Mark Flekken on filling David Raya’s boots at Brentford | Football

Mark Flekken makes one of his 12 saves against Manchester City (Picture: AFP via Getty)

Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken talks to Metro about having the ‘balls’ to play out from the back and how he’s followed in the footsteps of David Raya.

The Dutchman also tells us about and ‘that’ route-one goal against Manchester City and the impact of Ivan Toney’s return.

After some impressive recent displays, including making 12 saves against Manchester City, do you feel you have really adapted to the demands of English football since your summer move from Freiburg?

So, the moment I got here I was like, ‘I’m just going to continue doing what I was doing the last few years and it should be good’ but during pre-season I noticed I had to step up my game a lot to get along and get used to the Premier League, the new team and the playing style at this club.

I underestimated that change and wouldn’t have thought I would need that amount of time to get used to everything around me on and off the pitch, a big change with the family.

I was in Germany for so many years (14) that there were a lot of things you were used to. Changing countries is not that easy. I’m happy to say I feel I’ve found my place right now and hope to continue the performances I’ve put in over the last few matches for the rest of the season.

Goalkeeping has changed hugely in recent years. Was playing out from the back always in your blood?

The demands for a keeper are no longer staying on your line and kicking the ball out, there are so many more things to do. I grew up with it in the academy at Roda JC and as keepers there we had to participate in the technical training, doing stepovers and things like that.

David Raya is now first choice at Arsenal

David Raya is now first choice at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Have you always had the confidence to put your foot on the ball and look attackers in the eye?

It’s grown over the years, a mixture of having the balls to play out from the back, knowing what you can do without overestimating your own abilities. But it’s not only about that – I don’t need to just play the ball, it has to be efficient. The player I’m passing to has to have at least two options himself. You have to find the right solutions. It’s nice to play smooth but it’s all about finding the right balance.

But do you detect a nervousness among supporters when you are attempting to play out from the back in tight situations?

Yeah, of course, sometimes you hear from behind you: ‘Kick it out!’. They have to know we train stuff like that, the manager demands things like that from us – playing out from the back with a certain amount of risk – and for me it’s about balancing the risk and reward.

How much did you watch your predecessor David Raya’s style?

They (Brentford) showed me some footage of him because it contained the way they wanted to play but the difference between David and me is that in his passing he is a little bit more smooth than me. They were big shoes to fill the moment he left and the moment they wanted me to come in. It hasn’t been easy but that’s the challenge I signed up for and it’s up to me to get through that challenge.

How much of a relief has it been to have Brentford’s talisman Ivan Toney back from his betting ban?

I have to be honest – Neal Maupay is not doing too badly! We have two goalscoring strikers up front right now, with Neal having a real good run, but Ivan gives a dimension to our whole build-up play. He’s the kind of striker who can flick a ball into space if you kick it long. It mixes up your own game and you have a few more options. One long ball can be enough to score a goal.

Neal Maupay has been in fine form for the Bees

Neal Maupay has been in fine form for the Bees (Picture: Shutterstock)

Talking of which… did you hatch a plan for that route-one goal where you picked out Maupay to score against Manchester City?

No, that’s just something that came up in the game. I have to admit we talked before and watched some footage about Ivan positioning himself differently at the goal kick. It was the easiest way to score from that and Ivan did the biggest part of the job, he blocked, Neal ran into the right space and I just kicked the ball so it was not that special!

Will you stay up this season?

Yeah, definitely. We have the quality in the team to do that. We just have to put the hard work in and minimise the errors we’re making at the moment.


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