The words “Brentford in the Premier League” may not have been uttered quite as much this summer as the words “Football’s coming home” but I was listening to the radio yesterday where the discussion had turned – albeit briefly – away from Euro 2020 and into the new season ahead.
If I am completely honest it was a Euro 2020 link that took them there as they discussed England’s semi-final win over Denmark and were discussing a great tournament from the Danes and referenced their Brentford contingent. They moved on to discuss what a magnificent achievement it was that they have been promoted and for a second attention turned to a love-in that started with Sky Sports a year or so back and doesn’t seem to continue.
Before you stop reading though this is not about Brentford it is about the Swans. It got be onto thinking about our time in the Premier League and did we have that same media love-in in the early days? As we turned from a side fighting to stay in the league to a side in the top flight within eight years and stayed there for seven further years did we get the credit we deserved? We won a league cup, reached the last 32 of one of only two major European trophies and constantly – and I mean constantly – beat the sides at the top of the table.
Remember the year we beat both Arsenal and Manchester United both home and away. I think we were only the third side to ever do that in the Premier League era. No mean feat. We seemed to beat Arsenal more often than we didn’t and Manchester United were toppled with regular ease as well. We won at Chelsea and Liverpool in the run to our Wembley final and who can forget the day Luke Moore almost, yes almost, denied Manchester City their first Premier League title.
The question for me is will we ever get back there or did we just create a perfect storm at the right time? We had three years in the Championship to get there. One under Roberto where the football was superb but we were, sometimes, tactically naive. He left for Wigan and in came Paulo Sousa. He tightened the defence but boy was the football dull to watch but he came close. And then there was Brendan. A left field appointment but one that took what Roberto did and what Paulo did and knitted it together with some exceptionally shrewd signings and decisions and the rest became history.
There are some synergies between Swansea City now and Swansea City then. Not so much the Brendan season but Potter had us playing some good football but we were tactically naive at times. Cooper has us tight defensively but we don’t score many (note I didn’t say dull to watch but rest assured it’s close to the front of my mind) so you start to wonder if there is a theme going on here. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying we should be looking to remove Steve from his role at this point in time but do we have the right ingredients to get ourselves back up to the Premier League they just need a few tweaks here and there?
I look back at last season and think that around Christmas time I did probably believe (or was that hope) that we were destined for the Premier League. We had come through some games where we just didn’t deserve to win but we did. And we had started playing some better football. What seemed like a good January transfer window reaffirmed that belief and then from around mid February onwards all that belief was sucked out of me and replaced with a faint hope but a fear that if we did go up there was nothing more than hopeless embarrassment that awaited us. I hate to say that but what’s the point in articles like this if I don’t say what I was thinking.
We do have some good players in our team and I believe we have the foundation of a team that can get promoted. The signings so far this summer appear to be shrewd (although I say with caution as I felt the same in January) and no doubt there will be more to come. I believe the Championship will be tougher this season than it was last based on three things
- The three clubs that came down I believe will be stronger than the three sides that went up
- The return of crowds to games will make a massive difference particularly in away games where we have been relatively strong over the past two seasons
- We don’t yet have replacements for some of our key players last season
You can possibly throw in a belief that the beaten play off finalists suffer “hangovers” next season but then Brentford did win promotion last season…
So it is back to the question asked earlier. Will we get back to the Premier League? The answer for me is yes but probably not this season. Our infrastructure is strong and, dare I say, stable after the dreadful decisions taken in the last few years in the Premier League. The playing squad is filled with players who, in the main, may only experience the Premier League through playing in a promotion winning side (which is why our complete capitulation at Wembley angers me) and we have had 13 consecutive years now where we have competed inside the top 30 clubs in the league structure. We are actually a very decent football club.
To do it though we do need some tweaks. We need those shrewd signings, we need to be more brave in how we need to go about it and we need some changes. And I will go out on a limb and say we will be back in the Premier League within two seasons. Providing we do those things.
And then we can get about beating the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all over again.