Bernard Mensah - “If you work hard and you really want to achieve whatever you put your mind to then you can do it”
Young Watford striker Bernard Mensah is certainly a name to look out for in the near future with the 19 year old already making a name for himself in the lower divisions. A striker with a natural eye for goal, Mensah has already made his professional debut in his first season as a professional footballer and has also scored his first goals in men’s football whilst on loan at Braintree town. At the age of 17, Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur were rumored to be after his services however Mensah penned a three year contract with Watford FC. Whilst in the youth team at Watford, Mensah consistently scored goals for the Hertfordshire club in his two year stint in the Youth team and is highly rated by the club and its fans.
In a recent interview, it was evident that Mensah is desperate for more however his progress has been halted for the past two months due to a serious leg injury sustained at Braintree meaning that he will be out till late August. He said that he has “been with Watford since the age of 11” after he was scouted by Mark Stowe who was the head of Watford’s academy whilst playing for his local team. He “then played a trial game against Watford for the community trust and I scored two goals and got signed from there”. Then at the age of 16, Bernard was offered a two year scholarship with Watford where he was a consistent goal scorer for the Hornets youth team. He then signed a three year professional contract after impressing the Watford staff.
When asked how it felt when then Watford manager Gianfranco Zola asked him to come on he said “It was pretty normal. I don’t really get nervous as Im not a nervous person. I just felt that I had to come on and help the team as much as I could and maybe score or do something that would change the game as at the time we were loosing. But I didn’t feel any pressure or anything because I don’t really get nervous. It was more excitement and I felt that I had to help the team”. Moreover, he also said that making his debut against a former premiership outfit in Bolton Wanderers “was a proud moment in my career” because “I’ve been working towards making that debut since I was eleven and since I’ve started football really. So it was proud to get that under my belt and hopefully I can push on at Watford now”. His debut is listed as his career highlight because “you’ve worked so hard for it. You’ve worked since you’re a kid and it’s something you’ve dreamed about getting on the pitch and playing for Watford. It’s been what you’ve been working towards to get those goals”. Furthermore, he also lists his first goal at Braintree town as “another proud moment” of his stating that “I’m a striker so I’m meant to score goals but to score my first goal in men’s football was very nice and its something I’ve been working towards so hopefully that can continue”.
Mensah lists one of Watford’s star players in Troy Deeney as the player who has helped him the most. Mensah said that “Obviously he’s a striker and he’s more experienced then I am. He’s been helping me with my movement and what strikers should do in positions”. In addition, he also praised the work of Alan Devonshire who was the 19 year olds manager at Braintree Town. He said that “I’d like to thank the gaffer their Alan Devonshire. He’s been a big influence for me so far this season and he put trust in me to play and gave me a big responsibility and faith in me to go out and play my games and help Braintree do really well so that I could put them in the position they are now”. Mensah looks back fondly on his time at Braintree telling me that it “was the best month of my career as when I was there I was playing football, I was happy and I was scoring and creating goals”. He said that “it felt good to be relied on” and to have “someone to put trust in you to go out and play football”. He spent just over two months with Skrill premier side Braintree Town. The weather marred the first month of Mensahs spell with the club with heavy rain preventing Braintree from playing. However, as the weather improved, Mensah consistently started for the Skrill premier side and was amongst the goals and become a key player in the Braintree team.
When asked what are the advantages of being a professional footballer, Mensah stated that “I wouldn’t say theirs an advantage because as a professional footballer you still have to work hard theirs still something to aim for; theirs still another goal to achieve so you never stop working. You have to persevere as theirs another contract to get , theirs another target to get in terms of goals and appearances, or theirs a club to move to so theirs always something to do in football which is better then what you are doing now. You always have to set goals when you are in the academy. You still have to set targets so you can’t rest on your laurels really”. Obviously due to his current situation, Mensah felt that injuries were one of the disadvantages of being a footballer but he accepted that its part and parcel of the game. Another disadvantage of being a footballer according to Mensah is the limelight. He said that “People want to see more about you and want so see you do something wrong so that they can make a story out of it. People are watching you rather then when you’re in the academy not many people know about you so you can go under the radar. As a pro people are looking at you all the time”
Mensah had a tough decision to make when I asked him to list his top three goals that he has scored in his career to date. Firstly, he told me that “Their was one against Southend, a free kick, I think its on you tube and before the free kick I told Luke, roll it to the side and I’ll put it top corner because I was confident that I was going to score and he rolled it to me and I put it top corner probably from about thirty yards”. The goal can be found on the Watford fc you tube channel alongside some of the other excellent goals in last seasons under 18 goal of the season contenders. He then went on to say that “Another one was probably against Leyton Orient. I got the ball on the half way line and literally I ran through most of their team and score”. The last goal to round off his favourite three goals was “probably one against Peterborough. Before the game Dave our manager told me that the keepers liable to getting chipped and within like 18 seconds I chipped the keeper from the edge of the box. I’ve scored quite a few goals but those are the three that come to mind”.
Unlike other pro’s, Mensah is very level headed for a person of his age and is desperate to make the most of the opportunity that he has. It is common of footballers to take for granted their opportunity and misuse their role of a role model to others. For example, players like Ched Evans who is now in prison. The main inspiration for him has been his father. He told me that, “My dad grew up in Ghana and obviously their not as privileged as we are in England. His parents were more like you’ve got to be a doctor or a pilot or something with big earnings but he wanted to play football and he never got the chance to. So when I was younger he took me to football, I wasn’t really good but I just worked really hard and got better. So I would say my dad purely because he didn’t get the opportunity I had so I thought that I’m going to make the most of it”.
Mensah lists his time at The Harefield Academy whilst coming through the ranks at Watford highly. He said that “I would say coming through the ranks at Watford and The Harefield Academy has been one of the most enjoyable times of my career to date. Obviously your with your friends and team mates who you play football with everyday and you get a real bond so we came closer as a team and at Harefield theirs more training time and you get more technically gifted so you work harder then all the others are as you get more training then the other teams. Not just the people at Watford but the people at Harefield are generally nice people, the students and staff are all really nice people and they all wanted us to succeed and what I have achieved now is partly due to them as well as my team mates as well”. It certainly seems that The Harefield Academy has a great impact in shaping Watford’s ever growing list of academy players with the balance of teaching and training allowing the players to not only improve as a player, but as a person as well.
His main tip for up and coming footballers is ‘Hard work’. He said that “If you work hard and you really want to achieve whatever you put your mind to then you can do it. The only one that can stop you is yourself really. If you don’t have the motivation then you won’t do it. If you do have the motivation and you work really hard for it I’d say now that you will make it in whatever profession that you want to do.” In addition, he told me that “When I was younger I wasn’t the best player. I wasn’t good at all but I really worked hard to get where I am today some people would have said that if you looked at me when I was 9 I wouldn’t have made it as a footballer as I wasn’t great but I worked really hard to get where I am today so I would say put all the work in that you can and you will get the results”. His attitude and commitment is an example to all footballers and other people who want to achieve a job within the football industry. If you take a leaf out of Bernard’s books, in my opinion you are already half way their to achieving your dream job and with hard work and focus you could potentially be as successful as Bernard is today.
Mensah is clearly a talented footballer and his debut season was cruelly ended early due to a serious leg injury. However, he takes everything in his stride and his attitude is an example not only to footballers but anyone else out their who wants to achieve their dream. During his interview with me, he was always relaxed and friendly and he was prepared to open up and let me see an image of his world and what its like to be a footballer. He is undoubtedly one to look out for in the next few years and is already starting to build a reputation within the footballing industry. My thanks goes to Bernard for giving me the chance to interview him and lets hope that he makes a speedy recovery so that he makes a return to full fitness allowing him to challenge for a place in the Watford side.