Mediano – Brentford Special – Episode 2: Recorded before the Play-Offs.
Host: Jonas Hebo Rasmussen – Host and expert at Mediano and footballer at Hellerup IK
Guest: Emiliano Marcondes – Footballer at Brentford FC
Translator: Tobias Neigaard
Editor: Greville Waterman
Hebo: First of all, I just want to say that Emiliano Marcondes and I have known each other pretty much our entire lives. We grew up close to each other and you played on the same team as my brother throughout your youth at Hvidovre IF. So, how is it to play in the Championship and do you still dive as much as you did when you played here?
Marcondes: Haha, I don’t fall over as easily anymore, but I know when to position myself in front of the ball to force the contact with the opponent to get a freekick or penalty, but I actually think they dive more here than back home in Denmark. But they do it in the right situations and it looks more genuine because the footballers are a bit smarter here. I wouldn’t call myself a diver, but I do look for the contact sometimes when I run into a dead end.
Hebo: We are talking on the 27th of March and it’s currently an international break. How do you pass the time on an international break at Brentford when you’ve not been called up by your country?
Marcondes: Well, we’ve had three days off and then we played a friendly against Charlton with everyone who’s still here. We’ve also had some intense training sessions, which has been great. I really needed it because of the injury that kept me out for seven weeks at the beginning of the year. I’ve really needed to train hard and play an entire game. We rarely have these friendlies during the season because we play every three or four days. So this international break has been really useful as I’ve managed to get back to full fitness, whereas some of the others who have played a lot of games throughout the season have spent it more on recovery and rest.
Hebo: In the Danish Superliga, both at FC Midtjylland and FC Nordsjælland you played as either number 10 or False 9. How would you describe your position in Brentford’s system?
Marcondes: Brentford do not play with either a number 10 or False 9, which I see as my best positions. However, I think I can play in many positions, as I have done throughout my career. You could probably argue that my versatility has actually been both good and bad for me. My role at Brentford is more defensive, yet I’m usually a little higher up the pitch compared to the others who play the number 8 role. In my position, I use a lot of energy on pressing the opposition, covering the wings, and closing passing lanes from the wings into the central areas. When we are in possession and are developing our attacks, I usually drop deeper as a number 6 between the two central defenders to get the ball and distribute it from there or bring it up myself. When I do that, I’m obviously far away from the opposition goal and where I would prefer to be, namely the box. So, I run a lot both in defence and attack, but it also means I don’t use my energy and creativity where I think I’m best, the final third. We’ve tried to solve it, and in some games, I think it’s been really good, but it’s still a conundrum that remains unresolved to some extent for me here at Brentford.
Hebo: Could you talk about what it’s like to be injured?
Marcondes: We play every three or four days and it almost feels like a training camp because you have games all the time and last year’s lockdown compressed the schedule even more. It feels like a pre-season where you train, eat, sleep and then wake up to train again. You honestly don’t do anything but train and play games. When you’re injured, you focus more on the things that you can improve, and you have more time to think about other things than football. Especially now when when everything has been closed and you can’t do anything. I thought a lot about what I could do once my football career ends. I also started a YouTube channel about my rehab and recovery. It kept me motivated and I know many younger players have been inspired by it and gave me some really nice feedback. When I’m injured, I usually try to improve myself and fine-tune even the smallest things. For example, my body fat percentage was something I worked with a lot the last time I was injured. I thought it had gone up a bit too much because we eat so much at Brentford as we play all the time. Sometimes I start, sometimes I come on from the bench, but I still have to eat as if I was a regular starter, which meant I was eating more than I was burning. When I was injured, it was easier for me to manage how much I was doing every day and then eat accordingly.
Hebo: When you are injured would you have the identical schedule as the fit members of the squad, or do you not see them that often because your schedules are different?
Marcondes: I didn’t see them every day because they travelled a lot and I had some days off. The days they had to travel to an away game they would meet up a lot later than so I would not always see them. You get a bit isolated from the group and it’s really hard. We’ve just got a new gym, which is nice, but being in there on your own while the others are out playing football is the hardest part of being injured. You’re so close to them and can literally see them from the window, yet you’re so far away. You can see them having fun and yet you’re not part of it. It’s tough.
Hebo: You mentioned your YouTube channel. How do you have the energy to do all these things?
Marcondes: It’s really important to me. The players I remember from when I was a child were the players who gave back to the fans and communities and were humble around young fans and players. I have always taken the time to talk to the fans. Some players don’t relish all the attention that comes with being a professional footballer. I hope that will never happen to me, nor do I think it ever will. Young children are so inspired by us and I think it’s our duty to give back to them. And that’s what I’m trying to do with my projects. I’ve practised freekicks so much, so why not try and pass it on to the next generation of footballers. I would’ve loved that as a young boy.
Hebo: Back in 2017 when you had your breakthrough at FC Nordsjælland, there were a lot of transfer rumours around you. Why did you choose to join Brentford. Did you know back then that you were going to be competing for promotion to Premier League?
Marcondes: It was certainly the goal. It was what I thought about when I chose Brentford. We wanted to aim for a top-6 position first because we were a mid-table team back then. I could see there were signs of better things to come. They brought in players of a calibre that was unprecedented for the club, and it’s only gone one way since then. To have been a part of this journey is one of the best things about my time here. It was a completely different club when I joined compared to where we are today. The culture was very different and we have become more development-oriented and also built a winning mentality. We’ve progressed and improved every season. I dream about being promoted to the Premier League with Brentford and it has been my ambition ever since I joined. Therefore, it’s been incredible to be part of the journey. It was devastating when we didn’t get promoted last season. I even get chills down my spine as we talk about it.
Hebo: How long were people feeling down after the Playoff Final defeat and how did the loss affect you?
Marcondes: Well, I actually don’t think I’ve got over it yet, to be honest. It still affects me a lot when I talk about it. It evokes bad feelings like emptiness that I have never had before. We were so close three times. It’s insane and words don’t quite do the feelings justice. I still can’t get my head around how we didn’t get promoted last season. The mental part of football is all-important and I think we all learned that the hard way. We had won nine games in a row and created the opportunity to overtake West Brom. We lost to Stoke who, on paper, should be one of the easiest games we had. The same goes for the game against Barnsley who were struggling at the bottom of the table. It’s ridiculous, and something I will never forget. I actually think it helped that we had to start the preparations for next season so soon after. We only had twelve days off. I think all that helped to change the mood of the squad relatively quickly. However, the memories and thoughts were still there when I was trying to fall asleep or when I had some time to myself. The first week after Wembley I slept so poorly. I don’t even think I slept at all the first three nights. I kept waking up in the middle of the night with bad dreams. It’s quite scary that football can do such things to you, but I think it’s because playing in the Premier League has been the goal ever since I came here – ever since I was a child actually. It’s always been my dream, and being so close and having it swept away right in front of your nose… You just feel like everything is so unfair. We felt we were the best team in all the three games we lost, and yet we failed to grasp promotion.
Hebo: You mentioned the mental side of football. This season, you haven’t lost that many games and you’ve managed to stay in the fight for promotion once again, so that says a lot about your mental strength. How do you see your chances of getting promoted this season?
Marcondes: Well we have last season’s experience which I think could prove to be a massive benefit for us going into the last few games. I also think we have an even better team this season despite losing Benrahma and Watkins. Even though we’ve had quite a lot of injuries this season, I think the replacements have stepped up to the task, and I actually feel like we are a stronger unit this time, because we’ve been through this together.
Hebo: It’s no secret that Brentford have sold many players for a lot of money. However, it’s quite unusual that they let their players run out of contract, yet that seems to be the case for you as your contract ends this summer and you haven’t officially signed any contract yet. Is that something you think about a lot?
Marcondes: Well, on my days off, and during this international break, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about it, to be honest. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t at the back of my mind most of the time. It happened to me before when I was at FC Nordsjælland. I think I can take some experience from then and be calmer about it. I’ll focus on my training and what I can do better, and when I’m home I can think about my situation and talk to my agent about things and how to handle the last couple of months here.
Hebo: Thank you very much for joining me, and best of luck with the rest of the season.
Marcondes: Thank you very much. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you.