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There are 17 former Premier League clubs in the EFL Championship this season, but Brentford continue on their crusade to reach the highest level of English football. But for an outstanding individual display from Fulham left-back Joe Bryan in the 2020 play-off final, they would be at the top of the pyramid already. There is nothing worse for loyal football fans than play-off pain.
Early signs in the current season suggested that the Bees were experiencing something of a hangover. The situation is not as desperate as the league table suggests, however. Although only 11th going into the November international break, Brentford sat just three points away from the top six. It's for that reason why their English Championship odds for promotion are as short as 11/8.
There are always consequences to losing a play-off final. In recent years, however, that disappointment has galvanised other clubs to go better and come up to the Premier League in the following campaign. It won't be easy for the Bees, not least because top-flight teams have raided them for their star forwards. Thomas Frank can no longer call upon last season's top goalscorer Ollie Watkins, who was sold to Aston Villa for £28 million, which is a substantial profit.
Likewise, Algeria attacker Said Benrahma joined West Ham United on loan but with an obligation to make the arrangement permanent. Brentford have bucketloads of money, then, but - for all their recruitment model has been impressive - cheaper replacements come with no guarantee of success.
Peterborough United have a reputation for driving a hard bargain with their own talented players in the lower leagues, but Ivan Toney left Posh for the Bees for an initial £5,000,000 and has already done plenty to justify the outlay. There is plenty more in add-ons to come if promotion follows. Stepping into Watkins's shoes, who in turn replaced the prolific Neal Maupay, who took things up from Scott Hogan and he from Andre Gray, is part of a familiar tale for Brentford fans. Toney is one of the market leaders to be the Championship's top goalscorer and it's easy to see why.
The Bees face very stiff competition in the desperate scramble for Premier League promotion. Both Norwich City and Bournemouth, who were relegated into the Championship for this season are seen as likely to go straight back up. Hot on Brenford's heels in the promotion market are Watford, the other side to have dropped down into the second tier. The betting suggests it concerns just these four, but, in practice, the table is much livelier than that. Middlesbrough and Stoke City were battling relegation last term, but are both just a point off the play-offs going into the busy festive fixture list.
Brentford have to overhaul these and other sides to get themselves into a top six spot before the dream of Premier League football can become a reality.