Eighteen year old winger Josh Clarke, a dead ringer for Patrice Evra, was one of the few to shine in the farce at Derby last week; his first team debut. His electric pace came as a surprise to the hosts as it also did to many Brentford fans who were previously unaware of the raw talent flourishing in the club’s Academy. He couldn’t prevent the Bees being dealt a 5-0 thrashing but gave a superb account of himself to both Uwe and the fans, who were no doubt eager to see more. The youngster was almost ever-present for the Development Squad last season, making seventeen appearances and scoring one goal in his first full-time season after being scouted playing college football. Seeing first-team players playing in the Development Squad has, by his own admission, played a big part in Clarke’s progression and a role to play in cup games this season can only further it. At such a young age his primary focus will be performing consistently for the Development Squad in the seventeen games that remain and aiming to convince Uwe to extend his 1-year contract, which I personally believe he will do with ease.
Luke Norris first came to my attention in a pre-season friendly versus Bedfont Town back in 2011. He looked level-headed; a strong, pacey forward with a keen eye for goal and proved this as he scored in a 3-2 victory. Whilst Norris has been unfortunate with injuries in the past, last season saw him top the Development Squad scoring charts with an impressive ten goals in eighteen appearances as Brentford finished fourth. After the 20-year-old’s stellar display in Tuesday night’s 5-3 win over AFC Wimbledon, where he showed a great understanding with Farid El Alagui, I have no doubt that Norris is ready for first-team football, be it with Brentford or having to get some more experience on-loan at a League Two club first. A great addition to any strikeforce; a natural goalscorer.
Jake Reeves is slowly becoming the next ‘Mr Brentford’, in my opinion. Despite being just 20-years-old, the central midfielder has racked up 28 first team appearances with an almost guaranteed place in the matchday squad so far this season. No fan can doubt his passion and each time he steps onto the pitch, you can expect 100 per cent effort. Reeves has bided his time and slowly worked his way up through the ranks since joining the Bees from Tottenham Hotspur in 2009, gaining further experience on loan at AFC Wimbledon last season. An accomplished passer of the ball, Reeves showed fans his great vision with his cross-field assist for Luke Norris’ goal versus Wimbledon. Uwe has previously described him as “a young player with a relatively old head on his shoulders” and with the hunger and composure he possesses, I think he can play a big role in the promotion push this season.
Goalkeeper Jack Bonham has come under scrutiny recently after some questionable League Cup performances against Dagenham & Redbridge and Derby County. Fans must be reminded however, that the 5-0 defeat at Pride Park was just the towering stopper’s third professional start and at just 19 years old, he is best suited to the calmer environment of Development Squad football. With Liam O’Brien only brought in on a short-term contract to provide emergency backup, the number 1 shirt for the Development Squad is Bonham’s for the taking. He can build his confidence and gain match-fitness, which will prove invaluable whilst working with experienced goalkeepers like Richard Lee and David Button; the former of whom recommended the youngster to the club. Personally, I think he may also need a loan spell before another shot at the Bees first-team but his potential is obvious; one for the future.
New signing Raphael Calvet, a French U20 international, is yet to make an appearance for the club and, with the hype surrounding his transfer, I am hoping to attend some Development Squad matches in the coming season in order to form an opinion. This is in addition to viewing further talented prospects in the form of midfielder Tyrell Miller-Rodney, commanding defender Alfie Mawson and attacking midfielder, Charlie Adams. Brentford’s youth system is finally starting to bear fruit and the future of the team certainly looks bright.
Written by Dan Long, We Are Going Up’s Brentford Blogger