Did Brentford spurn their best chance for promotion?
Given Brentford’s relatively lacklustre start to the current Championship season, it’s difficult not to think that the club have missed a golden chance to earn the promotion to the Premier League that they’ve always dreamed of. Thoughts cast back to the play-off final at Wembley back in August, when quick thinking from Fulham’s Joe Bryan saw his free kick sail past David Raya and seal the Cottagers’ return to the top flight.
Now, there has been rather a sense of anti-climax as Brentford have begun life in their new stadium, due to the fact that they have been subjected to another year of toil in the Championship. Their first four games of the new campaign have yielded just four points, with the only shining light being the club’s form in the EFL Cup, which has seen them defeat Southampton and Fulham en route to the quarter-finals.
Ahead of the new season, Brentford were understandably viewed as one of the favourites in the Championship betting for promotion. Their form towards the tail end of last season was remarkable, as they charged towards the automatic promotion places post-lockdown, before ultimately letting it slip towards the end. Despite playing well to defeat Swansea in the play-off semi-finals, the Bees just couldn’t find their best form in the final against Fulham, and paid the price.
The summer transfer window then saw them lose their star player Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa, with the forward excelling at Villa Park since the move, scoring a hat-trick in the team’s remarkable 7-2 win over champions Liverpool. There are still rumours that another of coach Thomas Frank’s best players – Said Benrahma – could also be on the move before the domestic transfer window shuts on October 16th.
Perhaps it’s understandable that such upheaval would lead to mixed form at the beginning of the new Championship campaign. After all, there have been several new additions too, and these players will take time to settle in and acclimatise to their new surroundings.
The most interesting of these signings is forward Ivan Toney, whom supporters hope will be the natural replacement for Watkins. Toney has proved himself in the Football League at Peterborough over the last few seasons, and should relish the opportunity to show his quality in the Championship. There are parallels between himself and Watkins due to the fact that Brentford signed both of them from lower league clubs, and it is hoped Toney will reach the same heights in terms of his development.
It would be no surprise to see Brentford recover their best form eventually and make a stab at promotion once again, but in a league as competitive as the Championship there are no guarantees. Winning promotion is an immensely difficult feat, particularly for a club like Brentford, who don’t have the same financial backing behind them as many other clubs in the division.
It could be that come the end of the season, Brentford fans will once more be lamenting how they surrendered such a strong position at the end of the 2019-20 campaign. Perhaps only then will the club count the cost of missing out on reaching the promised land that is the Premier League.