April 6th 2015 - published in Bees Review
It has been an interesting couple of seasons for Jose Ignacio Peleteiro Ramallo, more formally known as Jota to Brentford fans. Before moving to Brentford in the summer on a three-year contract, the Spaniard was a crucial part of the Eibar team who were promoted to La Liga.
On loan from Celta de Vigo, Jota scored 13 goals in all competitions for the Spanish side and the goal that sent Eibar into the top flight for the first time in their history. A season later, Jota finds himself in a similar position with Brentford who are still in a good position to reach the top flight for the first time in 68 years.
However, the similarities between the clubs do not end there.
“There are loads of similarities between last season and this season. Both teams had got promoted from the league below and at the beginning of the season no one thought they would be fighting for promotion,” says Jota.
“Last season Eibar finished winning the league and no one expected it and we are fighting for a play-off place and no one predicted that either.”
Although it is tempting to get carried away with the thought that maybe it could happen again to Jota with Brentford, there is still a lengthy battle ahead for the Bees with eight teams fighting for those precious three places. Despite the top clubs regularly dropping points throughout the season, Brentford have been in and out of the playoff zone and nothing is being taken for granted.
What Brentford fans can get excited about is the way Jota’s performances have been improving and the fact that the Spaniard is settling down very well into Championship football. It has been a gradual integration process and not one that clicked straight away. In November, Jota said that fans had only seen him at 60% of his best, however, after scoring important goals against Fulham, Norwich and Blackburn, it is likely he would reassess this percentage now.
“Yes, it is higher. I am happy with my first season at the club because I have been playing a lot and I am enjoying my football. It was hard to adapt at the beginning to everything and a new language but now I have scored a few goals and I am happy with my season so far.”
Considering Jota had the opportunity of playing alongside players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga, it is worth asking about his decision to move to Championship side Brentford.
“I moved here because I like English football a lot. One day I want to play in the Premier League and hopefully in the next few years I will be there. I very much see my future playing in England.”
“I support Manchester United in the Premier League. When I was little I used to watch United with the David Beckham team, which included Sebastian Veron, Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy. I liked these players a lot when I was young and they inspired me.”
With ten goals already this season and an ability to keep the ball seemingly stuck to his feet at all times, Jota is proving an inspirational figure in West London and becoming one of the most popular players amongst the fans.
Before the Benham era, Brentford had not always been known for its foreign acquisitions but promotion to the Championship is making the club more attractive to top talent from overseas.
This was shown when Mark Warburton signed three Spaniards over the last summer break with Jota joining Jon Toral (on loan from Arsenal) and Marcos Tebar (signed from Almeria). It is fair to say a rich Spanish vein now runs through the club and that since the summer the Spanish players have integrated well with the squad.
Perhaps Brentford’s pass and move game provides the best of both worlds for these players. At Brentford, foreign players can combine a desire to play attractive football with the chance of living overseas and experiencing a new culture and way of life.
With an extensive overseas scouting network, it is possible Brentford owner Matthew Benham (a keen follower of La Liga), will be seeking more inspiration from Spanish talent in the future.
“In the Championship, Brentford is the team which has the most Spanish style of play. We want to play the ball whereas other teams have a more traditional English style of play – long balls and fighting for it.”
Whereas the style of play may not be totally different, the attacking midfielder has noticed that the fans are different from the ones back in Spain.
“Spanish fans are not always that patient, especially when their team is not doing very well. But it is the opposite here.”
“Even if we lose or are not playing well, the fans here are always supportive and help you to get better and fight back into the game. There have been many examples when we have got late goals and the fans can take some credit.
“English fans respect the players more and we always feel their support.”
It has not been easy for Jota to leave Spain especially as his girlfriend, and her child, still live there. However, he has been greatly comforted by the friendship of his two Spanish amigos Tebar and Toral.
When asked if he spends a lot of time with the other Spanish players, he says, “We spend a lot of time together. We are like a little family.”
“We live in the same block and we will watch football with each other and cook dinners. It is nice to have them around although it doesn’t always help my English!”
Spanish-born midfielder Jon Toral, who has lived in England for four years and has an English mother, has been available to help with translation but Jota says his English is improving.
“It is getting better every day. I am having English lessons and I can now understand most of the football terminology used. Sometimes I will need Jon to translate between the players but hopefully by the end of this season I will be speaking good English.”
“I get on with all the guys at Brentford. It is obviously difficult to have an extended conversation but I get on well with everyone and it is a good squad.”
Jota has clearly bonded with his teammates but how does he find it playing in an English system under Mark Warbuton and his coaching team.
“I have been helped a lot by all the staff and Mark. The manager has done very well in the past by getting promotion to the Championship but the team are now focused on the next step. I think Mark and his team are doing a very good job.”
In close proximity to London Premier League sides Chelsea and QPR, Brentford’s leap to the Championship means the Bees are slowly buzzing out of the big shadows cast by their neighbours. Benham is building a club recognised for its football ability and grand ambitions for the future – especially with a new stadium on the way. But when Brentford first expressed an interest in the Spaniard, it is understandable that he didn’t know too much about the team.
“No I did not know about Brentford. Obviously in Spain people know more about the big Premier League teams so Brentford was not that well known. I didn’t know too much but when I came to talk about signing I found out a lot more information and got my homework done.”
It was a leap of faith for the player – a leap that was helped by that fact Jota was looking for an adventure and was reassured by the words of Warbuton and Benham on the type of football the team would be playing.
“I am happy I came here and things have worked out well. London is a very big city and there are loads of things to do. I am enjoying it a lot. It is a cultural city with lots of places to visit. So far I have been to the Natural History Museum, Big Ben, London Eye and London Bridge.
“Obviously the weather is colder but thankfully the sun is out today. It was not easy to come out in December and January to train every morning and I found that very hard… and cold. But it is easier to deal with now. I also played for Eibar and another similarity between the clubs is that the weather is not too sunny, so it’s not so different.”
One thing that will be different, next year at least, is the manager of Brentford. It is not a subject that Jota wants to dwell on and as a professional he is concentrating on his performances on the pitch and gaining promotion for another side against the odds.
“It is not for me to say if it is right or wrong what the owner is doing. I am not here to do that. I am here to train, play and try to promote the team. The players have to go with it as it is his club – and we respect every decision that he makes.”
Brentford have recently had blips against Cardiff and Millwall at Griffin Park, and the points lost at home could prove costly come the end of the season. Does Jota still think that promotion is a likely? Or a long shot?
“Yes, we can definitely still get promoted.”
“Obviously it would be better to go straight up in first or second but I think this will be difficult because there are some very good teams in this league. We are going to try until the end and hopefully we can get to the playoffs and then win them.”
The playoffs are firmly on Jota’s mind, as is the Premier League, the league that he dreamt about playing for as a child. It is still possible that Jota can achieve back-to-back promotions with teams who were not given a chance before the first fixture of the season.
It is an exciting time to be Jota, and a Brentford fan, although all should probably prepare for a bumpy ride.
At least we have the Spaniard on board to steady the ship, and hopefully provide us with one of those trademark long range finishes at just the right moment.