Thomas Frank said there were tears in his eyes after Brentford reached the Premier League for the first time by beating Swansea City 2-0 in the Championship play-off final.
Ivan Toney’s penalty put Frank’s team on course for the top flight before Emiliano Marcondes’ crisp finish.
Brentford will play at the highest level for the first time since 1946-47 having eased past 10-man Swansea.
“Of course I was very emotional,” said Bees head coach Frank.
“There were tears in my eyes and [also] a lot of the players and the staff because it’s so big, especially the way we did it.
“If you get promotion it’s an unbelievable achievement, but we were so close last year twice – we were so close to automatic promotion and the play-off final.
“Then we had 10 days holiday, less than that, back into it and Covid strikes. We go 21 games unbeaten and are top of the league, then a minor setback and we go into the final against a good Swansea side and we know anything can happen. It’s unbelievable.”
Brentford were beaten in last season’s second-tier play-off final by Fulham, who ran out 2-1 winners after extra time.
But the pain of their last visit to Wembley turned to elation as they finally tasted play-off success at the 10th time of asking, which ensures they will become the 50th club to play in the Premier League.
Swansea’s hopes of rejoining the elite disappeared as they failed to produce their best at Wembley, with any hope of a second-half comeback not helped by the contentious dismissal of Jay Fulton for a foul on Mathias Jensen.
Frank said he expects to strengthen his squad ahead of the new season – although he is not contemplating transfer plans yet.
“To be fair I just want to get very drunk tonight and then maybe I will start thinking about that on Monday,” he said.
Brentford’s big day finally comes
Brentford fans have waited a long time for a moment like this.
This was the club’s 10th play-off campaign and fifth final, with previous trips to Wembley coming in 1997, 2013 and last season, while there was a Millennium Stadium meeting with Stoke in 2002.
The grand total of play-off promotions before today? Zero. There have been three EFL Trophy final losses, too, so Brentford will feel they were due a victory on the big stage.
Driven on perhaps by the memory of their most recent Wembley reverse, which came only 10 months ago, Frank’s side finally found a path to victory.
Brentford’s win was made in the opening quarter, when they went in front courtesy of the first attack of any note.
Sergi Canos slid the ball in behind the Swansea rearguard for Bryan Mbeumo, and goalkeeper Freddie Woodman came racing off his line but made contact with player rather than ball.
Even on this grand stage, Toney appeared totally unflustered as he ambled up and rolled the spot-kick low into the bottom corner of the net to claim goal number 33 of his remarkable season.
Buoyed by their opener – and with Swansea struggling to get going – Brentford swiftly doubled their advantage.
The move started when a long throw into the Brentford box was cleared to Mbeumo, who carried the ball deep into opposition territory before feeding the overlapping Mads Roerslev.
The Dane lifted the ball across goal for Marcondes to rifle a fierce, low drive inside Woodman’s near post.
Swansea were reeling. Any hope Steve Cooper’s side had of a response may have been wiped out within a minute, as Toney’s dipping long-range volley beat Woodman only to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce away to safety off the line.
Brentford eased their way through to the break, with the one first-half scare for David Raya coming when Andre Ayew met Conor Hourihane’s free-kick with a looping header which hit the top of the bar.
Swansea’s only genuine chance came early in the second period, when Connor Roberts crossed for Ayew but he could only glance a header wide of the far post.
Brentford threatened again, with Mbeumo lifting wastefully over, before Fulton’s unfortunate dismissal all but finished Swansea off.
The midfielder appeared to tread accidentally on Jensen before slipping as his studs got caught, but referee Chris Kavanagh flashed the red card in an instant.
With that Swansea were beaten and it is Brentford who can look forward to facing Manchester City, neighbours United, Liverpool and company next season.
What next for Swansea?
For the second successive season Swansea’s hopes of a return to the Premier League have been ended in the play-offs by Brentford.
Cooper’s players responded admirably after last year’s semi-final loss, but this reverse may be harder to stomach.
Nine months of hard work has come to nothing and there will now be questions about what comes next.
Cooper has only a year to run on his Liberty Stadium deal and there has already been speculation over his future, with managerless Crystal Palace believed to be among his admirers.
Ayew, Swansea’s talisman up front and their top scorer for the last two seasons, sees his lucrative contract expire next month.
It would be a shock if he is still around next season, while Woodman, Marc Guehi and Hourihane are all heading back to their parent clubs after loan spells.
Then there are the likes of Roberts and Matt Grimes, who have only a year remaining on their respective deals and may therefore be in the shop window.
On top of all that, there will be no more Premier League parachute payments following Swansea’s relegation in 2018.
Once the dust settles on a day when they failed to do themselves justice at Wembley, Swansea could now face a busy summer.
Swansea head coach Steve Cooper:
“We are disappointed. We didn’t win the game which is what we came here to do.
“We started the game second best and some defining moments didn’t go our way. We gave ourselves a really tough job going 2-0 down.
“We had to change a few things. The players never gave up and gave it a really good go, certainly at the start of the second half.
“I’m not going to sit here and criticise anything because there’s nothing I can say to make anybody feel any better at the moment.”
On Fulton’s red card:
“There’s no way Jay would have done that intentionally because he is too sensible a player. The red card came out so quickly.
“We didn’t help ourselves today but we didn’t get any help from the officials, that’s for sure.”
Brentford head coach Thomas Frank:
“Last year the stadium looked massive, it didn’t look that massive this year. Last year I didn’t feel we played our best game, but we definitely did that this year.
“I just sensed this week – Thursday, Friday, this morning at the hotel – the players were calm, relaxed and ready to be ruthless.
“I am so pleased and humble and proud to be part of this journey with a lot of fantastic, dedicated, intelligent people.
“The way we have built this club and progressed year after year after year, and stayed calm after an unbelievable setback last year, this must be an example for so many clubs to follow around the world.”
- 18JanssonSubstituted forReidat 79′minutes
- 27JaneltBooked at 70minsSubstituted forGhoddosat 74′minutes
- 9MarcondesBooked at 22minsSubstituted forBidstrupat 90+2′minutes
- 7CanósSubstituted forForssat 74′minutes
- 26NaughtonSubstituted forCullenat 60′minutes
- 8GrimesBooked at 6mins
- 6FultonBooked at 65mins
- 14HourihaneSubstituted forDhandaat 63′minutes
- 24BidwellSubstituted forManningat 82′minutes
- 10A Ayew
- Chris Kavanagh
Match ends, Brentford 2, Swansea City 0.
Second Half ends, Brentford 2, Swansea City 0.
Offside, Swansea City. Liam Cullen tries a through ball, but Ben Cabango is caught offside.
Corner, Brentford. Conceded by Ryan Manning.
Attempt blocked. Marcus Forss (Brentford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Substitution, Brentford. Mads Bidstrup replaces Emiliano Marcondes.
Attempt missed. Yan Dhanda (Swansea City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right following a set piece situation.
Jamal Lowe (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford).
Foul by Ben Cabango (Swansea City).
Mathias Jensen (Brentford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Ryan Manning (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ivan Toney (Brentford).
Foul by André Ayew (Swansea City).
David Raya Martin (Brentford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Ryan Manning (Swansea City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Saman Ghoddos (Brentford).
André Ayew (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ethan Pinnock (Brentford).
Attempt blocked. Saman Ghoddos (Brentford) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ivan Toney.