Brentford 2020/21 Season Review: A campaign like no other as Premier League promotion is achieved

4 min

In a season defined by much change and new beginnings, the 2020/21 campaign will live long in the memory as Brentford eventually banished their Play-Off hoodoo to reach the promised land of the Premier League for the first time in their history. 

It could have been so different though, as Thomas Frank’s side entered the new campaign just 39 days after the heartbreak of their latest Wembley defeat and without two-thirds of their famous ‘BMW’.

Brentford may not have reached the Premier League after a turbulent 2019/20 campaign that was blighted by coronavirus but Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins did.

Big money moves to West Ham United and Aston Villa respectively left many Bees’ fans wondering if the squad would have both the quality and mental strength for another promotion push.

Thankfully the club’s recruitment policy once again worked wonders in finding a diamond in the rough in the form of Peterborough striker Ivan Toney, who had scored an impressive 24 goals in League One the previous season. 

READ MORE: How Thomas Frank, Ivan Toney and Brentford were never going to let history repeat itself

Toney’s arrival for an initial fee of £5m proved to be the catalyst needed for another Premier League assault with the forward going on to set a new Championship record for most goals scored in a single season.

The season was also the first in the club’s brand new, 17,250 capacity stadium, just a stone’s throw away from their old iconic Griffin Park. 

However, with games continuing to be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus, Brentford struggled without fans and in new surroundings during the opening months of the new campaign, sitting eleventh after seven games. 

An impressive point at home to eventual champions Norwich City sparked an incredible 21 games unbeaten, taking them top of the table at the start of February.

A resounding 7-2 win over Wycombe during that period exemplified just how dominant the Bees could be when they were at their ruthless best, playing a free-flowing attacking brand of football everyone knew and loved.

Of course, all good things have to come to an end and it had to be against bogey side Barnsley the winning run was snapped – exacerbated by a further two consecutive defeats and just five wins in their next fifteen matches. 

Brentford’s inability to finish off games and being forced to settle for draws during that period cost them a chance of an automatic promotion spot with Norwich and Watford pulling away from the rest of the pack.

By April their football had become lethargic and stale with teams seemingly working out how to set-up against them, prompting Thomas Frank to take drastic action to save their promotion bid.

A slightly unconventional 3-1-4-2 formation was used for the away clash at Preston North End on April 10th, a system Frank had trialled at times before but never on a consistent basis. 

The result was a 5-0 drubbing as the Bees ran riot; the system becoming a mainstay for the remainder of the season which saw the side earn four wins in their last six, including a resilient 1-0 win with ten men away to fellow promotion hopefuls Bournemouth.

With momentum on their side, Brentford secured their second consecutive third place finish and once again faced the Cherries in the Play-Off semi-finals.

Their form appeared to desert them in a rather flat first-leg showing on the South Coast, falling to a 1-0 defeat courtesy of a Arnaut Danjuma breakaway goal just before the hour mark.

READ MORE: Brian Burgess’ Brentford Legacy: From the terraces and stadium planning – to a Queen’s Birthday Honour

The stage was set for a dramatic second-leg at the Brentford Community Stadium, with Frank whipping the partisan home crowd into a frenzy as his side attempted to overcome the deficit.

All hope seemed lost within five minutes though as once again Danjuma was on hand to punish some shambolic defending as it appeared the occasion had overwhelmed Brenford.

But up stepped Toney from the spot to halve the deficit before the entire tie turned on the dismissal of Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham for a trip on Bryan Mbuemo as he raced clear on goal.

Vitaly Janelt then levelled the contest on aggregate just after half-time with Marcus Forss grabbing the all important third to seal a 3-2 aggregate win and send Brentford back to Wembley for a second successive Play-Off final.

After the heartache of the previous season, Brentford were never going to let history repeat itself with Swansea City blown away after just 20 minutes thanks to early Toney and Emiliano Marcondes’ goals.

It had taken the club ten attempts to finally find success via the Play-Offs and they had done it on the biggest stage and with the biggest prize at stake.

The 2021/22 campaign will usher in a new era for Brentford at their brand new home in front of supporters for the first time – a new beginning and another incredible chapter in the club’s rapid rise over the last few years.

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