Brentford will be able to push the promotion to the highest football level in England tonight for the first time in over 70 years. Fulham is the opponent in the “150 million match”, so we asked Fulham fan Aster Nzeyimana to explain the rise of The Bees.
From 1947. It has been such a long time since Brentford FC played in the top division of English football. There was of course no question of the Premier League at that time, although Liverpool did crown itself as champion of the then First Division, and Brentford would disappear – as it turns out afterwards – from the supreme battlefield for 73 years. At least 73 years old.
Brentford can change that tonight. If it beats Fulham, the pearl of London, it will be promoted to the Promised Land.
And that would certainly be deserved. The Bees have had a stunning season. The start was difficult, but inversely proportional to the falling temperatures, the results then went up.
December turned out to be a crucial month because after victories in key matches against Fulham, Cardiff and Swansea, they were in the middle of the playoff places before they knew it.
After the corona break, Brentford even seemed to be heading for a direct ticket to the Premier League, but a slump on the last two match days threw a spanner in the works. Suddenly lost the shape completely. In the playoffs, they found him back in time at home against Cardiff.
The charming Griffin Park will disappear soon.
Statistics about everything
What is Brentford’s recipe for success? The defense is solid, but the emphasis of Thomas Frank’s team is definitely on the attack. With a recognizable 4-3-3, football is one of the most exciting things you can find in the Football League, and if you find that too much talking on the loose: the stats are grim. 80 goals in 46 matches. Most of the series. Even champion maker Marcelo Bielsa does no better with his swinging Leeds.
Then who are the men doing for Brentford? Well, I already mentioned Thomas Frank. The 47-year-old Dane is the architect behind the story. A very modern coach, with a long history with the Danish national youth teams, and then Brondby’s first team. A man with a footballing vision.
And yet the role of head coach at Brentford more or less fell on his plate. When Dean Smith suddenly left for childhood sweetheart Aston Villa in October 2018, Frank – who had been Smith’s assistant for almost two years – was promoted. Prompt. But certainly no coincidence.
Indeed, Brentford has been using the so-called “Moneyball” approach since the presidency of Matthew Benham. Statistics absolutely everything. Benham may have gambled his fortune, but nothing is left to chance.
Frank fitted in perfectly with that philosophy. Unlike Mark Warburton, who led Brentford to the Championship in 2014, he did agree with the mathematical and data-driven view of football.
A view that also led to the fact that Brentford does not have a youth academy. No. The greatest talents from the Brentford Academy were plucked free of charge year after year by neighboring mastodons such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. It was desperate.
That is why since 2011 there has been a conscious choice not to train players anymore. A B-team is there. A mix of rejects and foreign young potentials is being prepared for the first team. The club uses a stock exchange method. She looks for boys who play in undervalued competitions, and then resell them with added value. As if players are shares. And that works that way, proves the deadly trio that shines this season.
Thomas Frank fully supports the vision of the owner of Brentford.
“As a Fulham fan, I have to admit: Brentford prefers the neutral football fan”
Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins – BMW for the friends – all have one thing in common. All three have been picked from nowhere. Take Benrahma, the most technical of the three. Never really broken through at Nice, picked up by Brentford after four lending turns – and now its market value has increased fivefold in two years.
Bryan Mbeumo had made about 10 pots in French Ligue 2 when he came on the radar of the West Londoners. His future seems Premier League bound.
And Ollie Watkins, second best Mitrovic in the Championship with 25 copies, made his debut with the modest Exeter. He reminds me in many ways of Mason Greenwood. Strong, technical, a variety finisher. Watkins has proved to be the perfect replacement for Neal Maupay, now incontournable at Brighton.
So yes, as a Fulham fan it’s not easy to admit, but Brentford’s story and approach makes them favor the neutral football fans tonight. It is also really an authentic club.
Griffin Park is three turns of the Thames west of Craven Cottage. It is a pity for folklorists that the iconic stadium, with the well-known pubs on every corner of the stadium, disappears after 116 years. But the new arena will take Brentford to the next level.
And that level is without doubt the Premier League. That has been the plan for 8 years. They are so close. Maybe it will happen tonight. The sloppy £ 150 million match. The promised land beckons, only the Mighty Cottagers stand in the way.