Thomas Frank was not long finished wagging an index finger at ecstatic Brentford supporters in a victory lap last weekend – the message being that they are still one Premier League game away – when the question to a million dollars, or, in this case, 178 million pounds sterling question, was put to him on the pitch: how do you guarantee to cross the line this time? “One thing’s for sure,” he replied, “I can’t be sure of anything, because it’s football. “
This absurd game was categorical proof. Frank threw a trash can of fury as Bournemouth rebounded from an aggregate lead of two goals in five minutes before Chris Mepham’s expulsion helped Brentford fight a tie in their favor. Amid the ruckus that followed the winner from Marcus Forss, Ivan Toney attempted to throw what he presumed was a bucket of water at his teammates but inadvertently doused himself with disinfectant intended for match balls.
Swansea City avoided such an excruciating and extraordinary drama to win against Barnsley and advance to the Championship Play-off Final, but somehow it was only fitting that Steve Cooper’s side made their way through a nervous draw in the return leg. Frank has maintained good margins to decide matches of this magnitude and if Swansea is to return to the top flight, chances are they will frustrate and bewilder rather than enlighten Wembley.
In Cooper, who led England to victory at the Under-17 World Cup four years ago, Swansea has a coach trained in tournament football. Two players from that squad, Marc Guéhi and Joel Latibeaudiere, will be in Swansea’s dressing room on Saturday and experiences such as these can only help Cooper and his team navigate yet another knockout competition. “What’s important is that you get the right balance between really staying true to what you believe in and what you do, and committing to it again for another game while understanding the specific context of the game. Cooper explains. “This one is different, he’s big, and we have to try to marry that. “
Can Cooper compare preparing for Saturday’s centerpiece to leading England in India? ” I think so. There are a lot of similarities when it comes to knockout and everything that is done on the day, overtime, penalties and that sort of thing… but some things are very different. There are some things that help in terms of preparation, but that doesn’t mean you’re winning, and that doesn’t mean you have all of the right answers. It may just help you make preparation and planning decisions. At the end of the day, it comes down to the game and really committing to what’s in front of you and that’s the game plan, the mindset, and the great confidence.
The match will see the division’s Golden Glove winner Freddie Woodman take on the Golden Shoe winner at Toney, a former Newcastle teammate. Cooper fixed the apparent soft center under Graham Potter, whose Swansea side was pleasing to the eye but vulnerable to set pieces. The partnership of 20-year-old center-back Ben Cabango and Guéhi extinguished Barnsley’s offensive momentum and exuberance, coupled with the experience of top scorer Andre Ayew and Wayne Routledge, who will miss the game after sustaining a ligament. anterior cross. injury, has proven to be an effective cocktail. “He’s been very visible this week and he will be on Saturday as well,” Cooper said of Routledge. “He’s a really good intermediary for myself, the staff and the group of guys. “
It’s easy to forget that this is only Cooper’s second season as a club manager. Guiding Swansea to successive playoff campaigns is impressive, all the more remarkable given the modest investments. Swansea has spent £ 1.75million on Jamal Lowe, Ryan Manning and Morgan Whittaker this season. Kristoffer Peterson, who joined Fortuna Düsseldorf in October after seven appearances, is the only other notable signatory Swansea has paid fees under Cooper.
Promotion Norwich and Watford aside, Swansea has the best defensive record in the league, but they’re not exactly prolific. Of their 24 league wins, half were by one goal and they have scored more than twice on two occasions. Brentford has consistently hit three or four, and even seven in January. They are the hosts and top scorers in the league, with Toney scoring his 32nd goal of the season last weekend.
Unlike last season, when they lost to Fulham in overtime, Brentford will treat the eight-mile trip to Wembley as an away game, training on Friday before heading to the team’s hotel, hoping that such an adjustment can help them conquer a game-off campaign in the 10th time to ask. “This is history,” Frank says. “It doesn’t occur to us because we know there is no voodoo curse on Brentford which means we can’t get a positive result.”
This week, Cooper sat down with Nathan Dyer, a member of the Swansea squad promoted through the play-offs 10 years ago; Alan Tate, who is also on this team, is the coach of the first team. Cooper, a Welshman, has regularly referred to supporters in team talks throughout this largely ghostly season and will undoubtedly do so on Saturday. “Of course you try to play with style and identity, but most of all we play with a lot of heart and soul because we know who we represent,” he says. “The club had to win and rebuild. Promotion would mean everything to the city and the club.