistics.
“Trent Alexander-Arnold and what he’s doing now in the Premier League and with England makes me look up to him too. His numbers are crazy.”
Donning a Three Lions jersey would be an achievement for Henry, who was hampered by injuries and rejected by Aston Villa as a child for being too short.
Henry said: “My father and I supported Villa. I had a negotiation once, didn’t come in, they said I was too small and we stopped supporting them.
“We didn’t go to the games, but we walked away from them.”
BRENTFORD (probably): Raya, Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry, Eriksen, Norgaard, Janelt, Mbeumo, Toney, Canos.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5033333/rico-henry-brentford-call-of-duty-premier-league/ Brentford star Rico Henry reveals Call of Duty sessions are helping mobilize the Bees for Premier League survival