Not many would have tipped Brentford to finish third in the Championship back in August – top six perhaps, but certainly not two points off automatic promotion favourites West Bromwich Albion.
But the Bees, with their modestly built squad based on statistical analysis and algorithms have defied the odds so much that securing a Play-Off place felt more a failure than achievement at the end of the season.
Last Wednesday night’s home defeat to Barnsley wasn’t meant to happen – the curtain was supposed to come down on Griffin Park, the Bees’ home for 116 years, in glorious fashion with the club celebrating the unlikeliest of automatic promotions from underneath the noses of more illustrious rivals.
Premier League promotion for the first time in the club’s history would not have been celebrated in front of the adoring home faithful but they would have been there in spirit in what would have been the perfect send-off for a tight-knit stadium possessing so much character and so many memories.
Instead, the club had the opportunity to experience one more lingering, emotional and heartfelt goodbye to their famous old ground.
And, despite arriving back from South Wales trailing 1-0 from the first-leg, Brentford were never going to let the second opportunity to create one final piece of history at Griffin Park slip through their grasp.
Two early goals, synonymous with Brentford post-Lockdown, quickly turned the tie on its head as a sublime team move ended with Ollie Watkins’ opener while Emiliano Marcondes’ header four minutes later provided the lightning start they so desperately needed.
Brentford’s renowned forward line may have got the goals but their defence justified their own plaudits when called upon – goalkeeper David Raya crucially saving from Conor Gallagher minutes after the second goal just as decisive.
There were other highlights as well – not just Bryan Mbeumo’s goal immediately after the interval that effectively killed the game as a contest but top scorer Watkins leading from the front to track back and retrieve the ball with a crunching challenge.
But this is what the football club is all about – despite some headline-grabbers; Brentford are ultimately a community club where, through a combination of hard-work, passion and commitment the whole is greater than the sum of all their parts.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Brentford if it came so easily and one momentary lapse of concentration sent nerves jangling as a simple long ball between the usually imperious Ethan Pinnock and Pontus Jansson caused havoc to make it 3-1 and give Swansea a glimmer of hope.
There was also the usual goalkeeping drama in stoppage time as Swansea’s Erwin Mulder launched himself forward in the Welsh side’s desperate search for an elusive winner.
Brentford held firm though with the final whistle met with an outpouring of emotion – Josh Dasilva and Sergi Canos falling to their knees, a beaming Said Benrahma with his hands on his head while Thomas Frank simply providing a fist pump.
From outside, fans had congregated on Breamar Lane waiting for full-time with bated breath, singing in full voice with the echoes of “Wembley, Wembley” swirling inside Griffin Park – chants this hallowed old ground will never hear again after the night.
Wembley may beckon and it would be fitting if the club entered a new era at a new stadium in the Premier League by clinching promotion at another famous old ground.
If they achieve that next Tuesday they will have to overcome another feat they have never done before – winning promotion via the Play-Offs.
But for now Griffin Park takes centre stage – something even Brentford’s heroic players were more than willing to respect as they filed out of the stadium – the likes of Raya hanging around a just a moment longer in a silent acknowledgement to the iconic ground.
After months of countdowns including COVID-related delayed ones, Griffin Park was finally ready to say goodbye after 116 years of service.
The win over Swansea City will be a moment that will be savoured for years to come as the annals of history record one final, crucial victory.