Bees need one more heave to achieve Premier League dream
Brentford play their 57th – and most important – game of the season on Saturday, knowing that for the second time in 10 months they are only 90 minutes away from a place in the Premier League.
The Bees face Swansea City in the Championship play-off final, having missed out on promotion in last season’s final after losing 2-1 to Fulham in extra time in early August.
Fewer than five weeks later, the Bees played a Carabao Cup tie against Wycombe to kick off a gruelling campaign.
But not only have Brentford finished third in the Championship for the second successive season, they also reached the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
In fact, since football restarted in June after the first lockdown, they have played 68 matches in only 11 months – a schedule that would have broken most teams.
However, Thomas Frank’s players have overcome this fixture list, long-term injuries to key men like Christian Norgaard, Josh Dasilva, Pontus Jansson and Rico Henry, and a Covid break, to have an even more successful regular season than in 2019/20.
They finished on 87 points – six more than they achieved last time – were the highest goalscorers in the Championship, and only lost seven matches, the joint lowest total in the division along with champions Norwich.
In addition, they went on an unbeaten 21-game run during the middle of the season – which briefly took them to the top of the table – and finished the campaign on another 12-match sequence without defeat.
While Brentford fans dread play-offs, because the club holds the unenviable Football League record of taking part nine times without winning promotion, the players are likely to have a different approach.
That past history won’t play on their minds on Saturday, with most of them only having the experience of last season’s final defeat, which could in fact inspire them to try to go one better this time around.
They will also have the backing of about 5,000 passionate Brentford fans inside Wembley – an important difference to last season.
And while Swansea will have the same number of supporters present, the Bees fans definitely helped the team to their semi-final victory over Bournemouth last Saturday.
The Swans won’t be easy opponents. The sides drew 1-1 twice this season, and in their line-up will be experienced striker Andre Ayew, who has scored in three of the last five meetings between the teams.
Saturday promises to be a potentially pivotal moment in Brentford’s history.
Victory would see them finally competing in England’s top flight for the first time since 1947, the big names in the game visiting the Brentford Community Stadium next season, and the club collecting the riches which the Premier League brings.
Defeat could see the side break up a bit, with possible departures for star players like Ivan Toney, Rico Henry, and David Raya – as well as out-of-contract duo Henrik Dalsgaard and Emiliano Marcondes.
Brentford have the talent to get over the line on Saturday – now they just have to show it one more time.