Neal Maupay said he was happy with his first season in English football but said there was still more to come. Brentford signed the French youth international striker from AS Saint-Étienne last summer and he ended the campaign as the Club’s top scorer. Neal contributed 13 goals in his first season with The Bees, 12 of which came in 42 Sky Bet Championship appearances. He also provided seven assists in all competitions.
Speaking before heading back to France for a post-season break, Neal admitted the season had been up and down but said that he moved in to “one of the toughest leagues in the world” and felt he did well. Neal said that his fellow countryman Yoann Barbet and Maxime Colin, before he moved to Birmingham City, had helped him settle in and he had made an effort to learn the language quickly. He scored three goals in his first six games and Neal said a fast start had helped him settle.
“I am happy with what I have done this year,” said the striker. “It was up and down sometimes but for a first season in England, in the Championship – one of the toughest leagues in the world, I think I did well. But I can still improve.
“I came here and had no idea about English football, I didn’t speak English and didn’t know my team mates. It was difficult but Yoann and Maxime helped me to settle, I took English lessons and tried to learn quickly. The first month was difficult but I felt good after that. I think the early goals helped. My team mates didn’t know me and when you score they can see that you are a good player and can score goals.”
Neal scored in Brentford’s 4-1 Carabao Cup win over Queens Park Rangers in August but said his most memorable goal came last month. He headed home with seconds to go to earn The Bees a 1-1 draw against Fulham in a televised game. Neal said the derby goals mean more to him as fans wanted to talk about them more than goals against other teams, even a winner against Bristol City or a crucial goal against Birmingham City.
“The goal at Fulham was the highlight but every goal was good,” he said. “That one was crazy. It was in front of the fans, in the local derby, to draw in the last minute. It was an unbelievable feeling. Goals in derbies mean a bit more, the fans always talk about the Fulham goal or the QPR goal, they don’t talk about the Bristol goals or Birmingham goals.”
Brentford finished ninth in the Sky Bet Championship in 2017/18, six points outside the Play-Off places. The Bees challenged until the penultimate week of the season and Neal said he felt, with a similar squad, Brentford could improve in 2018/19.
“I don’t think we are that far away,” he said. “We are a young team, we did really well this year and with the same group, we can target the top of the table. We weren’t far off this year, I think we can do it next year.”