As part of Brentford’s commitment to bringing through young players, we’ll be running a development squad this season to take part in Under-21 friendlies.
The club is establishing the squad to bridge the gap between the youth team and first-team football.
The squad will contain players who have completed their two-year scholarship and are still under 21.
Under the previous structure, there was quite a large step up from youth football to first-team level, and many talented players ended up falling by the wayside.
The recent Milk Cup in Northern Ireland showed that our youth system has some good players. Having a development squad gives them a better chance of progressing to the next level.
The club is already reaping the rewards of allowing the players more time to develop technically, physically and mentally as they prepare for senior football.
For example, we are seeing the benefits with Jake Reeves, who has impressed a lot of people while playing for the first team during pre-season.
Previously, Jake would have been told between Christmas and March whether he was being retained by the club, and without the development squad he may have been one of the players we released.
A lot of the forward-thinking clubs have development squads, such as Tottenham, Fulham and Southampton.
It is an opportunity to allow players aged 18-21 to develop in a more favourable environment. It means they can showcase their skills rather than potentially being overlooked when playing against older players with greater physical and mental ability.
Our first game, against Liverpool, went really well and showed that we can compete against the big clubs.
The way reserve leagues are structured means we have little say over who we play. But with the development squad, we have much more flexibility. We’ve played Liverpool and have arranged games against Tottenham, Southampton and West Ham for the next few months.
It gives us a great opportunity not only to test our lads, but also to attract players to our club because we’re playing against a higher standard of opposition.