Brentford at risk of Championship play-off heartbreak once again
For Brentford, the pain of last season’s near miss in terms of promotion undoubtedly still rankles within the team. Having looked to be in poll position for automatic promotion with just a few matches to go last term, Brentford’s form stuttered, allowing West Bromwich Albion to nip in ahead of them and take that coveted spot in the Premier League. That meant that they were not among the clubs promoted to the EPL for the 2020/21 season. The play-offs offered Thomas Frank’s side a second chance, but an agonising extra-time loss to local rivals Fulham meant their dreams were crushed for good.
Many anticipated that Brentford would suffer something of a hangover this season following the unrewarded toils of the 2019-20 campaign. There was also the fact that two of Brentford’s stars – Ollie Watkins and Saïd Benrahma – had joined Premier League clubs, so it was hard to envisage that Frank’s men would immediately produce a similar promotion push as they did last season. They were relatively well backed in the Championship odds online, but the might of the three teams relegated from the Premier League gave them plenty to reckon with.
But the plucky west Londoners have proved many wrong, and it’s been another solid season, although once again there is a sense that Brentford have somewhat thrown away their chance at automatic promotion. At one point, the Bees were sitting pretty in the top two of the Championship table, looking for all the world like they were going to make up for last season’s demise, but once again their form has deserted them at the wrong time, and at the time of writing Brentford find themselves in that familiar third place, nine points adrift of second-place Watford.
If Brentford do end up in the play-offs once again, it will be a huge test for the team. The task of earning promotion via the Championship play-offs is a notoriously difficult one, but the added psychological pressure of gaining redemption after last season’s agonising defeat to Fulham could well work against Brentford, as the ghosts of that disappointment rear their head.
There are plenty of strong teams eager to have their own say when it comes to the play-offs, with the likes of Swansea City, Barnsley, Reading and Bournemouth all battling it out to cement their top-six spot. Indeed, Swansea will be doubly motivated to go one better this year after they lost to Brentford in the play-off semi-finals last season, and should the two sides’ paths cross once again it would make for an interesting encounter.
Of course, it could well prove that Brentford’s play-off agony will give them that extra bit of motivation and desire to ensure they make the most of their opportunity for promotion this time around. For Frank, it’s important that he gets his team playing to the highest possible standard as the Championship season reaches a close, with momentum usually playing its part when it comes to the play-offs.
Brentford are a club just waiting for promotion. Having fully established themselves as a top-half Championship club, and having just moved into their state-of-the-art new stadium, the next logical step is for the club to ascent to the promised land that is the Premier League. They narrowly missed out on achieving that dream last season, and it’s fair to say that many neutrals will be hoping they can go one better in 2021.