With the Football League kick-off just days away, this series of articles takes a closer look at the 24 teams vying for the £100 million Premier League bonanza.
Brentford’s promotion last season, ending a 21-year absence from the second tier, was a remarkable achievement considering the circumstances in which it was achieved.
Setting aside the fact Brentford faced an uphill challenge competing against clubs like Wolves, Rotherham, Peterborough and MK Dons with more significant budgets, the final day heartbreak of the 2012/13 season that saw the Bees miss what would have been a promotion-clinching penalty and concede a promotion-clinching goal to Doncaster in the final minute would surely have caused irreparable psychological damage to many players, but Brentford bounced back only to experience a further setback wit the loss of inspirational manager Uwe Rosler in December 2013.
Nevertheless, Mark Warburton did a fantastic job in staying the course and guiding the club to automatic promotion behind League One champions Wolves last season.
If Brentford are going to avoid immediate relegation then they will need to call upon all the resolve and spirit that got them here and then some.
Warburton’s squad will not just be one of the youngest in the division, but will also be one scarce in second-tier experience, with goalkeeper Richard Lee and midfielder Jonathan Douglas the only players with considerable knowledge of that level.
Given the club’s stature, Warburton has probably not been able to attract proven Championship players (exemplified no better than last season's top scorer Clayton Donaldson’s decision to move to Championship rivals Birmingham), so has had to scour the lower leagues.
Club record signing Moses Odubajo is an exciting prospect - an athletic midfielder, seen as one of the best talents below the Championship. Andre Gray has pace to burn and plenty of potential (he scored 30 goals in the Conference for Luton last season), but it is a massive leap from the Conference to the Championship.
Considering the story of how Brentford got to the Championship, there will be no questions about whether they have the stomach for the fight, and while they may spring a few surprises I question whether there is enough experience, know-how and ability in the squad to avoid an immediate return to League One.
Last Season: N/A (promoted from League One)
Manager: Mark Warburton
Transfers In*: Moses Odubajo (Leyton Orient, £1 million), Alan Judge (Blackburn, undisclosed), Andre Gray (Luton, undisclosed), Scott Hogan (Rochdale, undisclosed), Marcos Tebar Ramiro (Almeria, free), Daniel O’Shaughnessy (FC Metz, free), Alex Pritchard (Tottenham, loan)
Transfers Out*: Aaron Pierre (Wycombe, undisclosed), Liam O’Brien (Dagenham, free), Clayton Donaldson (Birmingham, free), Shaleum Logan (Aberdeen, free), Farid El Alagui (Hibs, free), Luke Norris (Gillingham, compensation), Will Grigg (MK Dons, loan), Michael Onovwigun (Chesterfield, free)
One To Watch: Moses Odubajo (midfielder)
Go to Youtube and type in the name ‘Moses Odubajo’ and its certain you’ll find among one of the first few clips bid stunning goal in the League One play-off final at Wembley. Ultimately, the effort was in vain as Odubajo’s then club Leyton Orient would go on to lose to Rotherham on penalties. However, it provides a clear glimpse of the quality the Londoner possesses.
Barry Hearn described Odubajo has the best player to come out of Orient in generations. Given Hearn’s penchant for hyperbole given he made his name as a boxing promoter and Leyton Orient’s modest historical record of producing top talent, the claim could be taken with a pinch of salt. However, that scepticism aside, there are plenty of reason to be excited about Odubajo if you’re a Bees fan.
He is a talented attacking wide man capable of travelling the length of the pitch with the ball at his feet and a keen eye for goal.
£1 million it is a considerable outlay for the Bees but as well as helping their Championship survival bid, the club will surely believe Odubajo has the potential to multiply his sell-on value.
Selected Odds: Champions 50-1; Promotion 16-1; Relegation 9-2
Opening Fixtures: Charlton (H), Bournemouth (A), Blackpool (A)
*Correct at the time of writing
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