Brentford central defender Ethan Pinnock has reflected on his first four months at Brentford. The defender joined The Bees from Barnsley in July and has made six Sky Bet Championship appearances. In an interview with Dan Long, conducted last month, he looks back at the move and assesses his time in West London so far.
It has been around four months since you joined the club from Barnsley – how would you sum up your time at the club so far?
It’s been really enjoyable. I’m back down south down now - I’m originally from London – so it’s good to be back around family. Everyone at the club has made me feel really welcome and I’m enjoying my time so far. I started the first couple of games and then I had a dead quad so I missed a game. I haven’t started since the game against Leeds United but that shows the level of competition; no place is safe and each week you’ve got to work hard and battle to keep your place.
I know you were linked with a move to Brentford for quite some time, but when were you first made aware of the interest?
I was actually on holiday at the time – I was in Mexico – and I was told they were interested and looking to make an approach.
It’s common knowledge that Brentford’s behind-the-scenes processes differ greatly from those of other clubs – how eye-opening was the attention-to-detail and statistics-based model when you first arrived?
They are really big on the statistical side of things and they analyse literally every aspect so closely. I think that’s beneficial for players because it helps you to know exactly where you need to improve, what you need to improve on. The level of detail is really high, so you are never unsure of what you need to be doing or what’s required of you. That way, you know what the coaches want from you as well. I think it’s good for players. It’s different [from Barnsley]. I think a few more clubs are starting to adopt that approach as well and I think Barnsley use something similar. Maybe not on the same level, but they use statistics as well.
I’m not entirely sure how you set up during your time at Barnsley, but here it’s been a back three every game you have started so far. How does playing in a three differ from playing in a four, from your perspective?
As you grow up the standard is a back four but I think, in modern times, teams are changing it up and finding new ways to be successful. I’ve found the three enjoyable so far. It is different, especially being one of the wide centre-backs you do end up wider on the pitch a lot more but I think it’s all things to take in your stride. We worked on it a lot in pre-season and the early stages of the season. I think it has worked well defensively as we haven’t conceded a lot of goals and it is different, but I enjoy playing both ways. A few times while I was at Forest Green, the manager there Mark Cooper liked to play out and have control of games from the back of the pitch. I’ve played in a three a few times there but over the last few years I haven’t at Barnsley.
It’s far too early to be making predictions, but is there a sense of frustration that you aren’t further up the table at the moment?
Everyone feels there’s been a few games we’ve lost where we’ve probably deserved more out of the game. Just lacking that final bit sometimes. But it is early stages - we can’t get too hung up on that – and there are lots of games so we’ve just got to stay focused on the next game. We can’t really dwell on it too much, however it is good to use that frustration from past games to not want to feel that feeling again and use it to drive us on.
Given the large sum spent on revamping the squad this summer, does it feel like there’s extra pressure on the team to perform?
I don’t believe so. We don’t really focus on things outside, we just concentrate on doing our jobs. We know we’ve got a good set of players and most of the pressure comes from within ourselves. We’ve got our own personal standards that we like to keep - to win games. We haven’t won many so far but I think most of the pressure comes from within ourselves and the desire to win.
In 2017/18, you played 15 games in the Championship with Barnsley but having played every game in League One last season, how much better equipped did you feel when you made your debut against Birmingham on the opening day?
I did feel better equipped. Before going to Barnsley I was at Forest Green in the National League so it’s a few steps up and I did notice a difference. I felt that when I did play, I learned a lot each game and with the whole League One season last season, playing every game, you do get into a rhythm and a routine, which I think helps when you are playing regularly. Coming forward to this season, I’ve just tried to take things on board that I’ve learned and just tried to use it.
In the summer of 2016, you’d just signed for Forest Green, while one of your CB partners Pontus Jansson was part of the Sweden squad at Euro 2016. How does it feel to now be lining up alongside such an established international defender?
It’s good to have him here. He’s a very good player, a good leader and he has good leadership qualities. He’s played in a few countries and done really well so it’s good to have quality players around, it helps you to keep pushing in the right direction. Hopefully we start to get the results to follow that up to show what we are doing in training. I think you can never stop learning. There’s players in their 30s and I feel like they still learn. Football is a really open sport where there’s a lot of open action so there’s always new tactics and new styles of play that managers want to implement. I don’t think there’s ever a time you can stop learning.
I know you must’ve done plenty of interviews talking about how you’ve come from non-league to the second tier in three years but do you still have to pinch yourself sometimes?
Not so much now, but when I first stepped in going to some of the big stadiums was all new to me. Over the last couple of years I’ve grown more accustomed to it, but when I do look back to maybe three or four years ago, I’m really proud of the achievement of making the step up. I just want to keep continuing to improve and to play as well as I can.
Further to that, I have to ask – as a self-proclaimed ‘late bloomer’ did you ever think that big break might not come?
I feel like you always have to have confidence in yourself but at times, when you are playing non-league and obviously I was studying as well, you have to make sure you have a back-up plan in place because nothing is a guarantee. You never know what will happen. I was always confident I was good enough but I was self-aware that it may not happen because sometimes things just don’t work out.
Finally, it’s the last season here at Griffin Park – you must be hopeful of ending the cCub’s time here in the best way possible?
From the moment I’ve been here, it’s been a really big thing. The stadium holds a high value for all the fans, all the players, all the coaching staff, everyone involved with the club. We really want to give it a good send off, so we work hard day in, day out trying to do the best we can so the last season is one to remember.