The teamsheet for the first pre-season friendly had a name that was unfamiliar to many, but Josh Brooks has caught the eye of Reno while playing for the FCUM Academy and has progressed to the First Team.
Neil Reynolds is keen to ensure that FC retains the great talent that comes through the academy and ensures there is a clear pathway into the First team for players who work hard on and off the pitch, have the right attitude and are techinically able to step up. We’ve seen it already with the promotion of Dylan Blackledge and we’re delighted to announce that goalkeeper Josh Brooks has also earnt the opportunity to become part of the first team set up.
This hasn’t been a quick decision, but has been the culmination of Josh’s hard work and application, which saw him start the game on Saturday against Eccleshill, where after an amazing free-kick in the second minute beat everyone, he had an assured game and looked as though he was a seasoned first team player even though he’s not 18 until next year.
We spoke to Chappy, Tom and Reno for some insight into how Josh earned the opportunity to step up:
Tom Conroy, FCUM Academy Manager
: "Josh has been training with us for over a year now and he’s very mature for his age group, this comes across in how he plays, he’s loud at the back and he organises well, he’s an all round good keeper. He’s had the chance to come in to train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with Ollie and Chappy, which had enabled him to get in and around the first team lads which has been great for his development as a young player.
When Reno asked Ben and myself who could progress this season we recommended Josh, physically he’s ready, technically he’s ready and having already seen him in action, Reno was more than happy to make him Ollie’s understudy.
He’ll improve more and more with experience and as we saw on Saturday against Eccleshill, he was comfortable, wasn’t nervous or seem out of place which is a testament to his maturity, and as long as he keeps working hard and learning he will only get better."
Paul ’Chappy’ Chapman, FC United Goalkeeping coach
added: "Josh has been with us for just over a year now and in that time he’s vastly improved as a player, he has also been getting some experience in Sunday League and that’s stood him in good stead when it comes to making the move into men’s football.
When he played on Saturday I wasn’t sure how he’d adapt to the occasion but I was pleasantly surprised by how well he handled himself, there were a few nervous moments as he adapted to the game but other than that he was superb and anyone looking would have thought he’d been playing for us for a long time.
The great thing about Josh is that he wants to learn all the time, he’s always asking questions of me around areas of his game that he can improve, and you can tell when he’s working with the first team goalie, Cam last year and Ollie now that he’s watching and wants to learn from them and their experience.
That desire to learn is great in a young player and the one piece of advice I gave to him on Saturday was keep talking to the back four.... and he never shut up! It’s an attribute I really like in keepers and he came across really well. He’s probably going to get another game tomorrow against Thackley as we’re not rushing Ollie back. and it’s going to be more great experience for him as he develops as a player, working hard and learning."
Neil Reynolds, Manager of FC United
concluded " "Josh caught my eye last year when I went to watch an academy game and I was impressed by a number of his characteristics, firstly his maturity which is so important for a young goalkeeper, but also his ability, he’s a tall lad and he not only has all the traditional goalkeeping attributes, but he is also very good with his feet and distribution, so much so that we had a fun competition of head tennis including all the outfield players that he won.
I regularly watch the Academy and Josh continued to stand out, so when I spoke to Chappy, Tom and Ben they all spoke about how mature Josh was, as well as being technically gifted, therefore a result of his hard work and great attitude he’s been promoted to the first team, he’ll be travelling with us to all the games and will be in and around the first team as he’s Ollie’s understudy but should Ollie be unavailable then I have no qualms about putting Josh into the net, he showed on Saturday that he could adapt to open age football and had a solid game making a number of good saves.
So congratulations to Josh, he’s earned the place and the opportunity is there for any member of the Academy that, if they work hard at their studies, have the right attitude and are good enough then there’s a clear pathway into the first team. "
In case you’re wondering Ollie Martin sustained a light injury in training last week and so is recuperating to ensure he’s back during pre-season, Josh will be travelling with the First team on Tuesday and for the rest of the season, as he demonstrates that being part of the FC United Academy is an opportunity to go further in the game.