With 12 long minutes to go, the television cameras chose Derek Burridge’s lonely figure.
The older Brentford fan was there when they last interacted with this country’s elite. On Saturday he was alone at Wembley – surrounded only by red chairs and a social distance. It was a picture that sums up Brentford’s painful urge for the Promised Land: they’ve waited 74 years and the last two chapters of this remarkable return were written under the dark clouds of Covid.
But finally Burridge will see Brentford among the big boys again; heartbreak on an empty Wembley nine months ago against Fulham replaced by cheers for Thomas Frank’s players and the few thousand fans who made the short journey north.
Brentford celebrates after being promoted to the Premier League and returning to the top flight for the first time since 1947
Ivan Toney celebrates his early penalty, which set Brentford on his way to promotion to the Premier League
Emiliano Marcondes is congratulated by teammate Henrik Dalsgaard as Brentford managed to beat Swansea
Jubilant Brentford players celebrate at the final whistle at Wembley after their promotion to the top flight was confirmed
Brentford manager Thomas Frank has managed to get the club back to the top flight for the first time since 1947
BRENTFORD (3-5-2): Raya 6.5; Dalsgaard 6.5, Jansson 6.5 (Reid 79, 6), Pinnock 7; Roerslev 7, Jensen 7, Janelt 7 (Ghoddos 74, 6.5), Marcondes 8 (Bidstrup 90), Canos 8 (Forss 74, 6); Mbeumo 8, Toney 8
Subs not used: Daniels, Norgaard, Fosu, Goode, Stevens
Goals: Toney 10, Marcondes 20
Yellow: Janelt, Marcondes
Manager: Thomas Frank 8
SWANSEA (5-3-2): Woodman 5; Roberts 6.5, Naughton 6 (Cullen 60,6), Cabango 6, Guehi 5.5, Bidwell 6 (Manning 82,6); Fulton 4, Grimes 5, Hourihane 5 (Dhanda 63,6); Ayew 5, Lowe 6.5
Subs not used: Hamer, Bennett, Smith, Whittaker, Latibeaudiere, Freeman
Manager: Steve Cooper 6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6
Frank always insisted that he wasn’t superstitious, that he saw no symbolism in Brentford’s nine failed playoff attempts – an English record – or the strange curse of red and white that had seen matches in their colors go through 32 campaigns – and 16 finals – without promotion.
It also doesn’t seem like his players here, against Swansea, exorcised all the dragging demons within 20 minutes – first by Ivan Toney’s early penalty and then by Emiliano Marcondes’ brilliant second.
That left Steve Cooper with a mountain to climb, one that became insurmountable after Jay Fulton’s red card in the second half. Steve Cooper felt sad about that decision – and not without justification – but he will know they were the second best here.
“I can’t say anything that makes people feel better right now,” Cooper said. “Getting that far is an incredible effort on the part of the players.”
After a second unsuccessful play-off run in a row, and when his players heard £ 178 million in celebrations, any crumb of consolation? The Brentford players were where they were last season.
“Setbacks should be things that make you stronger and define you,” Cooper added. “You can sulk and it gets worse, or you can come back stronger.”
The story of the tape – the championship’s most prolific offense faces one of its meanest defenses – always suggested this could turn into a long afternoon for the Swansea backline.
The battle between golden shoe winner Toney and golden glove holder Freddie Woodman was probably always decisive.
But keeping the attacker still is hard enough without giving him a free hit from 12 meters. Swansea supporters toasted Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie as Sergi Canos shoved the ball into Bryan Mbeumo, who fell under Woodman’s challenge. No hesitation from referee Chris Kavanagh and it was no surprise that Toney stroked home his 33rd goal of the season – and number 11 from the spot.
From there, Brentford went for the jugular vein, and the cruel irony for Cooper is that their brilliant second came from a rare moment of Swansea pressure. Andre Ayew had the ball in the Brentford area, but within 20 seconds Marcondes had turned the knife. A clearance fell on Mbeumo, who drove to the coffin and waited for the overlapping Mads Roerslev.
He showed excellent composure to wait for Marcondes to sneak into the back post.
Frank is thrown in the air by his players as Brentford celebrates his promotion to the Premier League for next season
Toney, who has been hugely impressive this season, showed excellent composure as he scored from eleven yards
Ivan Toney’s record-breaking goals match this campaign
It was a midfielder’s finish and meant that the Bees had scored as many goals in 20 minutes as they had in four previous play-off finals combined.
All of a sudden, just like Griffin Park in last season’s semifinals, Swansea was stabbed twice in no time. It could have been worse.
Soon, a long-range effort by Toney got over Woodman before he cut the bottom of the bar and bounced out; Mbeumo fluffed his lines after a defensive attack gave him a shot on target.
The first sniff of a Swansea fightback came just before the break, when Ayew’s looping header landed on the crossbar.
And then, within 20 seconds of the restart, the striker should have cut the deficit in half. Connor Roberts’ dangerous cross was left by Pontus Jansson, but from a few yards away, Ayew somehow failed to aim his header at goal.
Goalkeeper David Raya, who kept the zero, celebrates after Brentford scored their second goal in the play-off final
Swansea’s difficult task was made even more difficult in the second half when midfielder Jay Fulton was shown a red card
Fulton felt he was unhappy to be sent away when he slipped, and his dismissal made things even better for Brentford
Brentford will be the 50th team to play in the Premier League after winning their round of 16 after losing the top seven
It was a great opportunity to test the determination of this scarred Brentford squad, but Swansea kept pushing.
Sadly, Jamal Lowe’s flashed shot was the closest before their monumental task became impossible after Fulton’s red with 25 minutes to go. It may have been hard on the midfielder, who accidentally stepped on Mathias Jensen’s Achilles and accidentally slipped into the Brentford midfielder from behind.
But the challenge looked annoying at first glance and that would explain Kavanagh’s decision. So Fulton walked into the tunnel, shirt over his face, and the slumbering Swansea heaped right behind him. When Brentford’s fate was finally sealed, before the champagne corks were popped and Frank was thrown into the air by his players, the cameras turned back to a smiling Burridge.
He was one of the first fans to enter their new stadium. Now he will be one of the first to see them in the Premier League.
Premier League teams must consider the Bees’ ability to counterattack as evidenced by their second goal (pictured above)
Defender Ethan Pinnock did an outstanding job helping Brentford advance to the top flight
Swansea forward Andre Ayew regretted missing an inviting opportunity to find the net when his side was defeated
In summary as Sportsmail’s Jeorge Bird provided live coverage of the game.