In an interview with Chris Mepham this week, he spoke about his Wales & Brentford career so far, the prospect of facing Spain, the players he looks up to most and the help he’s received with his sleeping schedule.
How Wales is helping him and other youngsters
“You are wrapped around world-class players and get that experience of being in and around the senior team, which is only good for my development.
“Also when you take it back to your club, having that confidence and spring in your step every week is helpful.”
“The style we play with Wales helps with club football because some of the training sessions we do here are similar to what we do back at Brentford.
“Both managers have a similar style in terms of playing attractive football, playing through the thirds and building up from the back. That helps me and feels quite natural to me.”
Mepham recognises the importance of being surrounded with experience, especially as a central defender. He admits it’s very good to have those older heads mixed with the younger ones for competition.
“Ash [Williams] and James [Chester] help me a lot. When you come away you have to make the most of the people around and speak to them and see how they organise people on the pitch.
“That is one thing that has impressed me with Ash. You see his leadership qualities and Chezzy is the same; you can always learn from people like that and it is only going to help.”
“I like to think it is good competition with the younger players because the manager gives youth a chance to make their own place.
“But also for the senior professionals to have someone underneath competing will only help them and keep them motivated. It is positive for both.”
“It has taken me by surprise, it has been happening so quickly. It is hard to reflect on how fast it has gone because it seems training and games are coming thick and fast without having to think about the last 12 months.
“I am loving it. I am really enjoying it.”
“The physicality of the Championship, that is one area I have struggled with.
“Playing against big strikers every week and ones who use their body really well. I need to get better at that.
“When we play Spain on Thursday it is not going to be as direct, but it is obviously good to experience both sides of it for my development.”
Facing Spain and the Principality Stadium
Mepham pauses to think about the prospect of coming up against Chelsea striker, Alvaro Morata and co.
“It is everyone’s goal to be marking top players every week.
“In the Championship I don’t have the luxury of marking world-class players, so if it does happen [marking Morata] it would be amazing.”
“There’s that bit of pressure I will face, which you wouldn’t necessarily face for Brentford.
“Especially because I’ve not been involved that long, so I have to come in and express myself quickly. I have to show to the manager why I should be in the team.
“Also, we are playing to win every game we play and hopefully do well in the Nations League.”
Mepham admits he’s never been to the Principality Stadium and his training session there on Wednesday morning would have been the first time. He would have been 4-years-old when Wales beat Italy 2-1 in 2002.
“I think Mexico would have been the biggest stadium I’ve played in, but this will be up there if I do play.
“Again it will be another good experience to play in front of that crowd.
“I am not too sure I have ever been the Millennium [Principality] Stadium. It will be a good opportunity to go and play there.”
Heroes when growing up
“When I was younger it was probably John Terry.
“When I was at Chelsea, Terry was playing at the time and we sometimes went to Stamford Bridge to watch a game. He was always someone I was keeping an eye on.
“Even in the late stages of his career I watched a lot of him and saw how much of a leader he is around the team. He is a good person to watch.”
“Now, John Stones is a player I watch a lot. Most days I look at Stones’ performance clips.
“I would like to aspire to be like him. He has a similar build to me and I would like to think I base myself on being confident on the ball and composed.”
“Our analyst at Brentford has access to Wyscout, which is where all the club matches get uploaded, and then players can get access to it.
“You go on there and you can pull different categories like aerial duels, passing, clearances, heading. I try to watch as many different ones as I can.
“I think with someone like John Stones, a lot of his work is done during build-up play with passing. It is good to watch his movement when he receives the ball. That is what I base parts of my game on.”
Help from a sleeping coach
“I have been very much involved [with the coaching]. I must admit I have had problems sleeping.
“Not really badly, but it is an area as a professional footballer you have to have good sleep every night – especially when you have a game on a Saturday. You need your 8-9 hours sleep.”
“For a couple weeks I wasn’t getting that proper amount of sleep and it was important for me to speak to someone.
“Luckily, we had someone at the club who was brought in called Anna. She has worked closely with me over the last couple of months.
“She has given me a few tips – reading books and to rest my mind at night. I have tried to take that on board. I couldn’t tell you the name of the book but it is working.”
“I don’t play video games. I do have a phone, but it is hard to stay off your phone!”
“I am feeling the benefits definitely.”
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