How will Brentford weather the oncoming storm that is second-season syndrome?

The Athletic’s Jay Harris, who covers everything to do with Brentford Football Club, wrote an interesting article at the conclusion of the 2021/2022 season. To summarize, Harris quite rightly lauded the Bees’ 13th-placed finish following promotion from the Championship which is, undoubtedly, an achievement deserving of special praise. 

Indeed, this is a football club that is greater than the sum of its parts without any real star quality driving them forward. At least, if you were to look at the latest Ballon d’Or winner odds, you wouldn’t see any Brentford players there and rather Karim Benzema topping the charts to win at a price of 4/11. 

In this sense, Harris makes a compelling case for how impressive Brentford’s season was given the make-up of the squad. The talented scribe does, however, go on to inform his readers that Thomas Frank’s men are only getting started. In fact, Harris’ final line of his piece is: “You have been warned. Brentford have no intention of slowing down.”

All things considered, it was an upbeat article that you would expect to read with the summer approaching and Brentford safely in the Premier League. However, banging the war drum whilst going into the dreaded second season is, some would say, a fool’s game given the truth is that a severe storm is going to blow through west London next season and Brentford will have to cling on for dear life. 

This isn’t meant to sound pessimistic but rather realistic and you only need to look at how Leeds United fared in their second season back after getting promoted to get a better understanding of the challenge that lies ahead. Indeed, Leeds finished their first season in ninth place, four positions better off than Brentford’s 13th, and with 59 points, which works out to 13 more points than the Bees were able to muster during this barnstorming season.

In addition to that, the talk around West Yorkshire was off a potential European berth in season two but the reality turned out to be stark, with the Whites narrowly avoiding relegation on the last day after beating Brentford 2-1. Furthermore, had Frank not been so cavalier with his substitutions by making three at once and if Sergi Canos didn’t mindlessly pick up two bookings in less than a minute, Leeds could well have been relegated.

Without looking to find fault, the point is that the margins in this league are fine and there are no certainties. Put another way, when a newly-promoted team feels ready to take on the world, caution should be exercised. 

This sobering look at five of the most famous cases of second-season syndrome that ended in relegation should be critical reading for the Brentford management over the summer in a bid to take adequate shelter from the storms that are on their way.

Of course, there is a chance that the sun keeps shining down on the Brentford Community Stadium and the weather remains fair. If that should be the case then brilliant, but there’s no harm in planning for a well-documented phenomenon that hits teams a season after exceeding expectations.