Welcome to the Premier League, Brentford!
The makeup of the 2021/22 Premier League is now set, after Brentford secured promotion to the top-flight on Saturday with victory in the Championship play-off final.
First-half goals from Ivan Toney and Emiliano Marcondes sealed a 2-0 win for the Bees against Swansea City at Wembley Stadium, meaning Thomas Frank’s side will return to the top tier of English football after 74 years.
The Londoners will become the 50th different club to feature in the Premier League and join Norwich and Watford, who have returned at the first time of asking.
While the Canaries and the Hornets have been familiar opponents in recent years, United haven’t played Brentford since 1975.
With the countdown already on to the release of next season’s fixtures, on 16 June, it’s time to get to know the newcomers…
A SHORT HISTORY
The Bees were First Division regulars in the 1930s, as they rose from the third tier to record three consecutive top-six finishes. London’s premier side in 1936, the Second World War interrupted Brentford’s golden era and they were relegated in the first completed season after the conflict, in 1947. Since then, they have flitted around the lower divisions, spending the vast majority of the last four decades in the third tier. Promotion to the Championship in 2014 has signalled a new era, however, with owner and supporter Matthew Benham presiding over a data-driven, ‘smarter’ approach, where the club's academy and Development Squad was scrapped in favour of a B team. Current Premier League stars such as Neal Maupay, Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma made their name with the Bees, although, until this season, it was a story of hard luck for the club, as they were defeated in the play-offs in both 2015 and 2020.
Brentford had just six weeks to recover from the heartbreak of losing to Fulham at Wembley in last year’s final and started the new Championship campaign a little slowly, winning just four of their opening 12 games. Frank’s side really hit their straps during the winter, though, as a 21-match unbeaten run – fuelled by the goals of top scorer Ivan Toney – helped them rise to the top by the beginning of February. Four defeats in six, followed by a number of frustrating draws, put paid to any hopes of automatic promotion, although a spot in the play-offs was never in doubt. The Bees had traditionally struggled in the post-season knockout competition, failing to be promoted on all nine previous play-off attempts, and it looked like that run would continue as they were 2-0 down to Bournemouth early in the second leg of the semi-final. Roared on by the home support at their new ground, the Bees recovered with three unanswered goals in a thrilling encounter, to set up the ultimately successful showdown with Swansea at the national stadium.
The Reds have only faced Brentford on 13 occasions, six of which came in the Bees’ aforementioned spell in the top-flight while a further four meetings were played out in the Second Division. United and Brentford each won four of those league games, with the other two drawn. The sides also shared a victory in two FA Cup meetings before the war – with the Reds prevailing 7-1 in 1928 – but the only clash since Brentford’s relegation in 1947 came in 1975, when goals from Lou Macari and Sammy McIlroy at Old Trafford gave us victory in the second round of the League Cup.
WHO’S THE MANAGER?
Former Brondby boss Frank succeeded Dean Smith as Brentford manager in October 2018, after almost two years as assistant head coach in west London. The Dane overcame a difficult start to guide the Bees to an 11th-placed finish at the end of his first campaign in charge, before being denied promotion at Wembley by Fulham last August. An advocate of a possession-based style of play, using a 4-3-3 formation, Frank will become only the second Danish manager in Premier League history, after Michael Laudrup.
Toney is the headline maker, as he set a new Championship record by scoring 31 goals in the regular season – a tally which was augmented by two key penalties during the play-offs. The 25-year-old has Premier League experience, having had a brief stint with Newcastle five years ago, but has had to drop back down the leagues and prove himself with Peterborough and Brentford to get another chance.
Assuming COVID-19 restrictions are lifted as planned, travelling Reds will be able to tick off a new venue in 2021/22. That’s because the Bees moved to the shiny Brentford Community Stadium last summer, after 116 years at Griffin Park. Located close to Kew Bridge, the ground can accommodate 17,250 fans – it will be the smallest in next season’s top-flight – and is shared with rugby union club London Irish. Due to coronavirus, home fans are still getting used to their new home, with the play-off semi-final second-leg against Bournemouth just the third game held there with a crowd in attendance.