Did you say “Premier League”?
Rewind to 04 August 2020, I am sitting in my flat feeling devastated, having just lost the play-off final to Fulham. It wasn’t meant to end like this. We were not meant to be beaten, and not by Fulham. I couldn’t possibly face another off season after selling our star players for huge profits. There was no way we were going to hold onto Watkins and Benrahma and I certainly couldn’t endure another season where new players take twenty games to get into their stride and finish strongly.
Here’s to an exciting summer and promising year ahead as we venture into the unknown.
Strangely, memories of the League One play-off final defeat to Yeovil in 2013 also stood out to me. Perhaps the extra year to learn lessons and allow for the team to mature would benefit us in the long run? Despite losing two star players, perhaps being able to keep the rest of the squad together will suffice this time?
Maybe Fulham will experience immediate relegation just like Yeovil did in 2014 and we could simply leap frog them?
Fast-forward to 29 May 2021, and that is exactly what happened. I was one of the lucky Brentford fans to be present in Wembley to witness history! And who were the players that scored the goals to gain us promotion? That’s right, it was the pair who replaced Watkins and Benrahma, Marcondes and the one and only Ivan Toney. It was meant to be. Given that the stadium was empty last season, at least some Brentford fans were able to attend and celebrate together. This is the way it should have been!
Brentford have come into the headlines in recent years for being shrewd in the transfer market. Marcondes was signed as a free transfer from FC Nordsjælland in Denmark 12 months before Benrahma was sold. This is a tactic that they have used many times in the past, signing a replacement in advance. Benrahma himself was signed for £2.7 million as a replacement for Jota before he moved to Villa. Then you have the other obvious transfer tactic, selling a striker and buying a ready-made replacement. In this respect, Brentford have had a huge turnover in the striking department since 2013 – from Clayton Donaldson (Donaldinho) to Andre Gray, Gray to Scott Hogan, Hogan to Lasse Vibe, Vibe to Neil Maupay, Maupay to Watkins, and finally the cream of the crop IVAN TONEY.
In acquiring Ivan Toney, right under the noses of Glasgow Celtic, Brentford managed to upgrade Ollie Watkins, while making a cool £23 million profit. Toney might not pass the eye test as well as Watkins does – Watkins is more athletic, has a serious engine, scores spectacular goals – but Toney scores more often and that extra handful of goals, along with scoring in both the play-off semi-final and final made all the difference. This summer break will tell us a lot about Ivan Toney and Brentford’s ambition. Toney might look at this moment as a chance to play in the Premier League with a club that he trusts and is familiar with, or he might think that this could be an opportunity to get a life-changing, long-term contract with an established Premier League club. I suppose it would also be a nice story to tell the grandchildren, mentioning that you were once purchased for over £30 million during a global pandemic. In my opinion, Toney can easily score fifteen league goals next season if he stays at Brentford, and Brentford can easily finish in the middle of the table. Eighty percent of that squad are good enough to be part of a match-day squad, but the remaining twenty percent will have to be covered by careful scouting to make sure that we find players who have the quality and will buy into the team ethos.
In the past, Brentford have always got away with selling valuable assets and reinvesting the money in much cheaper players, mainly because they were a Championship club. The fans understood that they could not stop players leaving for the glossy heights of the English Premier League and they respected the business model. That will not cut it anymore, now that they are finally in the big time, after a seventy-five-year absence. So, here’s to an exciting summer and promising year ahead as we venture into the unknown – a journey for the owner, coaches, players, and fans alike. And, if you have not had the chance to watch much of Brentford before, you are in for a treat.