nd so, at last, they’ve done it.
These games are where the fun is, or so Henrik Dalsgaard had claimed this week, a little insensitive to a fanbase that had endured nine play-off failures without success. But finally, at the tenth time of asking, they have been rewarded with perhaps the greatest day in their club’s history. For the first time ever, Brentford are Premier League.
“Fun” might be a stretch, but this was a victory earned – in contrast to the trauma that has preceded it – with the minimum of fuss, by a side who not once looked burdened by the experience of a heart-breaking defeat to Fulham on this very turf only ten months ago.
Football songs are not known for their accuracy – Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh chant describing Morocco as “not far from Iraq” remains a nadir for the genre – but Brentford fans’ new ode to Ivan Toney, to the tune of 70s hit “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” hit the nail on the head. “When he scores you can’t go wrong,” it claims, and from the moment the Football League’s most lethal forward sauntered up to stroke home his 33rd goal of the season after just ten minute, Brentford never looked anything other than on their way to the Premier League.
After 20, when the outstanding Emiliano Marcondes thundered in a second, any curses or hoodoos lay in tatters. This was happening.
Now living in a state-of-the-art new stadium, creators of an envied production line of Premier League-bound talent and having come to be viewed as perennial contenders – in some quarters perennial “bottlers” – after coming so close a year ago, perhaps some of the romance of the Brentford underdog story might have gotten a little lost. So let us revisit it.
Supporters of every club supposedly dream of the Premier League and its Promised Land (whether it lives up to the billing is another matter), but for Brentford it was not a possibility that was even on the radar prior to the Matthew Benham era, pie-in-the-sky stuff even by the high standards of delusional, optimistic fandom.
Up until their current stint in the second tier, the Bees had only spent one season above the third in 60 years. They haven’t been a top-flight outfit since the first proper post-war campaign, in 1946/47.
In all, 59 clubs have played a match at the highest level of English football since Brentford’s last one, including Grimsby Town, Leyton Orient and Carlisle United. Seven men have been Pope, 14 occupied the White House and 12 walked on the moon. Never mind a generation of fans who have never known their side in the top flight. Some will have grandparents who haven’t.
This is a club that has only ever provided two England internationals, the same number as Dulwich Hamlet. One whose ground was, as recently as last season, so outdated and underdeveloped that they were still relying on special dispensation just to host Championship matches there. Even now, as they prepare to take on the might of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, Frank’s squad will embark on pre-season at a training facility still largely made up of construction-site Portakabins.
Of course, Brentford know all about those, the drama of the last two seasons having played out against the backdrop of the demolition of one home and the building of another. As far as renovation on the pitch was concerned, the task Frank faced following last season’s near-miss was hardly seismic, with Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma the only high-profile departures, but with Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva injured, and Christian Norgaard only fit enough for the bench, you could make a fair case that Brentford were without their five best players from last season here.
Bryan Mbuemo might have something to say about that claim, mind you, and at the end of a second season that has not always reached the highs of the first, the 21-year-old Frenchman produced one of his best performances in a Brentford shirt. A constant threat, it was his clever run that earned the penalty for the opener after Sergi Canos’ wonderful pass and his pace on the break that had Swansea in disarray as the lead was doubled soon after.
He fed young Mads Roerslev, who will have spent the week knowing that his place in the XI was likely to depend upon Norgaard failing in his race against the clock, and the Dane showed wonderful composure to pick out countryman Marcondes.
Toney’s stunning, looping volley would have settled the game there and then had it bounced down off the crossbar and an inch.
Still, the Bees might have been 90 minutes from the Premier League before but they’d never been 45. There were moments after half-time, particularly when Pontus Jansson’s generous defending gifted Andre Ayew a glorious chance to halve the deficit, when you wondered whether the weight of history which seemed to have dissipated in the first-half would return. Instead, Jay Fulton’s horrific, if slightly unlucky, tackle on Mathias Jensen left Chris Kavanagh no choice but to send him on his way, and with the Swans midfielder went any sense of jeopardy.
A long time coming, perhaps, but this was Brentford’s day right from the very start.