After eight games of the 2017/18 Sky Bet Championship season, Brentford were winless and languishing towards the bottom of the table. It would have been easy for panic to set in, but Dean Smith's side were playing good football, and carried on regardless.
On the 23rd September, one week after a home draw with Reading, came the first victory. A 3-0 triumph at Bolton Wanderers, who had also failed to pick up three points at the time, kick-started a run of form which has seen the Bees climb the standings.
Now nine unbeaten, and just four points outside the top six, that unwanted run seems a long time ago, and captain John Egan and his team-mates knew it was only a matter of time before results followed.
“I couldn't even put my finger on it, to be honest,” replied Egan, when asked about the upturn in results. “We were probably playing even better football at the start of the season than we are now – we just kept to our principles.
“The gaffer has been brilliant, he hasn't come away from what we're good at, and even though we weren't getting the results, we stuck together and said 'we're going to come through the other side of this.' Now we've started to win a fair few games, and everyone's more upbeat around the training ground.
“We always knew that if we put a run together, we would shoot up the table. We're only four points off the play-offs now so that's how quick things can change. We stuck to the plan when things weren't going our way and to go nine unbeaten now is a big feat for any team in this league.”
Growing up in Cork, Egan was thrust into the sporting world at a young age, with his father playing Gaelic football, while there were a whole host of other sports to try his hand at.
Football was the chosen path though, and the Irishman joined Sunderland as a teenager, before embarking on several loan moves around the EFL. After overcoming a long-term injury, the central defender enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Gillingham before earning a move to Griffin Park.
Here it is! ⚽️🌟— EFL (@EFL) December 30, 2016
The 11 players and a manager that make up our #EFL Team of 2016 >> https://t.co/XPI6cgD9HJ. pic.twitter.com/4C5w2BGuDv
Since joining the West Londoners, the 25-year-old has earned international recognition, making his Republic of Ireland debut back in March, the first of two caps to date. He's aiming for more, but club form comes first, and the rest will surely follow.
“Cork's a very sporty county. Gaelic football, hurling, football, rugby... I played everything growing up, but once I got interested in football I decided to pursue it and I ended up here in England.
“At the time, Sunderland were involved in a relegation battle almost every year, so it was hard to get a manager to trust you and throw you in at the deep end. As a young player, all you want to do is play, which is why I went out on loan to try and get games.
“I hadn't played as much as I would have liked during those spells, then I joined Bradford City, and I was really enjoying it there, but I broke my leg which was so frustrating. But it was all a learning curve, I bounced back, and hopefully I can keep the trajectory going upwards.
“I went down to Gillingham and met Peter Taylor, and he said from the off that he liked me as a player and he wanted to play me. Some looked at it as a step back, but I saw it as a step forward. I got on great with the fans and had an unbelievable two years there, and then earned the move to Brentford.
“Growing up, anybody wants to play for their country, and it was an unbelievable moment. To make my debut in Dublin, with my family in the crowd, was one of the best moments of my career so far. We ended up losing the match which makes it a bit bittersweet, but to make my debut was brilliant.”
Honoured to have made my debut for my country tonight 🇮🇪☘️ pic.twitter.com/Cb2g6n6AYm— John Egan (@JohnEgan92) March 29, 2017
This weekend, it's back to the “bread and butter” of the Championship, and a trip to high-flying Cardiff City. Will the Bees' fine form continue in the Welsh capital?
“The international break probably came at a bad time for us, after winning four of the last five, but we'll be looking to get straight back on the horse and go to Cardiff and get three points.
“Confidence comes from belief, and we really believe in each other, the staff, and the gaffer, so if we keep playing the way we've been playing, then we know we'll continue to get results.”