Following the arrival of Tommy Elphick as the first signing of the summer, the second has quickly followed with the announcement of Reece Brown.
The 23-year-old midfielder starred for Forest Green Rovers before leaving the Gloucestershire side at the end of the season following the conclusion of his contract.
Numerous Championship sides were reportedly interested in signing one of the promising talents outside of the Championship but it was Town who have added the technically accomplished midfielder to their ranks.
Who is Reece Brown?
The Early Years
Joining Birmingham City at the age of ten, Reece Brown’s early forays into professional football were a rocky road. Whilst there was plenty of promise and potential, there were question marks about his off-the-ball attitude and doubts about his mental fortitude.
With these question marks surrounding Brown, he received a professional contract later than some of his fellow academy graduates.
Having impressed at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, including a notable performance in a development fixture against Solihull Moors, Brown was included in Birmingham City’s first team squad by Lee Clark.
That season, Brown did earn some first team minutes which included an impressive performance against Swansea City in the FA Cup. However, his opportunities remained severely limited.
At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Brown joined Notts County on a one month youth loan deal. Immediately, he forced his way into the side. It was during this spell where he first played in the number 10 position and began to revel in the role before it was cruelly cut short by injury.
Returning to Birmingham City, Brown found himself in and around the Birmingham City first team squad. However, the question marks about Brown’s lack of physicality and off-the-ball ability re-surfaced.
Newly-appointed Gary Rowett also raised questions about Brown’s work ethic and professionalism, with punctuality proving a continual issue. This led to Brown being very much on the peripheries at Birmingham City during Rowett’s tenure at the helm.
Another lower league loan spell was granted, this time by Gianfranco Zola who thought it would “be good for his maturity to go and play in a real difficult situation where he is going to be pushed to improve. Not only as a footballer but his character and temperament as well”.
However, similar issues relating to Brown’s attitude and mentality arose during his spell at Chesterfield which saw him make only two solitary appearances before being sent back to Birmingham City by Gary Caldwell.
Forest Green Rovers
Following his unsuccessful loan spell at Chesterfield, Brown was released by Birmingham City and subsequently picked up by Mark Cooper’s Forest Green Rovers on a one-year rolling contract.
Deployed in the number 10 role, Brown only managed to score twice and provide three assists in thirty-three League 2 appearances but he did show enough in his first season at The New Lawn to earn himself a further contract and extend his stay at the Gloucestershire club.
However, it was last season which saw Reece Brown come into his own.
Playing in a deeper midfield role, Brown was afforded more time which allowed his technical ability to come to the fore and with that, he flourished.
Fifteen assists and eleven goals helped Forest Green Rovers reach the League 2 playoffs, where they fell at the first hurdle against Tranmere Rovers.
Despite that, both Forest Green Rovers and Reece Brown earned plenty of plaudits, with the latter deservedly earning his place in the PFA League 2 Team of the Year.
Amid interest from various Championship sides, Brown turned down Forest Green Rover’s contract offer, allowing him to leave for a minimal compensation fee.
With the news of the imminent arrival of Reece Brown, we spoke to respected Forest Green Rovers fan Laurie Martin. He offered us a valuable insight into what we can expect to see next season from the 23-year-old midfielder:
“In the 17/18 season, we only saw glimpses of Reece’s quality. Three goals and three assists in that season was an underwhelming return for someone who played most of the season as a number 10 and I think some of our fans were sceptical when he got given a new contract last summer.
The talent was obviously there but consistency and fading in and out of games seemed an issue. Last season he matured greatly and reinvented himself as a deep-lying midfielder.
Not only did we see Reece’s technical ability on a more consistent basis, but also his willingness to get involved in physical battles. His second goal away at Port Vale in March perfectly epitomises this; heading the ball away from a Vale corner before running 50 yards with the ball in the 90th minute to score.
Although playing slightly deeper last season, 11 goals and 15 assists show just how talented he is with the ball at his feet. His weight of pass and vision are at Championship level. He likes quick, nippy players in front of him so he can look to play a pass in behind.
He’s gone from being an enigmatic attacking midfielder to our talisman the space of a few months. Reece is good enough for Championship football and has probably always has been but it sounds like attitude problems let him down in his days at Birmingham.
When he does play I’d expect him to play as a number ten, although if he was to feature slightly deeper he’d probably need someone tenacious alongside him like a Jonathan Hogg as he doesn’t have the bite to anchor a midfield.
I feel as though Reece was probably at his best for us when he had a forward with good movement and pace ahead of him and therefore from what I’ve seen Karlan Grant should be his dream match”.
Will Reece Brown be a success at Town?
In an area that is set to undergo monumental change over the coming weeks and months, with Philip Billing destined to leave as well as Aaron Mooy and Alex Pritchard attracting attention from elsewhere, Town could enter the Championship season with a new look midfield.
The signing of Reece Brown appears a shrewd purchase for his flexibility alone. He has shown during his two-season stint at Forest Green Rovers that he is capable of playing in that number 10 which could be vacated by the potential departure of Alex Pritchard.
However, having come of age playing in a deeper, more fluid central midfield role for Forest Green Rovers, it may be something that Jan Siewert looks to replicate.
Siewert has made it clear on countless occasions that his system of choice is a 4-3-3 of some description and Reece Brown does fit into that system as the more advanced, progressive thinking midfielder of the three.
With a good eye for a pass and technical ability that is well on par with the Championship standard, Siewert will have the delicate task of finding the right balance in that midfield three to have the tenacity and necessary bite to complement Brown’s unique skill set.
The signing of Brown is indicative of a more broader issue that Town needs to look to address this summer – if they are to have a successful season.
For any side falling through the trapdoor of the Premier League, acclimatising back to life in the Championship can be extremely challenging.
Often, there is a needed change of impetus which sees a side go from one which grows used to sitting back and soaking up pressure to a side that is expected to go out and outscore the opposition.
This is particularly true for Town who have suffered so clearly from a lack of goals, a problem which extends further to a lack of overall innovation in the final third.
Whilst the burden to provide goal-scoring opportunities often falls on those in wide positions, Town’s midfield has often found themselves too safe and conservative in possession and the side as a whole has suffered because of it.
Clearly, therefore, there is a need to add an injection of goals, invention and chance creation in midfield.
With an impressive return of eleven goals and fifteen assists from a deeper midfield role, the signing of Reece Brown could go some way to addressing that.
Admittedly, this return came in League 2 and the step up to the Championship is a significant one.
Having said that, with some experience of the Championship already with Birmingham City, he does not fall into the same bracket as some lower league starlets who find themselves unable to break through the glass ceiling and perform at Championship level.
In fact, it seems that Brown’s two season stint in League two has been an invaluable one in which he has matured greatly, both physically and mentally, to the extent that he is now ready to make the step back up to the familiarity of Championship football.
Where there is great curiosity is how Brown will fit into Siewert’s plans and the potentially potent partnership between Brown and Karlan Grant. On paper, the supremely talented starlets should complement each other nicely.
Grant has already shown what he is capable of achieving when supplied with service at the Premier League level. There will be a level of expectation that he replicates that form and beyond, in the Championship.
If Brown can be the one to supply him with service, there is a good chance that we could see the link up play between Brown and Grant become a regular assist to goal combination throughout next season.
A successful partnership like that could act as the fertile environment needed for Brown to transfer his form from last season, which saw him come of age and become a consistent goal-scoring threat and a constant source of creativity, to the Championship level.
In the case of Reece Brown, he is not only a shrewd acquisition and a needed one but he is also undoubtedly one of the most exciting talents in the Football League and one who has shown that given ample opportunity and fluid movement ahead of him, he can thrive.