It wasn’t until the age of 18 that Bayan Fenwick finally got his chance as a professional footballer. Having impressed for his local side Lewes, scoring 18 times in 11 games for their under-18 side, the forward earned a trial with Premier League side Crystal Palace. A goal for their youth team against Norwich City and Fenwick was offered his first ever professional contract.
“It was a big step up but it was made easy by the managers and staff at Palace,” says Fenwick. “Dougie Freedman was one of the best managers to have. The things he taught me I still use to this day.”
The forward was involved early on with the Eagles’ first team. A few months after signing, he made his debut for Freedman’s side in a pre-season friendly ahead of the 2012/13 season, coming on as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Aldershot Town in a match where Wilfried Zaha was on the scoresheet.
He would go on to make his competitive debut in senior football later that season, albeit out on loan at hometown club Eastbourne Borough. Despite the initial involvement in the first team, Fenwick would be released after a season at Selhurst Park. Since then, he has played in National League South for Bishops’ Stortford and Whitehawk and has also appeared for Torquay United in the National League.
Earlier this year, five years since his spell with Palace, the 24-year-old made his first foray into life as a Englishman abroad, agreeing a deal to join Danish third tier club FC Sydvest. The club are based in the very south of the country close to the border with Germany in a town called Tønder. In 2016, the town had a population just over 7,500.
“The move came about through my agent in Denmark, who had previously lived in England before moving out there. He sorted me getting out there and playing.”
It was a chance for the forward to return to the professional game, although training at his new side would be unlike what he had experienced at home.
“It was a full-time deal but I used up some of the time with gym and training alone. We didn’t train every single day so I had to find ways to stay ahead of the game.
“Training was very different, a lot slower and less packed with football training. We would get everything done and that would be it.”
The Danish third-tier employs a unique system in which the 24 teams are split into three groups of each. The top four in each group then play for promotion in a new group with the bottom four in each playing to avoid relegation. Fenwick arrived at the end of the first phase of the season and then played for the side as they looked to earn promotion to the second tier. This meant the forward didn’t have long to settle in as the big games came straight away.
“I loved it [in Denmark]. The whole country I really enjoyed but it was so different, players are a lot different and the tempo of the game is a lot slower and more tactical, like chess.
“I was very aggressive and ran a lot, which they weren’t used to. It’s took some time to bed into how they play but whilst also trying to keep my style of play.”
The 24-year-old would go on to make 12 appearances in his first season, scoring twice as his new side missed out on promotion. His deal with Sydvest initially ran until the end of the season but he remained with the side going into this season, however for now, he is back in the UK.
“I’m heading back there in January to continue the journey. It’s taken a while to get used to the differences in football and culture but I’ve got the hang of it now.
“Come January, I’m going to hopefully kick on and get to where I want to be. I needed the time to get used to it so now I have no excuses with my background to make it to the top.
“Everything I’m doing now is giving me the best step to get back to where I want to be, back at that level [referencing his time at Palace].”
Having worked hard to get his big break when he was 18-years-old, Fenwick is hoping that a return abroad can be a catalyst to take him back to the top.