Not many footballers who ply their trade in the seventh tier of English football go on to become an integral part of a Championship side.
Even fewer become first-team regulars in sides vying for Premier League promotion and almost none do so in less than five years.
The exception to the rule? Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock – the imposing centre-back who has given Thomas Frank no other choice but to play him week in and week out with his solid, composed performances.
As a teenager Pinnock was a member of Millwall’s youth academy before being released at the age of 15 for being too small, leaving him to join Isthmian League side Dulwich Hamlet.
Unbeknown to Millwall, the short full-back would quickly grow to be a massive six-foot four, making the switch to central defender and breaking into the Dulwich Hamlet first-team despite his tender years.
Pinnock harbours no bitterness towards the Lions though and credits the excellent management at Dulwich for helping him develop into the player he is today.
“It’s difficult for people to know how players will develop,” Pinnock exclusively told London Football Scene. “You can’t always get it right at such a young age.
“The main thing though is to continue to have belief in yourself and to just keep playing whatever level it may be at.
“The management team (at Dulwich Hamlet) were really good with me and even though it was a non-league side, they do everything really professionally.
“They held everyone to a higher standard, and that has really helped me ever since.”
Pinnock went on to make 158 appearances for the South London side, growing from inexperienced young boy into the man ready to make his way back up the football ladder.
“I was really young when I went there, and playing first-team football, you have to grow up quickly,” Pinnock added.
“It’s completely different to youth football. You get knocked about, and finish games banged up. So, it helped me grow up quickly.”
After six years at Dulwich Hamlet and another at then National League Forest Green Rovers, Pinnock made his Football League breakthrough, securing a move to Championship side Barnsley in June 2017.
However, in his first season at Oakwell he struggled to break into the team with the Tykes eventually relegated to League One.
The following year was a different story as Pinnock helped Barnsley return to the Championship, winning the club’s Player of the Year award and also being named in the League One Team of the Year.
Those performances brought him to the attention of Brentford with the 26-year-old signing a three-year deal at Griffin Park for an undisclosed fee last summer.
After struggling to break into the side in the opening weeks of this campaign, early season injuries gave Pinnock his chance with the player seizing it with both hands.
Whether it is alongside Julian Jeanvier or club captain Pontus Jansson, the player has been undeterred, delivering constantly high performances throughout.
Indeed, it is Pinnock’s fantastic mentality that Brentford boss Thomas Frank credits for the player’s continued success at every level he has played at.
Speaking exclusively to London Football Scene, Thomas Frank said: “There’s definitely been other Ethan Pinnock’s out there but perhaps they didn’t have the same mentality.
“When he was out of the team earlier in the season you saw it – when you are out of the team that is when you see the biggest difference in players and his attitude was always spot on with every single training session, training 100%. That’s a big thing.”
It is clear Pinnock is enjoying life at Brentford, as the Bees continue to push for promotion, with the team encouraged to play out from the back as well as keep the goals out.
It’s a style that suits him with Pinnock known as the ‘Barnsley Maldini’ during his time at Oakwell due to his comfort with the ball at his feet. So can he now be called the ‘Brentford Maldini’?
“You guys have to decide that,” chuckled Pinnock. “But the brand of football that Brentford play is certainly very easy on the eye.
“It’s nice to be a part of controlling games, keeping the ball and moving it about.”
Either way, Pinnock is not your usual footballer, putting in the hard yards as well as coming from a footballing family – his cousin is former Sunderland and Watford defender Nyron Nosworthy.
“He did really well, had a great career and played at some top clubs,” Pinnock said of Nosworthy.
“There’s this picture of him against Fernando Torres, tackling him and I’ve spoken to him about his experiences.
“It does make you want to make that final step-up to be playing against world-class players week-in, week-out.”
From the seventh tier to promotion hopeful, Ethan Pinnock has kept on climbing and history suggests he’s not finished just yet….