A cultured midfielder with an eye for a pass, Josh McEachran has played more than 50 games for Brentford since making the switch from Chelsea in July 2015.
BEES sat down with the 24-year-old to discuss growing up at Cobham, taking the armband and coping with spells on the sidelines.
You joined Chelsea at the age of seven, rising through the ranks to make your First-Team debut in 2010. How do you reflect on your time at Stamford Bridge?
It was a massive part of my life. I joined at the age of seven, signed a contract at eight and then worked my way up through the ranks, making my debut at 17. That all happened within a ten-year window. It was a dream come true when I finally made that first appearance.
The BT Sport documentary, No Hunger in Paradise, prompted some discussion about young players’ experiences within football clubs. How did you balance football and childhood?
Up until the age of 14 or 15 I was educated the normal way, with my parents taking me to the training ground on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I’d then have one or two days a week away from school and receive one-on-one tutoring at the training ground. At 16 I went to a college with the rest of the Youth Team squad.
The teachers would tell us to get on with our work and warn us that we might not make it as professionals, but that’s all I ever wanted to be. It was hard to juggle school work whilst travelling every day, but it’s part and parcel of growing up in an Academy. In the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘I really don’t want to do this,’ but it’s something you have to push on with.
You had five different loan spells between 2012 and 2015, featuring for the likes of Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic and Dutch side, Vitesse Arnhem. How much of challenge is it to enter a series of dressing rooms in such quick succession?
It was a bit unsettling. I was still a Chelsea player with the desire to play for my parent club, but you have to do as well as you can while out on loan. As a young player I had to accept that I wasn’t going to walk into the First Team and play week in, week out. Going out on loan provides some vital experience for young players.
What challenges did you face whilst playing in the Netherlands?
All the meetings were held in English, so it wasn’t as tough a transition as one might expect. The football was very technical over there which suited my style of play. I got injured in the run up to Christmas, but after the festive period I played pretty much every game. It was a very positive loan spell.
You made the move to Brentford in July 2015. Did it come as a relief to put some roots down following those spells away from the Bridge?
It wasn’t a relief necessarily as I still had a year left on my contract at Chelsea. I chose to come here because I wanted to get back on track and settle down somewhere. I met Matthew (Benham) and everything he had to say sounded perfect to me. I’ve enjoyed life here ever since.
You’ve had to deal with a few injuries including a three-month layoff when you first arrived at the Club in 2015. How do you deal with that psychologically?
My first couple of years here were very challenging. I’d come for a fresh start but that was halted almost immediately because of injury. I met the team in Portugal, had a productive few days there, but within a week of being back at Jersey Road I’d broken my foot. Psychologically that absolutely killed me because I knew I was going to be out for three to four months. It was the worst possible start I could have had at Brentford. I then got myself back to fitness and played a few games and the same thing happened. Injuries are as tough mentally as they are physically, you’ve just got to get your head down and try to get back as fit as possible.
How big an honour was it to captain the side against Notts County in the FA Cup Third Round?
I’d captained some of my youth sides so it wasn’t completely new territory for me. I enjoyed being captain and taking on that additional responsibility. I see myself as one of the more experienced members of the squad. When we do old versus young in training I’m in the old team at 24, so that says a lot about the squad we’ve got here. We’ve got a young and talented group.
60 Seconds with Josh…
Dream midfield partner?
Ultimate 5-a-side team of players you’ve lined up alongside?
Petr Čech; John Terry; Ravel Morrison, Frank Lampard; Eden Hazard
Last viewed on Netflix?
Steak and chips
On a sale of one to ten how cool are you?
Making my Champions League debut or winning the Under-17 European Championship
Pirlo or Andrés Iniesta
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