As long awaited and anticipated as Leeds United’s inevitable return to the Premier League, and the likeliness of Slaven Bilic’s West Brom joining them, the possible addition of Brentford would be make for better viewing, and a better Premier League.
Only 11 years ago did Brentford win the League Two title. It came ten years after they’d won the old Third Division having been relegated in between. They were bleak days to be a Brentford fan, a stark contrast from the days of today. Yesterday saw Brentford beat West Brom in a crucial game at the height of the Championship, and it was a win that saw them go to within five points of the automatic promotion spots.
It’s been a phenomenal season in truth. Thomas Frank has been hailed as one of the league’s best but yet he deserves so much more. After the first eight games of the season, Brentford were slumped in bottom-half, and the Dane was being labelled a ‘fraud’. But now, the likeable Brentford boss is being lauded as a tactical genius.
The turnaround at Brentford – both over the past decade and through the course of this season – is remarkable. But more impressive is how Brentford have gone about their recent success. Never before has the Championship seen a team play such immaculate football. Frank has imposed a playing style so simple yet so effective, so devastating yet to so hard to recreate, that Brentford are a truly unique team.
Against West Brom yesterday, Brentford managed to claim a relatively comfortable win in the end and without ever really breaking a sweat. Baggies fans were up in arms after the defeat, citing their ‘lacklustre’, ‘painfully average’ side – the result of playing a genuinely thorough team in Brentford. Leeds on the other hand returned to the top of the pile, opening up a three point lead over West Brom, eight over Brentford.
Leeds then, after 16 years, finally look set to a return to the Premier League. Obviously, this is Leeds we’re talking about, and nobody will count on it until the deed is done. Their return to the top-flight has long seemed like an inevitability, that’s bound to be followed by a sustained period of Premier League football.
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The English elite have been waiting to welcome Leeds since they left and no doubt, their addition will be better it. But just as much as the Premier League needs, or even wants Leeds, it also needs Brentford. A team that’s long lived in the shadows of their West London neighbours – Chelsea and QPR – are now prevailing, with a new stadium on the horizon and some of the Championship’s best and most recognisable talents to fill it with.
No team has ever won promotion in the way that Brentford have. Long has promotion from the Championship been a facade of parachute payments and whatnot – with the exception of the exceptional clubs like Leeds, and the underdog stories of Blackpool, Bournemouth and so on. But none have ever built such a sustainable bid for promotion like Brentford have this season.
If the current top-three were to go up – Leeds, West Brom and Brentford – who do you think might be relegated within the first five seasons? Leeds probably not, although it’s feasible. West Brom highly likely. But Brentford? After all the sustainable money they’ve made, the way they recruit and sell, and develop young players – is that really the makings of a team looking to tangle with Premier League relegation?
This season has proved that most teams in the Premier League – specifically the bottom six or seven – are in fact no better than the top six or seven Championship sides, they’ve simply had a promotion winning season, and have found themselves in the Premier League with enough sides worse than them to stay up.
Brentford deserve to go up this season. They play the best football. They’ve gone about this the right way and now is their time. As much as the Premier League will be a better place for all with the mighty Leeds and their unquestionable support, the addition of Brentford will instigate a whole new way of football thinking. They are pioneers, and soon they will be recognised as that.