There's much more than promotion on the line in the Championship play-off final

27 May 2021 11:30

It's a horrible thing to accept but often we spend more time focusing on the repercussions for the losers of the Championship play-off final than celebrating the achievement of the team who actually win the showpiece event.

This season's final game of the second-tier season sees Brentford and Swansea go head-to-head at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Thomas Frank's side will be looking to avoid a repeat of last season's final | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Bookmakers will tell you Thomas Frank's side are nailed on favourites to finally secure their place in the Premier League, but the Bees have history when it comes to bottling it on the big occasion (y'know, like in this exact same fixture last season) and if any team can frustrate their lethal frontline it's Swansea.

Steve Cooper's men are one of the most well-drilled sides in the Championship and it's rare that a team manages to score more than one goal against them, meaning more often than not they're well in the game even when behind.

With Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe at the top end of the pitch they always carry a goal threat and so Saturday's clash in the capital may not be quite as straightforward as a lot of people are making out.

Naturally whoever ends up on the losing side will be distraught, yet the team who don't book their place in the Premier League could have much bigger problems than just missing out on promotion for this campaign.

Ivan Toney has been excellent this season | Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images

Ivan Toney has probably even surpassed his own expectations this season, breaking the record for the amount of goals scored in a Championship campaign having not played a minute of second-tier football prior to his move from Peterborough.

His 31 goals in the regular season have been the catalyst for Brentford's season, but everyone knows rule number one of the Championship is 'you can't have nice things for very long if you're not promoted'.

The Premier league vultures are already beginning to circle the Bees' hitman and if Frank's men aren't victorious this Saturday they'll almost certainly lose their talisman.

Now, you're probably thinking 'well they always lose their best players and then go out and buy better ones', but if football was that repetitive it'd be pretty boring.

Could Steve Cooper leave Swansea if they get beat on Saturday? | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Unearthing gems and selling them every season before replacing them with players as good if not better only works for so long. Eventually they'll come unstuck and Brentford can't afford to run the risk of having to go and find a replacement for a player who's just scored the most goals in a Championship season ever - replacements for that aren't easy to find,

Swansea find themselves in a very similar position, though they don't have a 31-goal centre-forward to be worrying about losing - it's their boss who they need to keep happy.

Cooper has absolutely transformed the Swans since taking over in June 2019 and what's even more impressive is he's done it on a shoestring budget.

His ability to nurture youth and integrate youngsters into the first team has been key to Swansea's success, and credentials like that soon start attracting admiring glances.

Ivan Toney would be a very tough man to replace | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Both Wolves and Crystal Palace are already on the lookout for a new boss this summer, and given the latter's need in particular for a squad overhaul with limited resources, you'd be mad to think the Palace hierarchy won't be watching the play-off final this Saturday with interest.

Both Toney and Cooper have been integral to their sides' solid campaigns, and were either of them to depart their respective clubs they'd leave a huge void which would desperately need filling.

Finding a suitable replacement for the best goalscorer the Championship has ever seen and one of the most shrewd and tactically astute managers in the second tier could take a lot of time to get right, and whichever side gets beat this Saturday could be facing a prolonged spell in the second tier.

Source: 90min