“I’m only just 19 so I’m still a baby in this game. Even though I think I know a lot, Ivan Toney broke the Championship goal record last season, so he knows a lot more! Any chance I get, I’ll go and speak to him.”
When a young player is coming through with the aim to break into the First Team set up there will be many people all providing a wealth of knowledge, advice and structure in order to help them be the best player that they can be. It’s also incumbent on the player to soak up as much information as they can in order to add those minor details into their game.
The beauty of the B Team project is its relationship with the First Team and how close the two are intertwined. Regularly players will join Thomas Frank’s men for training, and in the case of Nathan Young-Coombes, those experiences have been incredibly valuable.
With 28 goals for the season, the young forward, who joined The Bees from Rangers in the summer of 2021, has had a brilliant first campaign in West London. The youngster says he’s learning all the time from the likes of Ivan and is taking on all the advice given on the training pitch.
Nathan explained: “He (Ivan) has certain movements to allow him to get goals and I always ask him questions to nab a bit of information from him. He’s always been a really good help, a great guy, and he tells me things which will help me get to the next level. You then try to incorporate those things into your game and then that can give you another two or three goals.”
Ivan Toney is serving as inspiration to the young forward
On paper when you look at the volume of goals it’s hard to see how the season could have gone much better for the forward. Having adapted to new surroundings well, Nathan says he is striving to keep improving every single day on the pitch. Having had a taste of what a Premier League match day is like from the substitutes bench, he is more determined as ever to try and force a debut.
“I think from the outside looking in, I’ve done quite well,” explained the youngster after a session at Pennyhill Park, the B Team’s base for the remainder of the 2021/22 season whilst work is being carried out on their pitches at Jersey Road. “I’ve got my goals to show that I’ve progressed throughout the season which was the main thing when I signed here. It’s about getting a little better every day, the goals are the cherry on top, but it’s about the day-to-day work that I do. The goals highlight what I do and there will be games where I should score more, or games where I haven’t had too many chances but have still scored. If you start going into the mindset of saying that I have to score every game, then the goals will stop. Football, for me, is about being free and doing the right things and if you do that then goals will come.
“My routine is train, watch training back, think about training and then I can’t wait to get back in to train the next day. I’m getting fitter, stronger and quicker and I feel that I’m getting better against better opponents. The way I have felt this season has been shown on the pitch and I hope that can influence the boys and the results at the end of the day.”
Nathan is also keen to credit the culture at the Club. A fantastic relationship with the staff and players has helped him with his performances on the pitch as he feels the freedom to express himself.
He continued: “I think the environment has been the reason for my positive season. I have come here and been allowed to have freedom to develop, maybe have an off day and that be okay as long as I’m working as hard as I can. I’m free to express myself here, that’s the biggest part. When I first spoke with Neil (MacFarlane) and Saunds (Sam Saunders) ahead of joining I could tell that they were good people who I could put my trust in. There were other clubs saying that they could help me, but perhaps my personality is fitted to this club and its staff members. Sometimes my personality may be a bit of a hinderance to what some may think of me, but the staff here have treated me to allow me to be me and that’s what makes me give 100% every day, because I know they give that back to me as well.
“My goal is to be better than I was yesterday, whatever that takes. I’m always in conversation with Neil, Saunds, Steven Pressley (Head of Individual Development), Alfie Sparks (B Team Analyst) and learning different ways to progress. Sometimes that won’t happen and you may have a setback but if you’re doing everything you can then things will fall for you. We speak about what I have to do to progress, and I will be put into all sorts of scenarios to learn and then become comfortable.”
Even being on the bench in the Premier League provides a rich learning experience for the young players. From the atmosphere in the dressing room, the travelling and observing can all be brilliant learning curves for the young players and they’re something that Nathan believes he is benefitting from.
He continued: “The trips with the First Team are so strange to me because when you’re sat on a Premier League bench you look around and remember that it feels just like yesterday I was playing as a nine-year-old going up and down the motorway with my family. To then sit on the bench at the Emirates shows you how far you’ve come, but I know that I shouldn’t get too shy because it’s everything I’ve wanted to do.
“My first trip was against Leeds and I was taken back by the whole situation. A Premier League game, the fans, the importance of three points and the whole atmosphere tends to make you feel like you’re in a bit of a dream because that’s all I’ve ever spoken about. Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in it and think you deserve to be there. I feel like I’m a player that has the ability to develop and challenge to play in that environment. But it’s not mine by right, and I know that I have to take it. I feel that in sessions I try to train like I play, whether that’s in the First Team or B Team. I keep the same principles and let my football do the talking.”
Nathan sat with former B Team players and current First Team players Mads Roerslev and Mads Bech Sorensen at Leicester City
With the Middlesex FA Senior Challenge Cup Final against Barnet on the way for the young Bees on Tuesday at Hampton & Richmond’s Beveree Stadium, Nathan says everyone is excited about the chance to win some silverware. Having had some brilliant moments this season, to lift a trophy would be a fantastic representation of all of the hard work that the team have put in.
“I’ve never trained like this throughout my whole career so far,” explained the youngster. “I’ve never been a part of a group that works for each other like these players do. I don’t think you will find too many teams in the country who work like we do. A win in the Final would be the cherry on top of what we deserve for the season’s work, but just because we feel we deserve it, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen and we have to go and earn the win.”
So with the prospect of a trophy come the end of the season, how does the youngster see the next few months looking ahead to his second season with The Bees?
“I don’t look too far ahead of myself because you can get wrapped up in what you think you deserve,” said Nathan. “In this game nobody deserves to just be given opportunities, you have to earn them and you have to take them. Nobody will just hand it to me on a plate, and I think it’s all about what I can do to take my game to the next level. I can score goals, but how can I address an area that I’m not so good at? Can you do it on a training pitch, and then a game, and then a bigger game? The repetition and the hard work is non-stop because it’s important to be a well-rounded player.”
Having had a wonderful season in red and white, there is no doubt that Nathan has grown as a player over the course of the campaign. Having grabbed 28 goals so far he will be aiming to make the most of his opportunities with the B Team in the coming games.