Just a few short weeks ago, Brentford seemed destined for yet another middling season in the Championship. And for a team which has spent much of its existence in the lower tiers of the English football league system, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Following their inaugural promotion to the Championship in 2014 they had an impressive debut season, finishing in fifth place, but since then they’ve found themselves gridlocked in the middle of the table, never finishing higher than ninth or lower than 11th.
This season appeared destined to be the same – after a slow start, they found themselves in 13th after 15 weeks and 9th after 20. Since then, however, things have changed. They’ve won four of their last six games and drawn another, including a 4-0 drubbing of a very decent Bristol City side in their most recent outing. Suddenly, they’re in third place, and promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s long history is a very real possibility.
Despite their good form, however, an appearance in the Championship play-offs is far from assured. Leeds and West Brom have established themselves as the clear top two teams in the league, boasting a nine-point buffer over the Bees 26 games into the season, but from third place onwards things get a lot tighter. Brentford is just a solitary game ahead of Millwall, who are in seventh and currently outside of Championship play-off qualification, while teams as far back as Derby County in 17th will still be holding out hope – albeit perhaps somewhat unrealistically – for their own chances, given they are only a further seven points back from Millwall.
It’s a packed table from third all the way down to 17th, and Brentford will need to keep winning to ensure they get a second crack in their history at a Premier League berth. In recent weeks, however, they have demonstrated that they are well and truly capable of doing just that, and would be thoroughly deserving of promotion. Indeed, football odds suggest that they are by far the most likely team to move up to the Premier League next season outside of Leeds and West Brom, and given their sparkling recent form and a goal differential more in line with the two teams above them than any of those below, it’s difficult to argue with that.
There’s no doubt the bees are buzzing, and with 20 games to go in the Championship season they are perhaps better placed than they ever have been to make their way into the Premier League as we know it today. With winnable games against Huddersfield and Queens Park Rangers to come, it seems inevitable that they will continue to build on the confidence they have developed in recent weeks.
With the transfer window now open, however, Premier League clubs will inevitably come calling for the likes of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma, and it’s vital the Bees do everything in their power to hold on to them. Typically, it’s difficult for such players to turn down the prestige of the Premier League, but Brentford’s run of good form couldn’t have come at a better time; now, the likes of Watkins and Benrahma have the prospect of enjoying that prestige with the Bees.
Promotion appears to be as within reach as it ever has been for the small club from West London, and their development on the field is set to coincide with development off it with a move to a new stadium projected for the summer of 2020. Griffin Park has been Brentford’s home for over a century, and the stadium – which has a capacity of just over 12,000 people – holds plenty of sentimental value for fans of the Bees.
However, the club’s time there is coming to an end, with the construction of the Brentford Community Stadium nearing its conclusion. Brentford’s new home will have a capacity of closer to 18,000, more fit for a club in the world’s best football league, and they would love nothing more than to open the stadium in their first ever season in Premier League.
There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge before the Bees can call themselves a Premier League club, but with 20 games to go in the season things are looking good. A top-two finish and automatic qualification is within reach but would require plenty to go their way, but regardless they appear destined for an appearance in the Championship play-offs – where, if they continue to play the way they currently are, they will be the comfortable favourite for promotion.
The move to Brentford Community Stadium will mark a major step forward off the field for the West London club, and they’re every chance to match it on the field with an inaugural Premier League appearance.