CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFF FINAL
Brentford v Fulham
TONIGHT, 7.45PM, SKY SPORTS
SCOTT PARKER has dismissed claims Brentford are favourites for football’s ‘richest game’ after beating Fulham twice this season as the clubs do battle for a place in the Premier League — and a £100million-plus bonanza.
The west London rivals meet at Wembley in a Championship play-off final that could be worth up to £160m for the Bees and £135m for the Cottagers — according to Deloitte — if successful behind closed doors tonight.
The match will either see Parker’s Fulham return to the top flight at the first attempt or catapult Brentford into the elite for the first time since 1947, just in time for their move to a new stadium next season.
Thomas Frank’s side won both league fixtures against their near-neighbours this term and it is five matches since they lost this derby. But Parker (pictured) is adamant there is nothing to be read into those losses.
‘I don’t believe that, everything is eradicated from the previous games. In this game you can wipe away the history — we are where we are, we’re in the final now,’ he said. ‘I respect totally what Brentford have done, they’ve been fantastic, but so have we.
‘Thomas recognises a very, very good side, he understands what we possess on our day. We both got 81 points and I’m sure he recognises we won a lot of matches this year.’ Parker acknowledged the interest in Brentford’s push for promotion after a run of eight victories nearly saw them go up automatically before shock defeats by Stoke and Barnsley forced them to settle for the play-offs.
‘People are looking at two massive opportunities they had in their hands not to be at this point,’ Parker added. ‘They are being spoken about probably because they have had some big opportunities to see the season out.’
Parker can call upon top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic after he missed both legs of the semi-final against Cardiff with a hamstring injury.
His first season in charge could yet end in promotion but he admits it has been a quick turnaround on the pitch following relegation from the top flight last term.
‘It was a massive challenge because the squad was fragile and the club was fragile,’ he said. ‘The whole dynamic of the place was hard. I had to put a stamp and an identity and a real clear philosophy on the team.
‘Success comes from a core foundation and there is no magic formula and it takes time.’