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TRY telling the fans who flocked to Griffin Park, flares lit, singing the kit man’s name as he strolled out grinning after the final whistle, that lockdown football lacks excitement.
For all the headlines about a very quiet farewell, their roaring from the Brook Road gate filled their home one last time, as staff celebrated with beers and a kickabout on the turf.
If sending the place off had threatened to overshadow Brentford’s performance, the players — between a route-one smash-and-grab, two team triumphs and Pontus Jansson’s defensive howler — went some way to sum up what the club is now made of: the old second-tier simplicity and a knack for creating their own hard luck, but clinical, tenacious, scintillating football, too.
The roaring went on as Thomas Frank summed this ethos up himself, emerging onto a video call full of a beer or two. The inevitable Griffin Park question earned a very Frank response — calmly stating that much analysis was required after Barnsley snatched a win, and Brentford’s automatic promotion, away from the ground’s last regular-season tie.
But he’s not cold, just clinical.
“We wanted to do everything to make it a magical moment. And my final speech was in the dressing room, because it deserved the final speech there — with all the players and all the staff — and I said let’s go out and make it one last magical moment at Griffin Park.”
Whatever the ground evokes — corner pubs, standing terraces, blinking LED scoreboard, a trophy cabinet filled with egg cups — the experience of craning past chipped-paint pillars does not match up anymore with the fact that many of these players, with Brentford or without, are top-tier prospects.
So breathless was the night’s opener that you could have missed it, restricted view aside. David Raya showcased his typically busy distribution — over-arming a pass to Mathias Jensen, whose sweeping through-ball let Ollie Watkins beat Erwin Mulder coolly at his left post after just 11 minutes.
Their sustained threat put Swansea, ghost-like for the first half, down on aggregate four minutes later. Slick passing opened Said Benrahma up on the left wing, and his cross sloped onto the head of Emiliano Marcondes to guide it in with grace.
The swap of Griffin Park for Wembley was all but sealed out of the half-time blocks when Jensen, surely one of the club’s most underrated performers, set up Rico Henry to loop a cross onto Bryan Mbeumo’s volleying right foot at close range — leaving defender Jake Bidwell sprawled on the turf.
Should Brentford win promotion, comparisons to Norwich — if they aren’t already being made — are inevitable. But while their moneyball, Football Manager-esque approach (is your lower-tier club snapping up 20-year-olds from Sparta Rotterdam?) bears similarities, Bees fans will wax lyrical about the potential of its incredibly young-but-steady strikeforce — a cohort more seamless than the Canaries’ key combo of Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki that eventually fell short this season.
That Jansson, practically an old-timer at 29 years old, engineered Swansea’s only goal for them — leaping River Dance-style over a ball to let Rhian Brewster lob Raya — seemed typically Brentford too, though, as it opened up the visitors’ best spell of the match.
Collapsing onto the pitch at the final whistle, the celebrations weren’t of a team that is used to a procession towards its glories. Returning to the Championship, in 2014, came after five failed playoff campaigns in 19 years — something Frank, who himself played with fire in a touchline scuffle with Connor Roberts, seems very aware of.
“We have had a very good season, the best in modern times at Brentford,” he said afterwards, indulging celebrations but never losing his cool. “It means a lot to me, I'm very pleased, very happy and I will sleep well tonight. But the next task is to win the final.”
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