Call it 10th-time lucky, the end of a curse or simply just rewards but the next sentence is undisputable. Brentford, the club that has endured more play-off heartbreak than any other, are going to be in the Premier League.
Suddenly all the pain from those previous defeats, the nine failed attempts in this format, have faded away, replaced by jubilation and excitement. The small West London club, built steadily by lifelong fan Matthew Benham over the past decade, will be back in the top-flight of English football for the first time since 1946/47.
And it promises to be quite the watch. Led by head coach Thomas Frank, Brentford have been a sight for purists’ eyes over the past couple of years and, for better or worse, they are unlikely to divorce from their attack-minded principles when up against the big guns next season.
Their final step to the promised land was surprisingly straightforward. Brentford began like a train and had done enough in the opening 20 minutes to inflict the hurt they experienced against Fulham nine months ago on a Swansea City team that really never got going.
Ivan Toney scored the first goal from the penalty spot early on, while the exceptional Emiliano Marcondes finished a rapid counterattack. But this was a collective triumph in which every single player produced a moment of real quality.
Bryan Mbeumo led the charge, his pace and unpredictability causing Swansea’s defence all sorts of issues. Beyond playing a key role in the lead up to both goals there were a number of other threatening runs, while he pressed ferociously without the ball.
Brentford were faster, more clever, more physical than Swansea in a dominant opening half. Goalkeeper David Raya’s first meaningful piece of action did not arrive until the 31st minute as he calmly punched a set piece from Swansea’s right away while crowded by red and mint shirts. The Spaniard had taken that Fulham loss hard having been caught out of position for Joe Bryan’s winning free kick. This was the sweetest type of redemption.
Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock, who was playing for Dulwich Hamlet five years ago, were towering presences at centre back, while Vitaly Janelt and Mathias Jensen buzzed around the middle.
Yet the headlines should really belong to Frank and the team behind the scenes. This was a triumph born from canny transfer dealings, an impressive track record of developing players and, most of all, a remarkable spirit and unity. In a sport where greed and overspending has become grimly omnipresent, they have done things the right way.
The 10th-minute opener arrived when Sergi Canos’ pass, which was meant for Toney but a little overhit, ended up at the feet of Mbeumo. The French forward had timed his diagonal run really well and Woodman had already committed to such an extent he could not help but cleanly take down Mbeumo.
There was no doubt or hesitation in referee Chris Kavanagh’s mind as he pointed to the spot. Toney’s run-up was deceptively languid as he proceeded to fire ruthlessly into Woodman’s bottom left corner.
Swansea looked shell shocked and the advantage was doubled on 20 minutes as Mbeumo raced forward on the counterattack. Mads Roerslev burst a gut to overlap on his left and was duly fed. Doubtlessly caught for breath he managed to maintain his composure and vision by crossing to Marcondes. He met the ball first time to drill low into Woodman’s other bottom corner and leave Brentford tantalisingly close to The Show.
But these games are seldom beautiful, never sure things. Twelve of the previous 14 finals had been decided by a single goal or penalties, including the past five, and it always felt inevitable that Swansea would emerge from their state of freeze, even if the fightback was ultimately short lived.
Andre Ayew should really have made it 2-1 just over a minute into the second period when sending a close-range header narrowly wide, Jamal Lowe spurned another good chance approaching the hour mark and Connor Roberts had an effort blocked just before Jay Fulton was shown a straight red for planting his studs on Mathias Jensen’s achilles.
Jensen was fine to continue after some treatment but it was the moment that checked any semblance of Swansea building momentum even if the damage, in reality, had already been done.
There would be no malfunction on this stage for a second time, no let up in their pursuit. The wait is over. Brentford are in the Premier League.