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Homegrown half dozen receive recognition for their rise to the top flight

Six Bees presented with Premier League Debut Balls

1 November 2021

Journeys to the top flight that have taken in stops at Dulwich Hamlet, Hampton and Richmond Borough, Southport, Walsall, and AFC Wimbledon have been recognised for six of our homegrown players.

David Raya, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock, Marcus Forss, Shandon Baptiste, and Mads Bech were the proud recipients last month of commemorative Debut Balls to mark their Premier League bows.

For David, Rico, Ethan, Marcus, and Mads those first outings all came during our unforgettable 2-0 opening night win against Arsenal while Shandon made his first Premier League appearance a fortnight later as we drew 1-1 at Aston Villa. 

To recognise their journey to the top, each player received an official Nike match ball, housed in a personalised, engraved case.

David moved to England as 16-year-old, joining Blackburn Rovers in July 2012. He made his way through the club’s academy before signing a professional contract, aged 18, at Ewood Park. Conference Premier side Southport took him on loan for the 2014-15 season, giving him First Team experience before he returned to Rovers. The following four years brought 108 appearances at Ewood Park before he joined The Bees in the summer of 2019. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by David Raya Martin (@d.raya1)

David missed just four league games during his first two seasons in West London, which culminated in a clean sheet at Wembley as we earned promotion through the Play-Offs back in May. David's clean sheet against Arsenal on his Premier League debut was the first of three he has kept so far this campaign. 

Rico joined Walsall aged 11 and progressed through the youth ranks to make his first senior appearance for the club shortly after his 16th birthday. Following three years and 57 appearances in the Walsall first team, the left-back signed for Brentford in August 2016.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Rico Henry (@ricohenry)

Injuries disrupted Rico's early years in West London, however, he made 51 appearances during the 2019/20 season and a further 35 last term. In recognition of his performances during our promotion-winning campaign, Rico was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year. The 24-year-old has gone on to start every one of our Premier League games so far. 

For Ethan, his journey to the Premier League began with Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian League Division One South, the eighth tier of English football. He spent four years at Champion Hill, making 195 appearances. A year in the National League with Forest Green and two years at Barnsley preceded his arrival at Brentford in July 2019. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ethan Pinnock (@ethanpinnock_)

The dominant defender made 88 appearances in his first two years with Brentford and, like Rico, was named in last season's PFA Championship Team of the Year. Ethan has featured in every top flight game so far this term, scoring his first Premier League goal against Liverpool back in September. 

Our five homegrown debutants against Arsenal also included two players who came through the Brentford B pathway, Marcus Forss and Mads Bech, to appear that night. 

Marcus joined The Bees from West Bromwich Albion as an 18-year-old in the summer of 2017. He was the B Team's leading scorer during his maiden campaign in West London, and made a goalscoring debut for the First Team in an EFL Cup First Round tie against Southend United in August 2018. He scored his first Championship goal at the end of that same season before departing on loan to AFC Wimbledon for the 2019/20 season. 

Injury ended his time with The Dons early but not before he'd scored 11 goals in 18 League One outings. Ten goals, including the winner against AFC Bournemouth in the Play-Off Semi-Finals, followed en route to promotion last season. This term, Marcus is the EFL Cup's leading scorer with five in three matches, four of which came in our 7-0 win over Oldham Athletic in Round Three. 

Mads arrived at Brentford from Danish side AC Horsens in the same summer as Marcus and made his debut in that same EFL Cup victory at Roots Hall. The defender's Championship debut came in March 2019 as we won away at Middlesbrough for the first time in 81 years. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Mads Bech Sørensen (@madsbech_)

Following a half-season on loan with AFC Wimbledon during the second half of the 2019/20 campaign, Mads was a regular in our matchday squads last term. He made 39 appearances, scoring three goals, to take him past a half century in red and white. 

Our sixth homegrown debutant this season, Shandon Baptiste, has battled back from injury to arrive at the top table. The midfielder played his Academy football with Reading before a move to Oxford United. While with United he spent time at Hampton and Richmond Borough before establishing himself with The U's during the 2018/19 season. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Shandon Baptiste (@sbap26)

The 23-year-old joined Brentford in January 2020, playing 13 times before the end of the season. A knee-injury reduced Shandon to just four appearances last season but he returned to fitness over the summer in time to make his Premier League bow at Villa Park in August.  

A Debut Ball is given to all homegrown debutants who have been developed at an Academy of a club in the English football pyramid for three years or more prior to their 21st birthday.


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