A summer recruit for Brentford B, Nico Jones arrived at the Club after departing Oxford United. The young defender, who had made eight first team appearances for the League One side prior to his arrival in West London, was ready for a new challenge with The Bees to continue his development.
The 19-year-old has seen a steady progression during his time so far working under Neil MacFarlane and his staff. From getting to grips with the style of play to the intense fitness demands, Nico believes things are going well and he has settled into the group.
“I feel like my development is going really well here and I’m happy with the progress that I’m making at the club, as well as the coaching that I’m receiving,” explained Nico.
“I’ve improved in every part of my game, but in detail I think it’s the tactical side of things in my defending as well as my fitness, whether that’s looking into things like my body fats, running, sprinting and jumping.”
The youngster began his career on the books with Fulham’s Academy before he went on to move to Oxfordshire to rise through the ranks with The U’s. Reflecting on his introduction to men’s football at the Kassam Stadium, he looks back fondly at his time with the club.
He made his first team debut in April 2019 as a second half substitute before going on to get minutes under his belt against sides such as Doncaster Rovers and Luton Town towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
November 2019 saw the defender make Oxford United history as he became the club’s youngest ever captain at the age of just 17 as the side earned a 4-1 win away from home at Crawley Town in the EFL Trophy.
Reflecting on his time with Oxford, Nico said: “They helped to start me off in my career and made me aware that the football industry isn’t easy. Being in that environment from a young age gave me the motivation to work as hard as I can to try to get to the top.”
Nico has regularly been part of a back three this season and he has forged defensive relationships with the likes of Ben Hockenhull, Tristan Crama and Jude Russell. The young players are urged to stick to the Brentford principles and be comfortable in possession. At their tender ages with many more years in front of them it’s accepted that mistakes will come, but with the B Team the purpose is the development of the players for senior football.
Nico elaborated: “We play at a high tempo and keep the ball under pressure to then be able to play out from the back. I think playing under pressure is enjoyable but it’s also about being able to go long when you need to and recognising when to play.
“We’re encouraged to keep playing the way that we should, and we know that if we lose it then we just need to work as hard as possible to win the ball back. Losing the ball will happen, you just have to react.
“Working with Steven (Pressley) has helped me a lot, he and the other coaches like Neil and Sam (Saunders) let me play the way I want to, but then they will step in for a bit more guidance.”
The B Team group are a tight knit bunch. The demands expected of them on the training pitch are high and the characters in the dressing room do not allow for anyone to shirk their responsibilities. On the spirit within the squad, Nico feels that is helping the performances and every player knows that they are not always assured of a game in the B Team and they have to earn it.
“When someone does something well there is a lot of encouragement, and it gives us the mentality to play well and that bounces off each other,” said Nico. “It’s never given to you (a place in the starting XI), if you miss one game then you have to work to get your place in the team back. It’s hard but it has to be that way to improve.
“When I first came, I felt that I managed to fit in straight away. On the pitch you get after each other because everyone wants each other to do their best to win but afterwards everyone gets on really well. Wraynel (Hercules) and I live together, and we’ve got an understanding. We’ll always speak about our games and how we feel we can improve.”
Being a footballer isn’t always about what happens in the training sessions with the ball at your feet. Sometimes it can be about the way you carry yourself off the field, and Nico believes there is a mentality to never switch off from being the best you can be.
He continued: “The coaches are really good off the pitch. Once you’ve left the field, it’s important to remember that you are still working and there are things we need to do to make sure we’re at our best. They always push us to succeed.
“It’s all about consistency. I need to play well every single game and never take my foot off the gas. It’s about understanding that your place in the squad isn’t cemented, and you have to work hard every day and rise to the challenge.”
So, having had time to settle into the Club and find out more about how the B Team operates, what does Nico think of the fixture programme and the challenges he has faced so far?
“I enjoyed the game against Woking because it was tough,” explained the defender. “It was a huge challenge and for large parts we put in a decent performance. Of course, conceding three goals is never a good thing as a defender but it was a game that we learned a lot from.
“The trip to Cyprus was a challenge to adapt and stay concentrated in the heat. It was a good experience and definitely something different that improved my game. We played against some really tough opponents and it was a challenge that we needed as we were on a good run of results before. It was a learning curve and it showed the levels that we need to get to.”