On Saturday I watched Chippenham Town v Billericay Town in the National League South. Billericay are rumoured to have a very big budget and judging on the football league players they have in their squad, one might assume that is probably the case. Sat top of the league before the game on Saturday most betting people would have backed Billericay to beat Chippenham Town.
The final score however was 2-0 to Chippenham. Reports coming out over the weekend were that the Billericay manager was getting the sack! Now despite having a big budget and football league players, is it right to focus on the negatives of the Billericay performance or shouldn’t the focus more be on the part Chippenham Town played in the result?
Chippenham despite missing a few key players defended the slope on the pitch first half and were organised, disciplined and defended superbly, with on loan Swindon Town goalkeeper Will Henry not really being tested in terms of shots on his goal. In the second half Chippenham still defended well with Will Henry making a couple of good saves but they also went on the front foot and produced some good attacking play creating a number of chances forcing Billericay keeper Louis Wells into some good saves and scoring two brilliant goals to win the game. So rather than the focus being on Billericay, for not winning, credit should go to the positive performance of Chippenham Town.
Moving onto goalkeeping performance perhaps the same concept should apply.
With all the coverage there is now, you’ll not see or hear as much analysis as we do now. Gary Neville on Sky is very quick to highlight what he feels are negatives in goalkeepers’ performances but not so quick to talk about the positives. Former Swindon Town goalkeeper, Wes Foderingham recently tweeted how he fears for the future of young goalkeepers starting out as he felt that with all the negative press that goalkeepers are given this will put off youngsters in making the choice of going in goal or not and I’m inclined to agree with him!
Now there are more goalkeeping coaches coming out and analysing the goalkeepers also on social media and there are some good ones who talk sense and give a good perspective and good goalkeeping knowledge.
However, I actually fear it may swing too far the other way and there appears in my opinion to now be over analysis of the goalkeeper’s position, including from goalkeeping coaches. Goals are dissected, the goalkeepers should have done this, should have done that but I just feel at times more credit should be given to the shot or cross itself from the opposing player. The player may have taken his shot early, there could have been players un-sighting the goalkeeper, the ball moved/swerved or had lots of pace/power and many other factors that have affected it going in or creating a goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that goalkeepers can do no wrong, its never their fault and we shouldn’t point out what they can maybe do better. What I’m saying is we have to be careful we don’t over analyse. Goals can be scored simply through good play or a good shot, its impossible to stop everything. When analysing, we can all stop a clip and say they should have done this, should have done that but we have the benefit of hindsight and a number of views of an incident. The goalkeeper has a split second more often than not and many factors will come into play.
When it comes to young goalkeepers learning the game whether it be in grass roots football or academy football, I’ve had situations in the past where I have asked a coach or manager how young Billy has done in a game. I would say 90% of the time the feedback will start with negatives, things they haven’t done well, what they should have done etc, I’ve then had to ask, did they do anything well?!
Why can’t we first look at what they have done well, areas they are good at, focus on the positives first and foremost. Of course, to help them get better we have to address the areas they maybe struggling in but never should we forget what they do well, to encourage that and to enhance it further and a big part of that comes from their confidence and building that.
If we keep focussing on what they can’t do well, what message does that keep giving them?
How do we encourage more children to play in goal and find the stars of the future if they keep getting negative feedback? There is enough pressure on the position as it is without putting more fear into them. We should praise and get excited for and with them when they have made a great save, caught a difficult cross or made a good decision. I feel we should generally focus more on the positives first on what they can do well than on the negatives and what they can’t do so well. The psychological side to goalkeeping and a goalkeeper’s confidence is huge so we have to create a positive environment for goalkeeping development, especially in the younger age range but also at senior level.