Brentford icon Hermann Hreidarsson has admitted he always believed they would one day make it to the Premier League, but conceded the club has come on leaps and bounds since his days of playing at Griffin Park.
Hreidarsson is still a cult hero among Brentford fans 23 years since his brief stint at the club.
The Icelandic centre-back joined the club in 1998 for a then-club record fee of £750,000, when Ron Noades’ side were languishing in the third division.
He made an immediate impression upon the Griffin Park faithful, with Brentford winning the league on the final day of the season.
The Bees won promotion with a 4-1 win over Swansea City, with Hreidarsson scoring in the rout.
(Image: EMPICS Sport)
That result set themselves up with a final-day blockbuster of a fixture away at Cambridge United, who had also secured promotion.
Both teams went into the game knowing a win would see them finish the season as champions.
On a sunny afternoon in Cambridge, prolific striker Lloyd Owusu raced through on goal and lobbed goalkeeper Shaun Marshall to score the only goal of the game.
Hreidarsson would depart just months after sealing promotion to Division Two, signing for Premiership side Wimbledon in a deal worth £2.5million.
Regardless of that departure, the Icelandic ace continues to be adored by Brentford fans, and told football.london that his time in West London was ‘different class’.
“It’s amazing [his status as a cult hero],” he said. “I had such an amazing relationship with the fans.
“I had an amazing season there, different class, winning the league in the last game of the season… then we carried our form into the league above also.
“It’s a great honour [to have admiration of the fans], and I’m chuffed to bits that Brentford are in the Premier League.
“I’m really looking forward to going to the new stadium.
“I love their style of play, it’s so aggressive, so brave, everything I love about football.
“Yeah we had the promotion [against Swansea], then played Cambridge away on the last game of the season, an absolute one-off final almost to see who would win the league, and we won the league.
“Then we kept the form going, I left after about ten games in the league above and we were still unbeaten.
“I’m still on a 33-game unbeaten run!”
Noades walked away from the club two years afterwards, leaving them in a dire financial state.
Only years later when Matthew Benham came to the rescue of the club would their fortunes off the pitch change.
Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength and have enjoyed success with their data and analytical scouting approach.
And Hreidarsson believes Brentford are now the envy of clubs throughout the footballing ladder, claiming “everything is classy” about the way the club operates.
“If I’m completely honest, I could imagine them going into the Premier League,” he said of his time in west London.
“Ron Noades was there, Ray Lewington was there, one of the best coaches I’ve worked with, I knew the club was in good hands at the time. But then there came a down time in between.
In each football.london bulletin, we’ll bring you the latest breaking news, transfer features and comment pieces on your favourite club, as well as the key talking points for fans.
You won’t miss a thing – you’ll get all the news you need right to your inbox. We’ll also send special newsletters when big stories break or there’s a special event happening.
You can sign up for Arsenal updates here.
You can sign up for Chelsea updates here.
You can sign up for Tottenham updates here.
You can sign up for West Ham updates here.
“In the last few years, you’ve seen it coming with their new system with Matthew Benham, Rasmus Ankersen behind the scenes with the data and analytics, the system they’ve got on board.
“It’s a 21st century football club and other clubs will look with envy.
“They’re doing things without spending millions and millions, and they’re consistently getting better and better, now they’ve reached the promised land without breaking the bank, how do they do this?
“Everything is classy about it, the new stadium is classy, the style of play is class and they’ve got a great manager in Thomas Frank. I’m a big fan of him and his style.
“I’m really excited, and I can see them shocking a few people. They’ll hold their own.”
Hermann Hreidarsson previewed the 2021 Premier League season with CoinJar, Brentford FC’s new Official Cryptocurrency Partner – the ultimate platform to buy, sell and spend Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Sign up in an instant and access digital currency wherever you go.