Brentford bid fitting farewell to Griffin Park as Thomas Frank points to fans' video message as key inspiration

Malik Ouzia
·3-min read
Heading to Wembley: Thomas Frank and Brentford (PA)
Heading to Wembley: Thomas Frank and Brentford (PA)

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days ago, it looked like Brentford had blown it. An hour after the end of what might have been — and really should have been — Griffin Park's fairytale final act, it was Barnsley's players who were still strolling around the pitch, taking selfies following their miraculous Championship escape, one that had come at the expense of Brentford's automatic promotion charge.

Last night, after a 3-1 victory over Swansea that overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit and sent the Bees into next week's play-off final at Wembley, it was Thomas Frank, his players and the people upstairs who were left on the pitch celebrating.

Each has played their part in transforming the club, made leaving an outdated home possible and given the fans who could not be there for its last hurrah licence to dream.

Not that the Bees faithful did not still have a role to play, mind. Speaking after the game, Frank revealed how a video message put together by supporter Billy Grant had helped inspire the lightning start that saw goals from Ollie Watkins and Emiliano Marcondes turn the tie on its head within a quarter of an hour.

"In the morning I got a phone call where the fans had put a video together,” Frank told Sky Sports.

"We sent it in the players' WhatsApp group and I told them to look at that because, of course, you play for your families and for yourselves and for us and for the club. But you also play for the fans and if you see that video you really see how much it means to them.”

Bryan Mbuemo's volley made it 3-0 less than a minute after the restart and even when Pontus Jansson's error allowed Rhian Brewster to give the Swans hope 12 minutes from time, Brentford never looked like being denied their place at Wembley against either Fulham or Cardiff next Tuesday.

After the trauma of losing their final two matches of the regular season, against Stoke and Barnsley, Frank was determined to savour an historic night.

"We're going to the final to win it but I also think it's important to celebrate that we got there, because it's not that easy,” he said last night. "It means a lot to me. I'm very pleased and happy and I know I'll sleep well tonight. I know tomorrow morning I'll smile and I'll be very focused on the next task which is to win that final."

As fans gathered in the streets outside the ground, inside, owner Matthew Benham stepped up to take two penalties at an unguarded goal that he had no intention of scoring.

Instead, he was trying to recreate the infamous Marcello Trotta spot-kick, which rattled the crossbar in the last minute of the 2012/13 League One season, a miss which consigned the Bees to the playoffs — one of their eight failures in the end-of-season lottery to date.

The agony of the moment has been embraced, though, as part of Griffin Park folklore, and the same piece of woodwork is to be hung above a bar in the new stadium at Lionel Road. Goalkeeper David Raya re-emerged from the dressing room to cut himself a souvenir piece of the net which he has guarded so brilliantly all season, with another excellent performance coming in the week that he received the Championship's golden glove award for the most clean sheets.

Sergi Canos, the club's current longest serving-player, joined him, having expected to play no part in Griffin Park's finale until the coronavirus shutdown gave him time to come back from a serious knee injury which appeared to have ended his season way back in October.

Some time around 11.30pm, Griffin Park's famous floodlights clicked off for the final time, the darkness bringing down the curtain on 116 years of history, but the glow of one last magical night will live on.

This was more like it.

Read More

Watkins praises Brentford character after Bees bounce back in style

When is the 2019/20 Championship play-off final?

Brentford seal play-off final spot on last night at Griffin Park