FC Halifax Town: “I’m not there yet” says defender Benn after first start for Shaymen

Town youngster Jay Benn insists he still has a long way to go yet after making his first start for The Shaymen.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 8:57 am
FC Halifax Town v Maidenhead, The Shay, Saturday, August 21. Photo: Marcus Branston. Jay Benn

The defender, from Brighouse, had a weekend to remember, starting a competitive match for Halifax for the first time on Saturday in Town’s 2-1 defeat to Maidenhead, and then celebrating his 20th birthday on Sunday.

Benn was told the day before the game he would be starting, and was named as the man-of-the-match after a committed display.

“It was great,” he said, “I think the big thing going into it was to get through the first 15 minutes, soak it up, take it in, and thankfully I got through 90 minutes, which was fantastic.

“I was nervous, obviously with fans coming back in and expecting, and I think when they saw my name on the team sheet, they might have thought ‘how’s this going to go’.

“The first thing I was thinking of was ‘I just want to give them a performance, make sure I work hard and leave everything out there for them’.

“If you work hard, no-one can really fault you. Mistakes will happen in football but as long as you’re putting in a shift.

“I do it for them on a Saturday, they come and pay to watch, so I just make sure I’m putting in 100 per cent for them.”

Benn was 16 when he joined the club, and has progressed through Town’s youth set-up.

“Everyone has a different journey, there’s been ups and downs like everyone else, but the staff I’ve worked with have been fantastic,” he said.

“That’s why I’m here, and I’ve been lucky the gaffer came in when he did, that’s a massive part of why I’m here.

“Words can’t really describe how great him and Milly have been, they’ve been fantastic, and they’ll continue to be fantastic.

“The gaffer’s come from a youth football background with Oldham so he understands kids and young lads coming up, it’s fantastic for me.

“No better gaffer or staff could have come in, I couldn’t have asked for much more.”

Benn made just two substitute appearances last season, but says it was still a big learning curve for him.

“100 per cent,” he said. “Once the lower leagues got curtailed and loans weren’t really on the cards for me, I just thought I needed to get out of it as much as I could, squeeze everything out of it and make sure I’m learning.

“Even being on the bench and not coming on, I was learning.

“The gaffer and Milly kept saying ‘take everything in’.

“I didn’t get many minutes but it definitely wasn’t a year wasted.”

Having been given the number two shirt vacated by Jeff King, Benn could play much more of a regular role for Town this season.

“It was unexpected if I’m truly honest to get the number two shirt,” he said.

“I knew I had to come in for pre-season and make sure I was fit and bang at it to give myself a chance, and when the gaffer had the conversation with me I couldn’t stop smiling, it’s a massive achievement.

“But once you get told that, it’s not the be all and end all, I’m not going to be starting for the whole season and that’s it, I’ve still got to work hard.

“The lads have been saying that to me, the senior lads are saying ‘look, you’ve got the number two shirt but it doesn’t mean anything, you’ve still got to earn your shirt, it’s yours now but you’ve got to keep hold of it’.”

Does Benn feel he is ready for a first-team place?

“Yeah, I think I’ve got to put faith in myself,” he said.

“I’ve definitely got so much to learn, I’m not the finished product by any means, I’ve got a lot to learn.

“But if I can continue to keep learning hopefully I’ll be one of the first names on the team-sheet.”

When asked where he feels he can improve, Benn said: “Definitely defensively, you saw on Saturday the long balls and the big lads, I’ve definitely got to deal with that better.

“I made mistakes in the game and we’ll look back on them and hopefully fix them.

“But defensively, I think I’ve got to do more.”

The defender is confident The Shaymen can compete at the right end of the table again this season.

“You’ve seen in spells on Saturday the quality we’ve got going forward, we can outscore any team,” he said.

“Once we sort out the defensive side any get things tighter, there are lads coming in, a new set of lads, so things like that take time, but we can definitely make the play-offs, it not higher.”

And on a personal note, Benn is not getting carried away by his first-team exposure.

“I’m just taking it game-by-game, I know it’s a cliche,” he said.

“I’ve got to take every game as it comes and soak everything up.

“If I start looking too far ahead I can get complacent. I’m not there yet.”