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Thursday, 04 June 2015 18:11

Wes Foderingham Blog

Obviously its common knowledge now that Wes Foderingham is leaving Swindon Town and moving on to pastures new after 4 years at the club.

In my initial role as Academy goalkeeping coach I would see Wes around the club, at the training ground and watch him occasionally work with Domenico Doardo one of the previous goalkeeping coaches. As the Youth were kept apart from the first team under Paolo’s reign it was hard to get to know Wes. When the management changed we had more interaction and I would at times assist Fraser Digby and at times cover for Fraser so gradually I got to know him more and see him work close up. What struck me from the offset was his explosive speed of movement in and around the goal and his calm, secure and consistent handling skills.

Wes can appear quite quiet as a person but as you get to know him he has a good sense of humour and some sharp and cutting banter!

It always makes me laugh when people other than goalkeepers or goalkeeping coaches talk about goalkeepers. It’s like every goalkeeper is expected to be a fantastic shot-stopper, catch every cross, be loud and organise well, kick the ball miles and have a great first touch and passing range. I rarely remember ever seeing an outfield player who can run box to box for 90 minutes, win every tackle, win every header, make great passes over short and long range, score loads of goals and be brilliant with both feet! The simple fact is you get different types of outfield players with different strengths and styles and different strengths, types and styles of goalkeepers.

I often see Wes labelled as just an excellent shot-stopper and not great on crosses and distribution and I think that is very harsh and does him a dis-service.

I’ve touched on this before, that under Paolo, distribution wise he basically just had to get the ball into the opposition half of the pitch into a good area of the pitch and generally the team played from there. This was easy for Wes and pretty much no risk. In terms of crosses you had two good full backs who stopped many crosses even coming in. You also had the likes of big Aden Flint and Alan McCormack who was brilliant in the air so generally the ball went to them like magnets and Wes didn’t actually have to deal with many crosses. This mostly left Wes to just make saves when shots came in, which he did very well!

The management changed and on a pre season training camp in Portugal, Fraser unfortunately couldn’t make it so I got asked to cover. It was at this time seeds were being planted on playing out from the back and Wes was very sceptical about it as it was a big change in styles of play.

One of the management asked my opinion on Wes doing it and I explained that I felt sure he could but the process would take a long time as it meant changing firstly his mindset and that of the players in front of him. Was it possible to do this on a wet and windy December night on a bobbly pitch up north? This would take a lot of confidence and a lot of practise. That season the style started to gradually change and he started to adapt and so the process began.

This season right from the offset when I stepped up to also work with the first team, it was made clear to me from the management how the team would play. Straight away I had to make sure we focussed a lot in training on his first touch and his range of passing over many distances and angles both from the floor, his hands (side volleying) and throwing. Over the course of the season we have spent lots of time on it and we also have done a lot on his right foot which has definitely improved and he is far more comfortable and confident using it.

The culmination of all this means that technically he is better and psychologically he is more confident using his distribution skills rather than just lumping it up the pitch all the time so he now has more strings to his bow and can play the role and style of football he is asked by whatever club he is at.

In terms of crosses, again because of the way the team play without full backs more crosses have come in the box. Therefore we have done quite a lot on this in training but most of our actual goalkeeping work has been done unopposed or slight physical challenges from the other goalkeepers. This means working on judging the flight, dealing with crosses from different angles, distances and start positions. What is hard for a goalkeeping coach to recreate is the realism of defenders being in there and their starting positions, attackers going for the ball and trying to score so Wes will have had to get that decision making and organising practise naturally when he went in with the team practises. Wes is 6ft 1 and a slim physique so people look at him and feel he’s not good on crosses because he’s not a big strapping 6ft 4. Some of those types of goalkeepers may come and deal with more crosses than Wes but they might not be as good in other areas of their game that Wes is. Having watched every other goalkeeper in the league I certainly feel Wes comes for his fair share. Port Vale away certainly sticks out in my mind as under pressure he came and successfully dealt with 9 crosses in the game which helped us go on and win the game and that is a large amount in one game trust me!

As I’ve already stated Wes is very quick in and around his goal and he has played the “Sweeper-Keeper” role well generally over the course of the season.

There are still aspects of his game that he can improve; he’s 24 so still young, still learning. However although his main standout strengths as a goalkeeper maybe his shot-stopping skills and his speed around his goal, I feel he has developed into a more all-round goalkeeper than some give him credit for. In his time at the club he has amassed 190+ games because he has performed consistently across that time, a key attribute for a goalkeeper. He is rarely injured so hardly ever misses games and certainly in my time working with him it was only right near the end of the season when he had a couple of niggly injuries we were trying to protect did he miss many training sessions.

Off the pitch and around the club he is polite, shows time for the fans and also plays his part with initiatives in the community and does a lot for the “kick it out campaign” in the fight against racism. He has also always supported the young academy goalkeepers at the club with events I have put on and the young goalkeepers certainly looked up to him as a good role model.

For the next stage of his development as a goalkeeper and a person he needs and deserves a fresh challenge at another club. He will have to come out of a relative comfort zone and prove himself to a whole new set of fans, team mates and coaching staff. In my opinion he can do well at Championship level and I’m sure he will be pushing for this. He has good experience for a goalkeeper of a relatively young age and still plenty of years ahead of him to develop further and kick on in his career.

During his time at the club we shouldnt forget the roles Domenico Doardo (2 seasons) and Fraser Digby (1 season) have played in Wes's development.

In 50 games this season Wes has distributed the ball 2,224 times (174 times with his hands and 2,050 times with his feet) at an average of just over 44 times per game which includes 1,044 back-passes. He has made 147 saves at an average of just under 3 per game, dealt with 116 crosses at an average of just over 2 per game and kept 14 clean sheets.

This might read as a long winded glowing tribute to Wes........that’s because it is!

It’s been a pleasure to watch him perform and a pleasure to work with him and I hope all Swindon fans will join me in wishing him all the best; I will certainly follow his career with interest.

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