After many attempts at reaching the pinnacle of the English game, Brentford’s playoff final success against Steve Cooper’s Swansea side was many years in the making.
A club meticulous in transfers and identity, it’ll be interesting to see how The Bees fare in the big time. Will it be sink or swim for Thomas Frank’s very likeable underdogs?
As a Peterborough United fan first and foremost, it feels wrong not to get Ivan Toney out of the way first for this blog. Some could critique Toney and refer to him as a tap-in specialist, most of his goals for Brentford did seem to come primarily in the box, but his quality at Championship level for that position was unparalleled season just gone.
Playing with such a confidence, you wouldn’t see the same young striker who was shunned by Newcastle United in his general play and application for The Bees. Up top for Posh, he was also prone to scoring a stunner here or there. Shunned by the aforementioned Magpies, and off the back of the two best seasons he’s had personally, I don’t think Ivan will look out of place at all. With a point to prove, many doubted he could do it at Championship level, the strong-headed attitude of Toney stands him in good stead too.
This is another quality that seems to shine in Brentford’s favour, they have this unknown quantity label attached to them – The Bees haven’t touched the top-flight since 1947! Therefore, next season is hard to accurately predict for Thomas Frank’s men. Yet, such an absence – and with many of the players within the Brentford ranks never tasting the top division prior – works in their favour. Take Ethan Pinnock for example, playing in non-league football for Dulwich Hamlet only five years ago. Now, he can test himself as an elite player – Ethan did win a spot in the Championship Team Of The Season for a reason – and face the likes of Mo Salah with a smile on his face.
Importantly, these players have had to work for this and thereafter won’t take this opportunity for granted. The Bees will want to stay in the Premier League, not become mere flashes in the pan. Taking inspirations from the last few seasons, Sheffield United and Leeds United stick out, having this point to prove label often works in the team’s favour climbing up to the Premier League. Moreover, players like Patrick Bamford within that Leeds side have only improved tenfold from their introductions into the Premier League. The fear is, following in the footsteps of a then Chris Wilder managed Blades side, that the second season after survival is where things come undone. The aim for Brentford will be to enjoy their first season, and worry about that potentiality when it hits them straight in the face.
Unlike The Blades and Leeds, however, Brentford are historically a small side – known primarily as a third tier side before shooting up the divisions under Mark Warburton, Dean Smith steering The Bees into relative comfort within the Championship. Yet, this small side tag works in their favour – nobody I’ve talked to regarding Brentford has ever had a bad word to say about them! Instead, started under Dean Smith, Brentford are known for playing attractive football with a quick passing approach that prioritises attacking talent over a turgid play style. Moreover, their transfer policy is methodical in approach and hardly a case of overspending.
Take last season, losing both Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma could’ve seen panic stations at the West London based side. Yet, their promotion to the Premier League was sealed regardless of these big casualties moving on. Prepared to let the big names move on, Brentford are a steady club who are always on the look out for the next player to blend into the cohesive unit. Arrivals such as David Raya, Mattias Jensen and Brian Mbeumo show Brentford’s approach to a tee – purchasing players that will work in cohesion with one another, shrewd yet successful in their own right. Looking at the side that just went up, the likes of Raya are now crucial parts of the Brentford DNA. This cohesive and collective team dynamic will be crucial to The Bees stepping up the football ladder, needing to remain strong in a division that can swallow teams whole.
Looking at incoming signings rumoured to the Brentford Community Stadium, this approach to signings still remains. Kristoffer Ajer is a promising talent, still only 23 years of age, who could be a great addition at the back for Frank’s men. Impressing in the SPL is one thing, the Nordic centre back will have the Premier League to test himself against now. Morgan Rogers, as an avid watcher of League One, was leaps and bounds above players last season – his youthful exuberance and tenacity was a breath of fresh air in a league based on attrition over talent at times, a top quality youngster. Adding this to the Brentford attacking arsenal, this could be a real gem of a signing off the bench for The Bees. Speaking of Arsenal, I have a real feeling Frank’s men could get something from their opening encounter against Arteta’s Gunners.
The rest of the season does seem to be a hard one to predict fully, but with the correct foundations in place and a squad full of hungry and impressive talents eager to make the step up – Rico Henry another glowing example – I have a feeling Frank’s side could well gain even more plaudits in a successful maiden season amongst the big boys.