Championship club’s decision to focus on a reserve side playing top opposition in friendlies is paying dividends under head of football operations Robert Rowan
It is a sunny Tuesday morning in west London and Robert Rowan, Brentford’s head of football operations, is watching Kevin O’Connor putting his B team squad through their paces. “Twenty-five press-ups for the strikers and then we go again,” commands the coach to his group of young players gathered from six European countries.
Almost a year on since the Championship club took the decision to close their youth academy as a response to the restrictions imposed on them by the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan, this is the reality for Brentford. It is a radical three-year strategy designed to establish a way of developing players with the aim of “creating the most effective pathway into the first team of all English clubs”. It has already seen O’Connor’s hotchpotch team of former youth team players and recruits play Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich sides in friendlies this season, with four players having gone on to make their debut for Dean Smith’s first team.
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