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Brentford FC; A Tale of Two Seasons

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A brief summary of how Brentford showed resilience to return to the second tier of English football.

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By: Richard Alfonzo (Community)

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Saturday 27th April 2013. Brentford hosted Doncaster Rovers in what turned out to be the League One promotion decider. Rovers needed a point whilst nothing than a victory would do for the Bees. The match seemed to be meandering to 0-0 draw when Brentford were suddenly awarded a 95th minute penalty. The crowd had erupted as the chance to win promotion seemed inevitable. Long serving captain, Kevin O Connor walked towards the penalty area only to find on loan striker Marcello Trotter placing the ball on the spot. In an instant, his penalty crashed against the underside of the bar and the Brentford players were motionless with shock as Doncaster broke to score. That was it. Doncaster had won the League One Championship and Brentford were left in the play offs.

Although reaching the final, it seemed inevitable that the Bees were going to be denied given their poor record in previous play offs. So was the case as Yeovil ran out as 2-1 winners.
With another gruelling 46 match season looming. One key question was to emerge from this heartbreaking climax. Manager Uwe Rosler, (and indeed the supporters) would have to consider. How do you motivate a team that was fulfilling it’s potential on the pitch but had ultimately missed out on the goal of promotion to the Championship?

Historically, it had been commonplace for a team’s performance to significantly decline after narrowly missing out on promotion the previous season. This seemed to be the case when Brentford had an indifferent start to the new season. By the 12th October, Brentford were lying 12th in League One and mid table mediocrity seemed inevitable. However, Rosler’s ambition of automatic promotion never diminished and with a 1-0 victory over Oldham scored in the 90th minute by striker Clayton Donaldson results started to turn. With an unbeaten run of 21 matches stretching to 22nd February, Brentford found themselves at the summit of League One.

With the previous years’ experience, It was apparent that Rosler was demonstrating a constructive level of autonomy. He made the players believe his vision that Brentford deserved to be playing Championship football. Stretching nine matches from the 26th October to the 14th December, Brentford had scored 15 goals and conceded only 2. All the while showing, that each player was taking responsibility for their respective roles and striding towards that illusive achievement of automatic promotion. Meanwhile, Brentford were gaining recognition from pundits as the emerging threat to Wolves and Leyton Orient to their early domination at the top of League One.

Nevertheless, for Brentford not all recognition was positive. In December speculation was mounting that Wigan Athletic chairmen Dave Whelan circling Griffin Park to secure the services of Rosler. Speculation turned to reality and Rosler took up the post, resulting in Mark Warbuton taking over the reigns. Being another event threatening Brentford’s aim to gain promotion for the first time in 21 seasons was soon eradicated as 7 consecutive wins followed Rosler’s departure. Adversity was no longer holding the Bees back, but instead a driving force in maintaining impeccable form.

Warburton had inherited a squad with mixed with the youth of attackers Donaldson and Trotta (who had scored 24 goals between them) and the experience in captain Kevin O' Connor. On 15th March Brentford had the opportunity to leap frog 2nd placed Leyton Orient. O' Connor led Brentford to a 1-0 victory. Whilst going down to 10 men after James Tarkowski sending off on 49 minutes, his leadership demonstrated concentration which ran throughout the team. His psychological determination inspired the rest of the team to defend the slender lead. The objective going into 2nd place with 2 games in hand had been accomplished and it seemed automatic promotion was inevitable.

On April 18th at Griffin Park, Brentford hosted Preston and promotion could be sealed with a home win. Although being in the situation of their destiny being in their own hands, Brentford found parallels with the past as they were awarded a penalty. The 12 yard spot had become a place of despair to delight. Experience had shone through as Alan Judge’s conversion meant that Brentford were not to be denied promotion a second successive season and finished the 2013/14 as runners up to first placed Wolves.

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