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Non-League Day

Pinnock: Every match in non-league meant something

Daniel Sandford 22 Mar 2023

Brentford defender recalls his time in the lower leagues with Dulwich Hamlet and Forest Green Rovers

This weekend marks Non-League Day, which celebrates football beneath the top five tiers of the English pyramid and encourages fans across the country to support their local team.

See: Premier League to mark Non-League Day

Ethan Pinnock (Brentford)

The Brentford defender was plying his trade for Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian League Premier Division just seven years ago.

Now 29, Pinnock recognises the importance of his time in non-league football in helping him develop not only physically but mentally on his journey to the Premier League.

“I was quite tall, but I wasn’t a physical kind of player, I hadn't fully grown into my body. Playing at that level was an eye opener,” Pinnock told Brentford's official website.

“The transition was quite a big one. In non-league, it's a lot more physical contact. You have a lot less time on the ball and you need to protect yourself. Players aren’t getting paid loads, they’re playing for their families.

“It meant a lot to the players I was playing with and against, so everyone had that tenacity and that physical edge - every game meant something. I had to match that physicality."

Climbing the pyramid

Pinnock spent six seasons at Dulwich Hamlet. Then in 2016, after studying physical education at Greenwich University where he graduated with a 2:1 degree, he made the step up to the National League with Forest Green Rovers.

In his only campaign with the club, he helped them gain promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history.

Fast forward four years and Pinnock was enjoying another promotion, this time to the Premier League with Brentford in May 2021.

Pinnock would score his first ever top-flight goal in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool and says that moment made him realise just how far he had come.

“Starting where I started, if you told me when I was at Dulwich at 19 or 20 years old that I'd be scoring against Liverpool in the Premier League, I wouldn't have believed you - it was a quite surreal feeling," he said.

“All my family were there at the game as well, so it was pretty special.”

See: More Non-League Day stories

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