For the second season running, Brentford have found themselves in the Championship Play-Off Final. However, if Thomas Frank’s side want to finally call themselves a Premier League outfit, they must use last year’s defeat to Fulham to spur them on at Wembley.
Last season was tipped to be the fairytale campaign for the Bees. A move to the newly built Brentford Community Stadium awaited and it looked like top-flight football would be played in the venue’s maiden year as the new home of the west London side.
However, in the closing weeks of the season, Brentford blew their automatic promotion place, surrendering it to West Bromwich Albion, before losing the play-off final in extra-time to local rivals Fulham.
That was a bitter pill to swallow for Frank and his men, but even after losing star players Ollie Watkins and Saïd Benrahma, who both got their Premier League moves in the end, Brentford have bounced back in style this season.
They were the Championship’s top scorers with 79 goals, and perhaps you could argue that they scuppered their chances of automatic promotion again this season. Brentford had a spell between February and April where they won just four times in 14 games — drawing six and losing four — and ultimately that cost them as they finished just four points behind second-placed Watford.
It looked like Brentford were heading for more play-off misery when they lost 1-0 to Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on the South Coast before Arnaut Danjuma extended the Cherries’ lead to two goals with an early strike at the Brentford Community Stadium.
However, the ever-reliant Ivan Toney converted from the spot shortly after. Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham was then shown a straight red card for pulling Bryan Mbeumo down as he broke through on goal following a bad touch form the centre-back.
From there, it always looked like it was going to be Brentford’s day and the in-play odds on sites like Betdaq were quickly swaying in their favour. Vitaly Janelt’s effort early in the second half brought the aggregate score to 2-2 before Marcus Forss turned Emiliano Marcondes’ cross into the roof of the net with just minutes remaining on the clock — sparking scenes of jubilation amongst the select 4,000 Brentford supporters in the ground.
It is Swansea City who now stand in the way of Brentford and a place in the Premier League. The Welsh side edged out Barnsley with a 2-1 aggregate victory and they will be just as eager for a place back in English football’s top flight.
However, Brentford captain Pontus Jansson is adamant that the pain of losing last year’s play-off final to Fulham has helped him and his teammates to mature, and that could help spur them on to victory at Wembley this weekend.
“We are more mature, we’re more ready for it. We have more leaders, we are just a machine and keep going whatever happens,” Jansson said. “We have Ivan Toney, who always gives us something, and Bryan Mbeumo is another good example of a player who has matured a lot.”
After that 3-1 victory over Bournemouth, Brentford will be riding the crest of a wave as they make their way across London to Wembley on Saturday. If they truly want to end their 70+ year absence from the top-flight, Frank’s men must use that momentum and the memories of last year’s final to perform on a similar level against Swansea.