Brentford B goalkeeper Nathan Shepperd believes the recent trip to Spain has further underlined the improvements in the squad since the beginning of the season, and the Welshman says the side are working hard to continue their development.
The young Bees have been in good form of late having taken wins over the likes of Hanwell Town and Bromley, before heading out to Spain to play two fixtures, the first of which they won 4-0 against Albacete Under-19s, before they were narrowly beaten 3-2 by FC Cartagena.
Discussing the performances of late, Nathan highlighted key areas of the side in which he believes displays the improvements made.
He said: “From the start of the season we’ve improved massively as a team. Going forward we’re more clinical and we don’t mess about in the box. The defenders put everything on the line to make blocks, and as keepers we want to make saves and try to do the best job we possibly can.
“Every day when we’re training, whether it’s abroad or here, everyone puts a shift in and that’s what will get us to the next level.”
Reflecting on the tour in Spain and the matches played, the shot stopper said: “In the two teams that we played there was a lot of differences in their styles of play, so for us it’s about adapting to different styles, and the referee in the second game in particular. In the first game they were putting in a lot of tackles, so we had to play quick.
“Sometimes it’s hard (when decisions go against you) but you have to focus on yourselves and not the silly stuff, don’t let it affect you and keep going and try not let it put you off your rhythm.
“Going away and living together is a good bonding experience. In Spain we would walk down to training and everyone would be having a laugh, we do little fun games before and after training. There’s the fun but we take things serious at the same time.”
In recent matches Nathan has been given the nod as captain of the Brentford B side, a role that he is relishing and feels, as a goalkeeper, he can be an influential captain to the rest of the side.
When asked which quality makes him a good captain, the 19-year-old explained: “Leadership. Getting everyone together, and even if the other team is playing better than us, it’s about keeping everyone in a strong position. As a goalkeeper you can see everything, you can see players running, and I think it’s important because it keeps everyone on their toes and focused on the game.”
Nathan joined the club after departing Swansea City ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, and he believes he has taken well to life at the club, and is enjoying the variety of fixtures that the B Team schedule provides for the young players.
“There’s lots of different games, when we get the schedule everyone is looking to see who we’ve got and where we might be going,” said Nathan. “Seeing all these different teams, especially for me and some of the other boys who haven’t played these sorts of teams before or been to these countries before. It’s class, going away and playing against different teams.
“Some of the boys are unbelievable, the technical ability and the ability shown on the pitch is really good. You can see that we have a really good set of players here and some character as well. Neil (MacFarlane) talks about us being relentless and he tells us to keep going and to push each other.
“No one can afford to slip up at the moment, everyone is putting everything in on a daily basis and in games, so if you don’t pull your weight then there are boys who are ready behind you to jump in and take your space."
Speaking of not slipping up, though the side have impressed of late, he is well aware that every player needs to continue their hard work to ensure that players keep their places in a talented squad.
“You’ve got to push yourself every day, you can’t take a day off and think: ‘today, I’m tired.’ You have to keep pushing yourself because it will get noticed, if you don’t do it and someone else does, then it’s so obvious so you’ve got to keep going. We all want to get into the first team, so we have to take our chances when they come, and you always have to be ready.”
Working alongside Swedish keeper Simon Andersson and the vastly experienced Goalkeeping Coach in Jani Viander is, in Nathan’s view, having major positive impacts on his game and the youngster believes he has improved a great deal already since joining the club.
He explained: “I’ve improved on my ability to play out from the back and dealing with crosses I’ve got a lot better at, such as my starting positions and reading body shapes. It’s all down to the work that we do every day.
“Simon and I have a good relationship. Every day we work hard and push each other and we’re always trying to improve. We always get feedback from Jani, but if Simon says something to me like: ‘you could do this’ then I can say the same back to him, so it’s quite an open relationship.”
Nathan also admitted that having the example of Patrik Gunnarsson, who rose through the Brentford B ranks before becoming a part of the first team, makes him even more motivated having seen a clear pathway into Thomas Frank’s side.
The youngster elaborated: “It’s not just Patrik, it’s other boys as well, it’s not just the goalkeepers. It’s for everyone, but for me, I look at it and think if I keep pushing and working hard then that could be me sooner rather than later.
“I want to keep pushing myself every day and try to play as many games as possible and see where it takes me. I want to do as best I can in every game and then, hopefully, be involved with the first team.”