As champagne soaked in the Wembley grass and the swarm in the Brentford half began to dwindle, a member of the Bees staff grabbed a bag of balls and set off along the byline.
Every few steps he threw one at the stragglers who had gathered behind the goal. Why not? They will not be used much anymore. Come for the season, those EFL-branded balls are being replaced with a sparkling set featuring the Premier League logo.
The itinerary and treasury will also look very different thanks to this Championship play-off win over Swansea. But otherwise Brentford’s message is clear: we will not change.
Brentford was promoted after defeating Swansea 2-0 in the Championship play-off final
Manager Thomas Frank (above) has devised the club’s return to the English top flight
Bees will be the 50th Premier League team
After the game, manager Thomas Frank – soaked in beer and draped in a white towel – largely resisted looking beyond the hours and drinks to come.
But he let his mind wander to the Premier League for a moment: “We will definitely stay calm and stick to the strategy,” he said.
After early goals from Ivan Toney and Emiliano Marcondes ended 74 years outside the top flight, Frank is determined that Brentford will not become another ambitious club lost in the haze of pound boards.
“It’s going to be very important that we stick to that,” added Frank. “And I have no doubt we will.”
Frank was also optimistic nine months ago when he was in the same chair after a defeat to Fulham. They have since refined their brave playing style, but the foundation has remained solid.
The roots of this promotion go back nearly a decade, to the time when youth fan Matthew Benham took over and implemented smart recruiting and his Smartodds statistics company. They were in League One then, even now they are in the middle of the Championship money race.
No wonder midfielder Mathias Jensen insisted: “I’m not worried about the Premier League and I’m not afraid of anything. Of course I know it’s another level – it’s the biggest league in the world and probably a lot of the best teams in the world.
“But this club is now able to take the next step. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m pretty comfortable. I think we can do very well this season like Leeds. ‘
Marcelo Bielsa’s squad finished ninth after promotion in 2020. All without compromising on their fearless football.
“They play a different kind of football, but the way they played in the championship and the way we play shows that we are capable of taking the next step,” Jensen added. Hopefully we can also do very well in the Premier League. This is what we’ve been dreaming about and working for for so long. ‘
And Frank hopes Brentford’s own journey can inspire too. “There should be a lot of other clubs that dream,” he said. ‘Everything is possible if, as mentioned, you work hard, have a clear strategy, a top attitude and togetherness. Then everything in the world is feasible. ‘
Players like Ivan Toney (right) have already expressed their enthusiasm for playing at the highest level
Brentford sold Said Benrahma (left) and Ollie Watkins (right) to Premier League clubs last year
You can forgive the fairytale thinking. Defender Ethan Pinnock was in the non-league four years ago, while the manager’s journey is also a lesson in persistence.
“I’ve really been down the hard road – coaching since I was 20, from under eight to now the Premier League,” said Frank. “All I hope is that it can inspire many other coaches who dream of helping people become better people and players.”
To think some Brentford fans were wary of relinquishing control to Benham when he offered a lifeline to a club facing a ‘bleak’ financial future in 2009. To think that many of his innovative methods have since led to ridicule. The payout? A £ 178 million sales increase from joining the big time.
But anyone who wants to replicate their success must arm themselves with more than just data analysis. Brentford relies on the nous to spot hidden gems on the scrap heap, the people to improve them in-house. And the courage to sell when time and price align.
But they need to make sure they keep the current squad together and stick to their ideas
Mads Roerslev, a graduate of the B team (left), put on the second and epitomizes the club’s approach
Last season’s failure cost them Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma. How vultures would have been circled after a record attempt from the 10th playoff. Instead, their chances of keeping Jensen, Toney, David Raya, Rico Henry, Bryan Mbeumo and even Frank have never looked so healthy.
Maybe some will still go, but Brentford is sure to see some reinforcements. But now it’s time to celebrate – and remember. The club dedicated this win to Robert Rowan, their former technical director who died in 2018 at the age of 28.
He was a major architect on their pioneering B team, and at Wembley, graduate Mads Roerslev created Marcondes’ second goal.
No wonder Brentford isn’t about to change for anyone. Or be afraid of something.