Shrewsbury Town’s all-singing, all-dancing (both figuratively and literally) goalkeeper Jaden Bevan is living every young Town fan’s dream as he looks to make the switch from Block 19 and become the club’s first-choice ‘keeper.
A 19-year-old born and bred Salopian, Bevan joined his boyhood club as a 14-year-old and has progressed through the ranks to become Shrewsbury’s third-choice goalkeeper. Prior to his days in Town’s youth system, he played for Meole Brace, Shrewsbury Juniors, and Saha at grassroots level. At the same time, he was regularly coming to matches and has some very good memories from his time in the stands. “Me and my Grandad always used to go and we’d meet my uncle in Block 19 – I’m Block 19 born and bred! All my mates and family are big Town supporters, so they all stand over there, and yeah, they give the away travel a bit! But don’t ask me anymore about that because it probably couldn’t go in this piece,” he laughed. “The season we almost got promoted – it was when Hendo [Dean Henderson] and Ben Godfrey were here – those were some good memories.”
The process of becoming full-time with his boyhood club began with Bevan chasing his scholarship when he was in Year 11. “When you get to the Under-16s, you’re trying to get your scholarship. It was a big relief when I got mine to be fair because, at that time, I was doing GCSEs as well so to have that confirmed and off my shoulders was a big relief. I got two As in English [GCSE] and I got an A in Geography [GCSE] and then did fairly average in the rest which isn’t bad.”
While his time in the academy was obviously successful and he proved himself enough to earn a professional contract in May last year, Bevan revealed he had a tough period during his time there. “When I was a scholar, I went through a rough patch of not really enjoying my football. I was definitely putting too much pressure on myself. I got to the stage where I wasn’t playing football because I was enjoying it and I only play football because I enjoy it. I don’t see it as a job and I don’t pull up to training and think ‘oh here we go again’, I pull up to training excited to play football because that’s why I play football: I enjoy it.”
However, this came with an immense positive as the youngster received a supportive message from one of Shrewsbury Town’s living legends. “My mum texted Joe Hart and he replied to her because they know each other. He messaged me and we just talked about it all, he gave me some advice and sent me videos of him talking.
“He was really helpful. He gave me advice on what to do and how to handle stuff and it was just weird talking to someone of that level as if you’re mates; he was talking to me as if he actually cared when he didn’t have to talk to me at all, but he did. He’s where I want to be and doing what I want to be doing in life, so having a chat with him made that seem more reachable and it made him seem more human.
“I think at the time I was in a bit of a rut, and I was trying to please everyone. As soon as I walk off the pitch I know if I’ve had a good game or not and he said I should just please myself. He said that yeah, other people’s opinions are good to an extent but if you know, deep down, if you’ve had a bad game or a good game, that’s the important bit. That got me back to enjoying my football and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”
As a third-choice goalkeeper, Bevan hasn’t had much game-time this season but that hasn’t dampened his love of football. “It is a bit hard because obviously, you want to be playing games, but I also think you have to be realistic. I’m still 19 and I’m learning every day from Beast [Brian Jenson], Cam [Gregory] when he was here, H [Harry Burgoyne], and Marko [Marosi] and I’m just enjoying it to be fair. I’ve just got to keep working.”
The best chance he has to show off what he can do is in training, and it sounds like the youngster could be another versatile option and has been showing off his ability to play in central midfield should Steve Cotterill require it. “I reckon I could do a shift in centre-mid if gaffer needed me to,” he joked. “I’ve got the passing range and I can head a ball, but I think I’d be out of breath after about 40 minutes and I’d have to get subbed. Obviously, this is a bit of a joke, but I’d back myself if I had to play there. Thursday and Friday are very tactical days in training and those of us who aren’t playing have to act as the other team and we have to spray the ball around and play out from the back, so that’s how I’ve shown off my passing range and stuff. That’s where the joke comes from.”
To go along with his all-singing, all-dancing array of footballing abilities, Bevan revealed another, somewhat appropriate, talent of his during this interview. “I’d say I like a bit of a sing-song. I did a decent job of singing ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz when we did our initiation. I’d also say my dancing is okay, but it needs to be the right song,” he smiled.
While he’s getting ever closer, Bevan says that when that moment comes and he completes the switch from Block 19 to the pitch, it’ll mean he’s achieved his ultimate goal. “I don’t think I’d stop smiling to be fair, even through the game! It’d mean a lot if it was at home in front of my family and my friends but yeah, that’s my ultimate goal and if it doesn’t come now when I’m young, it’s something I’d like to do down the line in my career: play for my hometown club. I’m doing everything I can to earn a start, but I think when your time comes you have to take it like Blocko [Tom Bloxham] has so yeah, everything is leading up to that.”