By Abi Curran
Football fans love to discuss which clubs their perfect Premier League would consist of and a variety of factors inform this well-pondered decision. Some may have a particular focus on fans and stadium atmosphere, others will prioritise history and the rest will be insistent on the inclusion of fierce local derbies.
Among these clubs are titans of the modern game. It goes without saying that a place is reserved for the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. And what would the Premier League be without a trip to St. James’ Park in the Northeast?
Perhaps Brentford FC would be a more unusual feature in an average top 20 pick. However, this says very little about the sporting allure of a club who are enjoying their first season in top-flight football for 74 years.
The Bees kicked off their campaign in the 17,000 capacity Brentford Community Stadium – the first time since the stadium was newly built in 2020 that the side have been able to play in front of a full capacity crowd.
What a Premier League debut it was. Brentford embarrassed a lost Arsenal side who, conversely, are steeped in top-flight history – an irony that provided yet another great advert for the Premier League.
What the club lack in Premier League history, they certainly make up for in charm. Their rise to the top tier is an interesting narrative that starts with sports betting company founder and lifelong Brentford supporter, Matthew Benham.
The data-driven businessman and football club owner found a niche in the market, using the data analysis from his betting company, SmartOdds, to make more informed transfers and business decisions when he took over as owner in 2012.
The results speak for themselves. Brentford were saved from financial ruin and, since 2012, have risen through the ranks from League One to the Premier League.
All adding to this collective of evidence is the fact that Brentford’s leading goalscorers of recent seasons have been poached by Premier League sides – Andre Gray, Neal Maupay, and Ollie Watkins all previously played for Brentford before breaking into England’s top division.
Trusting the data has certainly been lucrative both on the pitch and financially, with profits from selling successful players contributing to the club’s overall growth.
Yet Brentford always seem to be nurturing their own stars of the present in a balanced player economy. One of those being last season’s leading goal scorer Ivan Toney. Following a season where the forward found the back of the net in the league 31 times, the Bees offer the Premier League the exciting likely prospect of goalscoring entertainment from a promoted side.
The Premier League debutants proved their menacing attacking potential against Arsenal, making dangerous runs with a particular swagger. When Brentford are winning, they attack. Losing? Attack. Drawing 2-2? Attack. The 2-0 victory left a lingering scent that stank of future League upsets at Brentford Community Stadium with a particular potency of a threatening high press.
Nothing exemplifies a Premier League upset more than conceding a defeat settling goal to a long throw-in. A schoolboy error for Arsenal that made the stadium erupt, the hive was certainly buzzing.
Their presence also adds a wealth of new London derbies to the top division. The recent meeting at Selhurst Park between Crystal Palace and the West London side was nothing short of a tussling match of attrition, reflected in a lack of goals.
There are many more nuances to Brentford FC and their journey into the topflight. Many individual heart-warming stories that exemplify the magic of the League, from Ethan Pinnock’s rise from the National League to the trust Brentford’s board had in Thomas Frank, who lost eight of his first 10 matches in charge of the side in 2016.
Perhaps the most touching aspect of Brentford’s arrival to the Premier League was the emotion of fans at the end of their opening game. No, Brentford hadn’t won the marathon of the League or even avoided relegation but the fact they had the opportunity to delight in front of 17,000 fans was special for even the neutral.
The eyes of the Brentford fan, that Sky Sports focused in on, with tears rolling down his face at the end of the game have probably witnessed much of Brentford’s less attractive history. But it was particularly poignant that the whole country is now witnessing the success of his boyhood club at the top level.
It will be difficult for The Bees to maintain this upward trajectory of success; though their owners are ambitious and unique, giving the club every chance of maintaining top-flight football.
One thing is for certain, Brentford FC have won the hearts of football fans across the country, enhancing the real magic of the league that fans keep coming back for year on year.
Image: Gareth Williams via Flickr