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Interviews

The Long Read: Mads Bech

Able to propel the ball over 40 metres, Mads Bech’s long throws have become a deadly weapon for The Bees

24 May 2022

PROPEL

verb

to push or move something somewhere, often with a lot of force

 

 

During childhood trips to the beach, Mads Bech would stand on the water’s edge and throw stones into the sea.

Competing with his parents to see who could throw the furthest, a family pastime unearthed a skill that Mads would go on to use in the Premier League.

“From an early age, I was able to throw quite far,” says Mads.

“I played handball when I was younger, but I think it really started during those trips to the beach with my family.

“My dad encouraged me a lot. We would head down to our yard and do some throw-ins. I was quite good at throwing it long, even without any training, then we started to train a bit and it went well.”

Mads joined AC Horsens’ academy in 2011. He progressed through the ranks and made his First Team debut in May 2015. At 16 years, three months and 26 days, he became the club’s youngest-ever player.

Mads was developing a reputation as a long-throw specialist, but it was his work with throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark that allowed him to fine-tune his technique.

Gronnemark – who has worked with Liverpool, Ajax and RB Leipzig in recent years - is best known for setting a world-record long throw. The record was achieved in 2010 when he used a front flip to propel the ball 51.33 metres. Mads had been paired with the perfect tutor.

“Thomas came in and I had a few sessions with him, which helped me to extend my throw,” Mads recalls.

“I’ve had a few sessions with him at Brentford as well.

“There were three or four players, me included, who worked with Thomas at Horsens. It’s small details that can make your throw a bit longer.

“Instead of stopping on the line, you should step over the line once you’ve released the ball, so you don’t stop your body completely. The power from your body is then transferred to the ball.

“It’s quite natural for me; some tips from Thomas just tweaked it a little bit.

“Of course, there’s a physical element to it, but I see it as being similar to golf; if you hit it right, with the right technique, it flies. Sometimes I try to throw it hard, but it won’t travel as far. It’s about having a good feeling in your body.”

“I see throw-ins as being similar to golf; if you hit it with the right technique, it flies”

Mads can now throw the ball over 40 metres. To put that figure into context, Rory Delap, who became well known for his throwing ability during his time at Stoke City (2006-2013), averaged a distance of 38 metres with his long throws during his Premier League career.

“It’s totally extreme,” Gronnemark told The Telegraph during an interview in 2020 when asked about Mads’ technique. “It will be close to the back post in the air, which is really difficult for opponents to mark. It’s fantastic to work with a guy like him. It’s the longest throw I’ve ever seen in the 5,000 players or so that I’ve coached. If he’s not the longest thrower in world football, he’s certainly among the very top.”

During the 2021/22 season, Brentford scored three goals within a single phase of play following a throw-in.

The Bees’ approach to throw-ins was demonstrated perfectly during the opening game of the campaign against Arsenal. 

On 73 minutes, just two minutes after Mads’ introduction from the bench, Brentford won a throw-in deep inside The Gunners’ half. With six players in the box and three on the periphery, Thomas Frank’s side approached this throw-in like a corner.

Mads’ throw, which on this occasion landed at the front post, caused chaos in the Arsenal area and eventually broke for Christian Norgaard who nodded home into an empty net.

“My first or second touch of the ball was the throw-in,” Mads recalls.  

“When I entered the pitch at 1-0, it was quite tense, so it was such a good feeling to finally score from a throw to make it 2-0. I just try to hit an area and hope for the best from there

“It was a relief and allowed us to relax a little bit more. It was the perfect start for me!”

Mads has become an increasingly important player in the Brentford set-up. He made 39 appearances in all competitions during the 2020/21 season as we won promotion via the Play-Offs and reached the Semi-Finals of the Carabao Cup.

He says that his loan spell at AFC Wimbledon (2019/20) – despite being cut short due to the pandemic - provided the perfect springboard into First Team football.

“At Brentford, there are so many different nationalities,” says Mads.

“When I joined Wimbledon, I obviously knew Marcus Forss, but other than that it was only guys from the United Kingdom – I was the only foreign player.

“I trained with them two times, then we had a game against Portsmouth. I was on the bench. Marcus got injured in that game and then I had no one. It was just me.

“At the start, it’s often easier to speak with other foreign players because we’re all in the same situation – we’ve all left family behind – but it was a good group of guys at Wimbledon.

“I played for three months, then League One got cancelled.

“It was good for me to play. I needed to play some professional games. It was a good match between me and Wimbledon. It was a great experience.”

Mads played nine games for AFC Wimbledon but it was his debut – a 1-0 victory over Peterborough United in January 2020 - that really caught my eye.

Thrown straight in at the deep end, he found himself going toe-to-toe with the division’s leading marksman…

“That’s a funny story,” Mads smiles. “Peterborough were a top team in League One. Before the game, the coaches spoke about Ivan [Toney]: ‘They have the top scorer, he’s a good player, we need to be aware of him.’

“We played well and Peterborough were struggling a bit. Me and Ivan had some tough duels! We had a little fight in the game – elbows, tackles. With five minutes to go, we ended up standing face-to-face, grabbing each other’s shirts!

“Me and Ivan had some tough duels! With five minutes to go, we ended up standing face-to-face, grabbing each other’s shirts!”

“On Ivan’s first day after he’d signed for Brentford, we just looked at each other and started laughing! The last time we’d been together we were almost trying to headbutt each other!”

Mads returned from Plough Lane with momentum on his side, but he had to be patient at the beginning of last season. Injury and illness suffered by fellow central defenders Pontus Jansson and Charlie Goode respectively allowed him to break into the starting XI by late-October.

“You need a bit of luck,” says Mads.

“If you’re not playing week in, week out, then when there’s an injury you have to grab the opportunity.

“We had some injuries to the centre-backs and I stayed fit, so I was able to play a lot of games. I enjoyed it – it was the perfect season to play. The big win against Wycombe [7-2] is a good memory.

“The Cup run that we had was amazing. To play a Semi-Final at Tottenham was a big game. To get to that stage of the competition as a Championship club is special. We beat four Premier League teams before that game, too – it was a great run.”

While injuries to others had provided Mads with an opportunity at the start of the season, in May he suffered a setback of his own that would cause him to miss our Play-Off fixtures.

It’s been almost a year since our promotion to the Premier League, but Mads’ pain is still present when I ask him about those final three games of last season.

“I was devastated,” he says.

“I had to have my appendix taken out, then when I started to run again I had a stress fracture in my shin. They were some s****y injuries. 

“I had to watch Bournemouth away on TV. It was terrible. I was so nervous and I couldn’t do anything about it. Of course, I’d have been nervous if I’d played the game, but in a different kind of way. When you’re sat in front of the TV, or in the stand, you can’t do anything – it’s out of your hands.

“At Wembley, we weren’t supposed to go on the pitch after the game due to the Covid rules, but just before the trophy was lifted we ran on so we could be part of it. I would have been devastated to have missed that moment.”

Mads suffered another cruel injury at the beginning of the 2021/22 campaign.

Less than two weeks after the high of our opening-night victory over Arsenal, he sustained a knee injury during a Carabao Cup meeting with Forest Green Rovers.

He didn’t return to a matchday squad until late-November.

“That was very tough,” says Mads. “It was the same injury that I’d had before I went on loan to Wimbledon, so I knew what was coming. That made it a little bit easier.

“But I’d just played a really good season, a good pre-season and then featured against Arsenal. Everything then stopped for me. It was a big knock on the head.

“I spoke with the physios and they were very nice. I had a week here [Jersey Road] after the Forest Green game when we did the scans, and they made a plan.

“After that I went back to Denmark for 16 days, which was good. I got away, saw my family and friends back home, and didn’t think about football too much.

“I had to wear a brace for six weeks. Once that came off, things then moved quite quickly. The first five or six weeks in the brace was the toughest part.”

Mads had to wait until Chelsea’s visit on 22 December to complete his comeback – it had been a long time in the making. Over the following weeks, he would make six starts, testing himself against the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United.

MB (2).jpg

Focused: Mads battles with Chelsea’s Ross Barkley

 

“It was a good feeling to finally play again,” he says.

“To play against top clubs in Europe was a good feeling. I think in many of those games we did quite well. I know we lost, but against City at home we kept them to a minimum of chances. Against Man U, we did well for 60 minutes and should have been two or three goals up at half time.

“We were all aware that this was going to be a tough season. We’re playing against some tough teams and we can’t expect to win week in, week out.

“Even when we get into tough periods, we need to keep working hard and – as we’ve seen - it will turn. We have to keep our heads high.”

During Tottenham’s visit to Brentford Community Stadium in April, Mads shone in a back five that included fellow B Team graduate Mads Roerslev.

Spurs’ attack, spearheaded by Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, failed to register a shot on target.

It was a performance that was crafted on the pitches at Jersey Road.

“Our structure and our plan is very clear,” Mads tells me.

“It’s easy to step in to it. Even if you’re playing an unfamiliar position, it’s not like you have to start from scratch because everyone knows what the expectations are for each position.

“Everyone is ready to help you. That’s a massive thing for us. Brian [Riemer] is a very, very good defensive coach. He’s made some great changes here and it works well for us.”

Mads’ performances represent something much bigger for the Brentford community; his success is an ongoing reminder of Robert Rowan’s legacy.

The Club’s late Technical Director who tragically passed away in November 2018, Robert was at the forefront of the B Team project, created in the summer of 2016. Mads would join the set-up a year later and ultimately progress to the Premier League.

A quietly determined and resilient young player, Mads has left his footprints on the pathway between the B Team and the First Team. Others have followed and more will do so in the future.

“It’s special to be part of Rob’s legacy,” Mads concludes.

“It means a lot to me. When I came to the Club, Rob was one of the first people I met. He was a great man and will always be remembered here.”

 

Follow Mads on Instagram @madsbech_

 

MB (3).jpg

Pathway: With Thomas Frank and fellow B Team graduate Mads Bidstrup


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