Playing in the shadows, Brentford B Team.
Brentford FC abandoned their Category Two Academy in May 2016, withdrawing from the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and shifted their focus to creating a single squad of players that could be developed into first-team players for the club. Their name? Brentford B.
What was the ‘why’ behind the concept?
The concept that was born by former Brentford Technical Director, Robert Rowan, as an ambitious project to establish "an outstanding games programme" for their U21 team. Brentford doesn't have the resources nor the funding to pursue the levels of recruitment that other London clubs may have.
It is believed that running just the single youth team set-up costs Brentford little more than half of the £2m previously required to run the academy each year. The B Team use the same facilities as the Championship side but don't follow any formalised leagues as a normal academy side may.
It was one that Brentford made in order to focus on the first team and create an environment where players could be developed and then implemented into the first team.
How does it work?
The tailored games programme of Brentford B is orientated towards bridging the gap between youth and first-team football. Not entering leagues allows the team to play a flexible programme of fixtures against the of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and non-league senior first teams. Players are exposed to a higher quality of opposition more regularly, experience various styles of play and provided opportunities to play against teams from outside of England.
Brentford B is well connected to the first team who are currently pushing for promotion to the Premier League. The B team mirrors the first team in preparation, training methods and other aspects that allow players to fit seamlessly into the first team environment when they are called up to Thomas Frank's side. Their third-round FA Cup win against Stoke City saw six B Team players feature in the victory with an average giving the side an average age of just over 20 compared to Stokes 24.5 plus and 2000 minutes Championship compared to Stokes 9000 minutes.
"Create an environment where players could be developed and then implemented into the first team"
Where are the players coming from?
It is a team made up of talented youngsters from 'undervalued' countries, including Iceland, Denmark and Finland, as well as young recruits from Manchester City, Chelsea, Brighton and Celtic, all pulled together with former Brentford academy players.
We don't have all the young teams, but we have this one team that is like an academy for 17, 18, 19 and 20-year-olds. All our resources are put into this.