Russ Penn: One v One with Bromley midfielder Josh Rees – Boss Neil has let me off my leash!

Gateshead midfielder Ross Penn talks to Bromley star Josh Rees
His goals from midfield have helped propel Bromley into the play-off picture and a potential Trophy trip to Wembley – it’s no wonder Josh Rees is one of the most talked about players in the National League right now. Here, he explains his journey via a star-studded youth team at Arsenal…
So Josh, your performances have been fantastic this season. What do you put that down to?
I think it’s been down to the environment I’m in and making the most of everything offered to me at Bromley. Luckily I’ve got a manager that has given me an opportunity to play regularly and game by game my confidence has grown. Training is always very intense and there’s always competition for places. It keeps you on your toes.
You’re the leading midfield goalscorer with 16 in all competitions. Is this something you wanted to improve on prior to the season?
Yes, I feel that for the last couple of years I’ve been given a more conservative role in teams. At Chelmsford last year we had four or five quality strikers so my role was a lot different. Fair play to the management team at Bromley, they saw that I had a knack of scoring goals if I was allowed to get in the right positions and they gave me that licence to do so. I try to work on my finishing every day but the runs into the box have been naturally done since I was young. It’s more of a habit if anything.
You had time at Arsenal, what was that like and what did you take from that experience?
My time with Arsenal was a big part of my life. I was there from eight years of age until I was 19 so I grew up with the club. I was a fan of the club as well so it was a bit of a dream come true scenario. I was picked up by a local scout to go there but these young kids were way beyond any of the talent I’d played with locally. As time went by I improved quickly and managed to work my way through the age groups.
It’s a fantastic club that gave me a great technical grounding in football and it’s produced some fantastic players at all levels. I remember playing with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi so it’s great to see them in the first team now. You even look now in the National League you’ve got Craig Eastmond (Sutton), Morgan Ferrier (Boreham Wood) and Fejiri Okenabirhie (Dagenham) just to name a few.

You will no doubt be attracting attention with your performances and goals this term but what are your end of season targets?
As a team we would love the chance to be in the play-offs but we know we have some massive teams around us. We are still in the FA Trophy as well and hopefully we can go as far as possible in that and get a chance to play on the hallowed turf at Wembley. Individually I just want to play as much as possible and to keep contributing in a positive way.
I haven’t really set a goal target but I’m quite close to 20 in all competitions now so that would be a nice achievement.
Bromley are enjoying a terrific season to date under Neil Smith. What’s he like to work for on a personal note?
On a professional level, Neil is someone I have a lot of time for because he’s never settling for mediocrity and he’s always pushing us and the club. He has played at pretty much every level as a player and he’s very understanding when it comes to the demands of football. On a personal level he’s good to talk to because sometimes we all need to switch off from football and have a laugh and a joke. But to be honest the manager is a representation of all of the staff and the club in general. It’s a close-knit club with a lot of good people working behind the scenes.
Looking back on your career you’ve never really settled down at a club. Would you say it’s important to be more loyal or is that the level we are at?
I think it’s more the nature of the beast if I’m honest. As a person I don’t really like chopping and changing. I think I was lucky that I spent eleven years growing up at Arsenal because nowadays it’s unheard of. As soon as you play in the lower leagues the contracts aren’t as long and the hierarchy of each league changes from year to year. It hasn’t affected my relationship with any clubs. I still speak to people at Torquay despite only being on loan for half a season. But I agree it would be nice to find a club and progress with them for a duration.
Life after football?
I’m on the verge of completing a degree in sports science. I did this through Manchester Metropolitan University and it was aided by the PFA. It has taken me a while because it’s all long distance learning but it’s something I’m proud to have taken on and hopefully I can come out of it with a good qualification. I do a bit of coaching now in local schools and although I’m unsure this would be a future career path, I will have a go at doing my badges. I think as footballers we know we have a shorter shelf life than most so adding more strings to our bow, so to speak, is quite important.
Best mate in football?
One of my best mates at school, Morgan Fox, is playing at Sheffield Wednesday but unfortunately I’ve never played with him professionally. I know, Russ, we have a mutual friend in Shaun Harrad (Matlock Town), who I played with at Torquay. Shaun is a top guy and he’s someone I’ll always look to for advice within the game. We have got a little wager on who will score most this season.
Biggest regret in the game?
Funnily enough as much as I’ve said how amazing my time was at Arsenal I’d say my biggest regret was staying there for a bit too long. I think once you get to the age of
18 the chances of breaking into the first team are so thin. You can easily get caught in the system and although the lifestyle is great you’re not progressing in footballing terms. If I had my time again I probably would have left to go to a club where I could have played first-team football a lot sooner. Even dropping into Non-League at that age I feel I would have developed my game a bit earlier.
Best football tale?
I had Steve Bould as my youth team coach at Arsenal. His standards were very high so if you weren’t up to it he would let you know about it. We’re training one morning and we are working on clipping balls into each other. It’s fair to say as a group we are having a shocker and these passes are going all over the shop.
Steve is getting irate and eventually he completely loses it and starts hammering us about the quality of passing. “This is how it’s done,” he shouts and goes to clip one of the balls to one of the lads on the other side of the pitch. However, as he addresses the ball he slips and completely stacks it face first into the turf!
All the boys were in hysterics but no one wanted to laugh out loud out of fear and respect. No-one could look at each other because otherwise they’d start crying with laughter and you never knew what would happen then. Best thing about it was Steve’s got up acted like nothing happened and clipped the ball straight into the player’s feet without him having to move an inch. Class.
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday

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