In the most unique and difficult season, Brentford did better than last season and was promoted to the Premier League after beating Swansea 2-0 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Last year was supposed to be the year – the year the bees would say goodbye to Griffin Park, their 116-year-old home, in style. But last August it was West London neighbors Fulham who propelled them into the top flight, with a 2-1 overtime victory.
Remarkably, there hasn’t been a real hangover for Thomas Frank’s men, despite the nature of the loss and the gap of just over five weeks between the end of last season and this one. . Still, they did it the hard way and prevailed on the second request after beating the Swans on Saturday afternoon.
However, getting to this point has been far from straightforward. From financial difficulties at the turn of the millennium to promotion to the Promised Land, we take a look at how Brentford reached the Premier League Premier League for the first time …
The Benham revolution
After struggling financially during their lower league years, it was in 2007 – 60 years after playing top football for the last time in 1947 – that things started to change for Brentford after the start of the league. involvement of current owner Matthew Benham in the club.
A longtime fan of the club, Benham finally took full control of the club in 2012, and his involvement has been key to a gradual but consistent rise from the League Two slump, a journey that reveals decades of financial woes. and existential threat. so long ago.
After suffering a miserable relegation in 2007, Brentford won the League Two title in 2008/09 and began to grow, very slightly, in stature. Once Benham’s ownership was confirmed, he began shaping the club to match his vision. They reached the League One play-off final in 2013 with former Man City forward Uwe Rosler at the helm, but it could have been the perfect start.
All Brentford fans will know where they were on April 27, 2013. Doncaster Rovers visited Griffin Park for a win-win clash: a victory for Rovers would secure the title and send Brentford back to the play-offs, while a victory for the Bees would be see them promoted to the championship.
A Dean Furman foul on Toumani Diagouraga saw Rosler’s side receive a penalty in front of the terrace of Ealing Road deep in the stoppage time of the second half. Fulham player Marcello Trotta grabbed the ball and prevented club legend Kevin O’Connor from taking the shot on goal.
Then time stood still when the Italian’s shot thundered off the crossbar, allowing the Rovers to pierce Billy Paynter, who allowed James Coppinger to strike past helpless goalkeeper Simon Moore.
On the contrary, it made the promotion the following year even sweeter, especially since the act that guaranteed second-tier football was also a penalty. This time it was Alan Judge who did the honors.
Over the next seven seasons, Brentford worked tirelessly to become an established championship club, with a berth in the first half of every campaign to their name. The club’s transfer policy has been at the heart of the rise.
A unique approach to transfers
Led by co-athletic directors Rasmus Ankersen and Phil Giles, the club have built a reputation for identifying undervalued talent using mathematical and statistical modeling and often developing them in the B team, which has been premiered in the summer of 2016 after the controversial closure of their academy.
In its early days, it was often in leagues or untapped regions where players could demand lower fees, although since Brexit the talent pool has been considerably condensed.
First put into practice before the 2015/16 season, it was a system that former head coach Mark Warburton felt unable to work on, in part given that he could not veto incoming transfers. .
There were undoubtedly some issues to iron out, with German pair Akaki Gogia and Philipp Hofmann struggling to settle in West London, but the plan also started to work almost immediately as they signed 13 players from permanently, sold seven, finished ninth in the table and still made a significant profit on transfers.
Their policy has often been compared to that of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season, which spawned Brad Pitt’s movie Moneyball. Benham himself, however, distanced himself from such comparisons. “The label can be confusing because people think it uses statistics rather than trying to use them scientifically,” he said in 2015.
Due to the club’s ties to Benham’s other club, Danish Superliga team FC Midtjylland, there is a strong Scandinavian presence at the club’s training ground at Jersey Road. Besides head coach Frank and his assistant Brian Riemer, there are seven Danish players in the first team, as well as Icelandic goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson, Finnish striker Marcus Forss and Swedish skipper Pontus Jansson.
Of course, politics has had its skeptics. Since the promotion to the Championship, many believed that Brentford was simply a sales club exceeding their weight and wouldn’t have what it takes to take it to the next level. For several years there was an air of truth about this as, summer after summer, the players they had shaped left West London, with like Andre Gray, James Tarkowski and Jota to ply their trade in Premier League.
But as a club that does things the ‘right’ way and has a future on the foreground, Brentford played the long game in grafting towards an end goal. Due to the meticulous planning of two transfer windows in advance, there was always a ready-made replacement, usually signed for a fraction of the incoming charge.
A total of £ 27.2million generated from player sales helped the club achieve a total profit of £ 23.4million in 2018/19 and although they recorded a loss of 9.2 million pounds in 2019/20, the £ 24.9million in outgoing transfers has shown how far politics is in the club’s future.
History is made
Any mention of the playoffs has made Brentford fans wince for the past 30 years, with each of their nine campaigns ending in failure from the first to the end of the 1990/91 Third Division season. The curse that followed them has now been banished in the past, however.
After a stable but unspectacular start to the season consisting of three wins, three losses and one draw, Frank’s men were 11th on October 24, having nearly completed the comeback of all comebacks in a 3-2 loss to Stoke, after having been 3-0 down with 20 minutes to go. It wasn’t supposed to be that day, but the fight seemed to trigger something within the squad that led to a 21-game unbeaten streak.
On its own, that still missed five games for the club’s best ever streak in the EFL – a 26-game streak from February to October 1999 – but in the midst of that they also managed to reach the semi-finals. of the Carabao Cup for the first time in club history.
However, what caught the attention of most was Ivan Toney’s record-breaking campaign. The 25-year-old striker arrived in west London as a replacement for Ollie Watkins – following his initial £ 28million move to Aston Villa – and, with high expectations on his shoulders, topped every set for him.
On the final day of the regular season, he scored his 31st league goal of the season and in so doing broke Glenn Murray’s record of 30, set in 2012/13.
When the unbeaten streak reached its inevitable conclusion in February, days after a brief flirtation with first place, Watford’s meteoric form under Xisco Munoz pulled Brentford out of the automatic promotion dispute and they never really made it through. find their way back into the first two.
This resulted in a 10th dam campaign – the most common in history – which brought them together with Bournemouth. Arnaut Danjuma’s second-half goal saw the Cherries win first-leg applause, but a thrilling West London return five days later sent the Bees to Wembley.
And so they went back to Wembley to try to exorcise their demons again. And this time they did it, thanks to first-half goals from Toney and Emiliano Marcondes.
Brentford has been one of the country’s elite clubs in the elite for 74 years. But that is about to change as the long wait is finally over.