Jevani Brown interview: Colchester striker on non-League roots and becoming a No 9

Sky Sports exclusive: Colchester United striker Jevani Brown discusses his non-League roots, his transition to becoming a No 9 and hopes of an international return with the Jamaican national team.

With the way in which Jevani Brown has been performing for Colchester this season, it's difficult to fathom that he'd rarely been used as an out-and-out striker prior to the current campaign.

The 26-year-old has scored 11 goals in 22 games across all competitions, including a remarkable two hat-tricks in a week against Stevenage and Southend in early November, as last season's beaten League Two play-off semi-finalists mount another promotion charge.

But if it weren't for an untimely injury when the season was in its infancy, Brown might never have been presented with an opening in which to prove his worth at the top of the pitch.

"I got the opportunity through Luke Norris, our other striker, getting injured," he explains to Sky Sports after being named Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month for November.

"I'm originally a No 10 but luckily I got the chance to play up front and I've taken it. I've never really been a forward, I've always been an attacking midfielder but we had no other strikers so I got stuck up front and now I'm more comfortable in a No 9 position."

It's already Brown's best return since he was handed a return to professional football three-and-a-half years.

Having been released prematurely by Peterborough, due to a non-football related issue, in 2013, he drifted around the non-League circuit to varying degrees of success, before finding his feet at St Neots Town, where his average of one goal per game during the 2016/17 campaign alerted Shaun Derry, boss of nearby Cambridge United.

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Over the course of his two subsequent years at the Abbey Stadium, Brown missed just eight league fixtures and it was during that time that his focus narrowed.

"I would say that time helped me become the player I am today because non-League is quite similar to League Two," he says.

"It's very physical, though - no disrespects - there's a little bit less quality. I think playing there for a few years actually got me mentally and physically ready if I was to get a chance back in the League. It helped me out quite a lot.

"I've always wanted to be a footballer, so going out into the world and working, you see a different side of it. I worked at Amazon, UPS, Marks & Spencer, at a water works - I've done so many different jobs that you wouldn't believe it. Now, I wake up every day and do something that I love, which I really appreciate."

The 26-year-old has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances for Colchester so far this season
Image: The 26-year-old has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances for Colchester so far this season

He made the short move to Colchester in July 2019 but under John McGreal, he made just four league starts and was sent out to Forest Green on loan in January, where he made five appearances before the season was suspended in March.

"It was a good loan because, at the end of the day, I just wanted to be playing matches on a Saturday. When I went to Forest Green on loan, they actually gave me game time. I didn't play that many games but to not have scored any goals at all last season was disappointing. I'm past it now, though."

Ironically, it's under McGreal's former assistant Steve Ball that he has flourished.

"I credit him with helping me improve this season a lot, to be fair. From day one back in pre-season, he assured me that he was going to give me game time.

"It wasn't his decision last year whether I played or not but he's put real faith in me and stuck with me the whole way, so I've got to say thank you to him."

More than nine years ago, Brown made his first foray into in international football when he was named in the Jamaica squad for the U17 World Cup in Mexico. Wendell Downswell's squad finished bottom of a group that contained Argentina and a France squad that boasted Benjamin Mendy, Kurt Zouma and Aymeric Laporte.

And though his form left a lot to be desired last season, a maiden senior cap appears to be within grasp.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet League Two match between Scunthorpe and Colchester

"I actually got a call-up when I was at Forest Green," he adds. "But because of Covid, everything got cancelled. Hopefully I do get the chance again to play for Jamaica in the senior team because that would be an honour."

While the possibility of an international call-up remains a driving factor, the outright aim is to return the club to League One after five long seasons away.

"Everyone is really eager to try and get promoted after what happened last year and, personally, with the service I've been getting from the boys, I'm pretty sure that if I get a chance, I can help out by putting it away," he adds.

"I wasn't massively a part of it [the play-off push] last season but I can see that the drive and the hunger of the boys this year has definitely gone up a notch. Hopefully we can just keep playing well, make the play-offs again and go that one step further."

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