THE BIG INTERVIEW: Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong

Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong joined Aldershot Town in August 2018 after impressing on trial in pre-season. Jacob was at Premier League side Crystal Palace from the age of eight before being released by the Eagles at the end of last season without making a first-team appearance.

The winger was involved in first-team pre-season tours of America and Canada back in 2016 and he has signed a new one-year deal with The Shots last summer. Jacob discusses his time at Crystal Palace, some famous teammates at the Eagles, his time at Aldershot Town and some interesting hobbies too.

From the beginning, where did football start for you?

“I remember playing football in my garden with my little brother and my Dad. One day, I went to a course at Crystal Palace at the age of about eight or nine. I played with kids a few years older than me, they were about 13 years old.

“The guy that was running it offered me a trial at Crystal Palace. Three weeks later, I was signed and I’d never played Sunday League. In fact, I’ve never been through the Sunday League route, I’ve always played in an academy.”

What was life like at Crystal Palace?

“I signed for the under 9s, to begin with, so I went through every stage up until the first team. I started off playing as a striker throughout the early parts of my career and then I moved to left-back throughout the middle part and then when I grew more I moved into the left-wing position.

“I started to play in the left-wing position more and I scored a hat-trick in a Youth Cup game and from there I’ve remained as an attacking player.

“It was a tale of ups and downs which is what football is. The early parts of your career are easier but as you get to the later parts, it starts to get a lot harder. You realise how serious the game is when you get to the professional stage and at the age of 15 and 16, you’re training with the u18s and higher.

“I was exposed to the first-team when I was like 14 so it was a shock to my system but it really toughens you up as a player. When I signed professionally, I was with them for a large period of time but sometimes things don’t go your way and I left at the end of my contract.”

Crystal Palace have produced some fine talent over the years such as Wilfried Zaha, Victor Moses, Johnny Williams, Sean Scannell etc. Did you know any of them from being in and around the first-team set-up?

“Yeah, I know Wilf. I’ve been out with him a few times since leaving Palace. He was one of the big players at the time and I just tried to get to know him and learn from his playing style. I’d see what I could add to my game when I watched him play.

“It is motivating to see Zaha now because of the move that didn’t work out for him at Manchester United, he kept on going and came back home to prove himself again. That’s the type of drive I aim to have. To never give up when the going gets tough.”

You joined Aldershot Town in 2018. What have you learnt since joining The Shots?

“It was my first taste of real men’s football. I got to learn the league really quickly with fouls not going your way when they would usually be given in higher leagues and at academy level. It’s learning to deal with those sort of things and just get on with the game.

“You have to take your setbacks. You’re going to get fouled especially with someone who likes to be tricky like me on the ball. Players in the National League don’t like that and they will try and stop you by any means necessary to try and get the win over your team.

“When refs don’t give it, you have to play on. You haven’t got enough time to moan, you’ve just got to play on. I’ve learnt how to mature in the men’s game and just get on with things rather than complaining.

“I would like to deal with things better and take the blame if it is my fault for something. There is no point beating around the bush and blaming other people, you just have to take it upon yourself and own up at times.

Halfway through this season, you went on loan to Dartford. How was your time there?

“I hadn’t played for a while before that due to injury so the manager phoned me into his office and said I’ve got a loan offer for you to get minutes because you haven’t played in a while.

“On days I wasn’t at Dartford, I trained with Aldershot Town so I was still around the set-up at Aldershot and played matches for Dartford. It really helped me a lot and I’d like to thank Dartford for everything they did for me.

“I feel like it got me loving the game again. I felt like I was playing in my best position in the midfield. I was given a lot of freedom to do what I wanted and express myself fully. Coming from a team in a higher league, there was a certain level of responsibility to stand out and perform every game.

“I felt like it was a good experience for me and I’m glad to be back amongst the first team here at Aldershot. I learnt a lot in my short time there and I appreciate it.”

What did you learn there that improved your game when you returned?

“I got more intensity and urgency because the league is a lot quicker so I felt like I brought that speed back into my game.

“I brought my fitness back into the game because I didn’t feel as fit as I could’ve been before I went on loan to Dartford. I played six or seven games in a row which I haven’t managed in a long time. I came back here and I was fully fit which helped massively with the intensity that I got.

“I loved being able to play a lot of games and having more responsibility and that helped me get back into the Aldershot Town first team.”

Outside of Aldershot Town, are there any hobbies or interests that fans wouldn’t know you get up to?

“I really like basketball. I feel like that would’ve been my sport if I hadn’t got into football. I love to watch basketball and analyse the sport which is a little weird for a professional footballer.

“I also like to analyse football of course as well. Outside of sport, I’ve got into reading a lot. I like to read anything really, it varied depending on what I’m feeling on that day.

“Last years captain, Karleigh Osborne got me into reading a lot and I’ve carried that on to this season. I also like to play board games and video games but reading is the main one at the moment.”