Next up – and first up on the pitch; we’ll be the first visitors at the shiny new Brentford Community Stadium, in Round One of the League Cup – a club with just a few Wycombe connections…
Ground: Brentford Community Stadium (NEW, capacity 17,250)
Second tier seasons: 16 (+5 top flight)
Major honours: N/A
Last season: 3rd in Championship (lost to Fulham in play-off final)
Brentford lit up the 2019/20 Championship with some irresistible attacking football. The divison’s top scorers, their meticulous data-led approach (complemented by consistently excellent recruitment) paid off – until it came to crunch time. As Fulham’s Joe Bryan broke the deadlock in the play-off final with that audacious yet perfectly executed free-kick, the number kings had been beaten at their own game. It was a cruel twist of irony at the end of the longest of seasons.
A run of eight straight wins left them tasting automatic promotion with just two games of the regular campaign remaining, but they fell to successive defeats for the first time since August and ended up where they didn’t really want to be: in the end-of-season lottery. It could be the end of a min-era. Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins, who combined for 42 goals as the Bees’ two most talismanic components in achieving their highest league finish since 1947, are expected to move on – but their moneyball strategy has evidently worked to great effect so far and they should find suitable replacements. One thing’s for sure, though: they’ll be hungrier than ever to reach the promised land.
The gaffer: Thomas Frank
Appointed: October 2018
Previously managed: Brøndby (Denmark), Denmark U19, Denmark U17, Denmark U16
Played for: Frederiksværk BK (Denmark)
Brentford league record: P83, W38, D16, L29
Previously assistant manager at Griffin Park, Frank stepped into Dean Smith’s shoes after he left for Aston Villa. Following a short amateur playing career, he began coaching in junior football in the 90s. The first person to take a Danish youth team to a World Cup, he worked with the likes of Spurs’ Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen, and Christian Nørgaard – now of Brentford. Brøndby – Denmark’s second biggest club – came calling in 2013 and he guided them to 3rd and 4th place league finishes. He resigned in March 2016 following criticism from the chairman posting under a pseudonym on a fans’ forum, moving to Griffin Park in December of the same year. Meticulously devoted to the game, Frank has a degree in physical education and went on to study sports psychology.
Dominic Ambrose talks us through his beloved Bees.
Losing in the play-off final is the cruelest way to end a season, but will you still look back on 2019/20 as one of Brentford’s best ever seasons? Or is there a sense that you blew your best chance of promotion? Last season was undoubtably our best season in living memory and it has to be remembered like that. Brentford is a club on the up and pushing for promotion will become the norm from now on if our recruiting stays the same.
Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins are likely to move on this summer. I’m sure you’ll look to replace both, but would one be a bigger loss to you than the other? Although Saïd is a massive talent, replacing Ollie’s goals will be difficult. We have a history of selling on strikers for good profit, but at this point we have normally blooded a replacement. This time, we have not done that, so hopefully we will buy someone who fits the bill.
If you bring the right players in, do you think you can have another crack at promotion this season? Or is it likely to be more of a rebuilding season? I think another crack at promotion would be feasible as we always replace what we lose and we have a great base to start with. This season needs to be about consistency; if we get that right, we should aim high.
Your business model has worked brilliantly so far and it’s great to see a club do so well while being sustainable. Is it frustrating to see your best players leave so regularly? Most Brentford fans are used to losing our top players now and relish seeing who will step up next – but there is a feeling that we may need to keep hold of most of our players now in order to really push on.
Lastly, it must have been sad to leave such an iconic ground in Griffin Park, but are fans looking forward to getting inside the new stadium when possible? Of course there is an old guard that will always rather be at Griffin Park, but Lionel Road is where our future lies and will enable us to be sustainable going forward. It will take some getting used to, but I can’t wait.
When we last met
The 2011/12 campaign was the last time we shared a division. Gareth Ainsworth and Matt Bloomfield both featured in a 5-2 thumping in West London, while the former also came off the bench in a 1-0 loss at Adams Park. Future Chairboys Marcus Bean and Myles Weston both played in both fixtures, while Sam Saunders netted Brentford’s second goal in the away clash.
Did you know…?
Brentford’s ‘Bees’ nickname is actually nothing to do with our pollen-couriering friends; it’s origins are quite accidental. When attending a match in the 1890s, students of Borough Polytehnic belted out the college’s chant of “Buck Up Bs!” in support of their friend and Brentford player Joseph Gettins. The local press misheard it and the rest is history.
Header photo: Andy Scott via Wikimedia Commons