Monday 22nd October 2018
Back in June it was announced that FCV Academy graduate Brandon Taverner had signed a professional contract with Oxford United. After two years with FCV, the striker was one of a number of recruits who would make up Oxford’s newly formed Under-23 squad and would continue his development under the watchful eye of U23 Coach Chris Allen and his staff.
Taverner impressed in a trial at the end of last season and has now settled into life at their new training base at Oxford Sports Park, scoring the first ever goal for the U23s in their opening pre-season friendly against AFC Telford United.
Alongside competitive fixtures with FCV, he would participate in friendly games against EFL and Premier League teams age-grade sides, but this is now a regular occurrence at Oxford and something he is relishing.
“I’m learning new techniques and more about the game and my position,” Taverner explained. “This is really helping me improve as a player and as a person as well because I’m around men now and they all have different ways of handling things.
“It’s taken me a bit of time to get used to the demands of the higher standard. I’m playing against people who have been in the game for a lot longer than I have but I feel like I’m able to compete with them every day. It’s a challenge, but I can only get better from the experience of it.”
Adjusting to a new environment, a new level and a different set of team-mates is all part of life for any footballer, and something he last went through just over two seasons ago when he first joined FCV Academy – and it’s his time at Borderville that he credits with helping him to feel comfortable at Oxford.
“They were probably two of the best years I’ve had,” he reflected. “Being away from home for that time helped because I haven’t taken long to settle down here. It was an enjoyable place to be around.
“The coaches at FCV Academy and the players that were there at the time were great. I felt like we had a good group; it was always fun to be around and training was always fun. Matches were fun as well.
“Grant Brown and Ian Sampson spent time with me and told me what defenders didn’t like; defenders like to be tight, they don’t want players running at them or to be running back towards their goal. They saw I had strengths that they didn’t like being up against and that insight from them helped me.
“The biggest difference as a striker here is probably getting my chances. In the past, I could easily go round a player and be one on one with the keeper, but now I have to be clever with my movement to get those chances. When I get the ball I have to make a yard to get room for a shot. We quite often play one up top so I’ve got to play with my back to goal more than I have done before.
“It’s not naturally my game so I’ve trying to learn that side of my game as well and improve that. There was a point when I was wondering whether this [opportunity] was going to happen; whether I could get to this level. Now it’s about taking every chance that comes my way to continue to improve.”
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