The highlight of Brentford’s final game of the season came almost an hour after the full-time whistle.
Pontus Jansson stood in the middle of the pitch with his daughter and was overcome with emotion as the crowd roared, ‘She’s one of us!’ After four years and more than 100 appearances for Brentford, the defender returned to his boyhood club Malmo this summer.
Ethan Pinnock’s 85th-minute half-volley, which gave Brentford a 1-0 win over champions Manchester City, may have been special, but it didn’t match the raw emotion of Jansson’s farewell speech .
❤🤍 Forever a Bee pic.twitter.com/yQ398s9gEb
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) May 28, 2023
“When I was fired from a previous club, this club welcomed me with open arms,” the 32-year-old Swede said. “When I was struggling to find myself, this club decided to make me captain. When people always told me what I needed, this club allowed me to be myself. When I was there at the lowest point of my life, this club took me and because of that I will never forget you.
“I always knew this day would come and now I’m here I think it’s so quick. This club has been my absolute love for four years and I’ve loved every second of it. I’ve never played for Brentford, I live for this club. I’m proud to say I gave everything for you, on and off the pitch.
When Brentford signed Jansson from Leeds United in July 2019 for £5million, it marked a sudden and dramatic shift in their transfer policy. The club mainly sign players under the age of 23 with great potential and marketable value – so why did they break the rules for Jansson?
He was 28 years old at the time and there were question marks about his character. The centre-back left Leeds after falling out with former head coach Marcelo Bielsa, but this did not stop Brentford. They valued his leadership and thought his experience would be the missing ingredient in their bid for promotion. Thomas Frank then appointed him as club captain. It was a bold move and it paid off.
Jansson helped Brentford get promoted and return to the top flight after a 74-year absence. He made 37 appearances last season as Brentford avoided relegation and finished 13th. Frank’s side topped that by finishing ninth this season and, while it was disappointing to almost miss out on qualification for the Europa Conference League, they beat Manchester City (twice), Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United.
One of the most important moments of Jansson’s time at the club came against Watford in December 2021. After a great start to their debut Premier League season, Brentford’s form has faltered as they have won just once in eight you play Emmanuel Dennis put Watford ahead in the first half and Jansson equalized, with his first goal for the club, in the 84th minute.
The momentum was in Brentford’s favor and Bryan Mbeumo scored the winner in injury time. The result restored confidence and gave them a 10-point buffer above the relegation zone. Jansson stepped up when the side needed him most.
Jansson grew up supporting Malmo, one of Sweden’s biggest clubs, and has followed them closely ever since. When they lost 4-0 to Chelsea in the group stages of the Champions League in October 2021, the defender marched with the supporters at Stamford Bridge and sat with them in the stands even though he was offered a VIP box.
Jansson has always had a close relationship with senior figures at Brentford. The former Sweden international has been struggling with a hamstring injury for most of the season and when he suffered another setback in the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United last month, began to seriously consider his future.
It was always his dream to return to Malmo while still at the peak of his power. He sat down with Phil Giles, Brentford’s director of football, and Frank to explain his intention to leave this summer. In Frank’s speech at the end of the season, he called him “a certain signing – when Pontus entered the building, that changed things.”
When it was first announced in April that Jansson would be leaving, Frank revealed two of his favorite memories.
“The first time I spoke to Pontus I was in Denmark,” he said. “I was visiting my eldest daughter’s boarding school. I tried to sell this amazing project on the phone and my wife was angry with me that it was taking so long, but it was a very good call to Pontus who felt that the project and ambitions we had were a perfect match for him . We need that experienced central defender with a leadership skill set.
“In the (2020) Championship play-off semi-finals we beat Swansea 3-2 (on aggregate). We actually went 3-0 up and Swansea won the first leg 1-0. We conceded a goal, Pontus made a mistake and it was an exciting end to the game. Afterwards, Pontus ran straight (to the dressing room), jumped into the ice bath and stood there angry with himself because he put us in danger of losing. There was one funny memory of a player who had a big dream with us.
Jansson drives standards in the dressing room and always demands more from his teammates. He paid tribute to them and two other important people at the end of his speech.
“Without Matthew (Benham, Brentford’s owner) I wouldn’t be here and I don’t think we as a club would be here today,” Jansson said. “He doesn’t like the headlines, but Matthew is an unsung hero, a living legend, so I speak for all of us when I thank you Matthew for everything.
“The last person I want to talk about is Peter Gilham (Brentford’s stadium announcer). Peter, you make me realize what this club means. The love I got for this club, it’s from you. You are my inspiration and in my eyes you are Mr Brentford. I had many dreams during those four years, but one of the things that drove me forward was to make you happy and proud. I hope I did.”
Jansson should leave Brentford knowing that he has made the entire fanbase proud and that he is also a living legend in their eyes.
(Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)