Nearly The End Blog
I try to generally update my blog roughly once a month but its been a while since my last one so there are a few things to catch up on.
The title of this blog is not me predicting the end of the world don't panic, but merely that we are coming to the end of another long season. From my point of view in some ways it certainly has felt like a long season. At Cirencester Town in the Evo Stik Southern league Premier Division where I have been goalkeeping coach for the past two and a half seasons this season has certainly been the hardest I have experienced in all my time in football spanning back around 30 years! After a good first season back in the Prem last time round it was hoped to build on it this time round. Losing goalkeeper Matty Bulman in the summer though to Forest Green was good from a personal point of view but a massive blow from a team point of view. Obviously having had a season working with him I was pleased for him earning himself a two year deal back in the professional game. Bully deserved it after having a great season at Cirencester but from a team point of view it was a big loss. I tipped the gaffa off about Bristol based Danny Greaves and helped persuade him to make the move to Cirencester and he was in superb form in pre season and I felt he also could earn the right to go higher in the game again (he was at Bristol Rovers as a youngster). Unfortunately for Danny as a team our defending was woeful at times and although Danny would be the first to admit he could of done better on a couple of goals, generally I felt sorry for Danny as he was left exposed time and time again and couldn't prevent the goals and defeats that followed. During this time Danny was also struggling with an injury and trying to play through it so as to not let anyone down but that coupled with the goals conceded made it a tough time for him. Eventually, with his wife expecting twins he decided to take a break from football and left the club. I still maintain however that once Danny gets back playing regularly, someone will have a very good goalkeeper on their books!
At this time I stressed that it wasn't going to matter who we had in goal, Danny, Joe Hart or Casillas we needed to sort out what was going on in front of the goalkeeper or the goals would continue to fly in. Unfortunately I was proved right and over the course of the season we used 5 different goalkeepers, Danny, Mike Green and Kev Sawyer both excellent goalkeepers at this level and youngsters Charles Steward and Mike Hedges who were thrown in at the deep end a little. All credit to young Mike in the second half of the season, coming out of the Development team he really came of age and turned in some excellent performances which will stand him in good stead for the future, and a bright one I feel he has in the Non league game. After having worked all season with Bully the season before that was great as you built up your routines and a relationship and things worked well. This time round it was hard going because as soon as I felt like a routine and relationship was building that goalkeeper left and the next one came in. I enjoyed my time working with all of the goalkeepers and they all worked hard in training and performed well in games, I just wished they could of stayed longer! In February I decided to step down from my role, I won't go into the reasons why but I decided I had, had enough and sadly the team were eventually relegated.
Just recently at Swindon Town I have savoured some really good moments, not just because of the success the first team have had but because of the situations of two young goalkeepers. Firstly as already talked about on my website young Oli Whiteley who has been in my goalkeeping school this season earned a Centre of Excellence contract for next season. He's a real "Cheeky Chappy" character with alot of potential and sitting in the stands at the County Ground, watching him sign his contract on the pitch at half time during a first team game, with Paul Bodin (Youth Team Manager) it was fantastic to see his smiling face and his enthusiasm shine through. Thankfully I will continue to work with him at Swindon and hopefully help him to realise and develop his potential.
Secondly even better news was when second year scholar Leigh Bedwell was awarded his first professional contract with the club. Leigh started in the system at under 9's and I joined the club and started working with him at Under 14 level and have worked with him and seen him develop through to scholar and now pro. I cannot sing his praises highly enough as he has shown such a great work ethic, committment and desire hardly ever missing a session or game. He would be last off the training pitch and would often do extra and I still remember doing some sessions with him in the Summer months and off season such was his desire to learn and improve. During all this time his Dad has driven him all over the place and supported him. Also he has stayed in the background and let Leigh get on with it without ever being a "pushy parent" and as a coach he made life easy for me and was always a pleasure to deal and communicate with. On the day Leigh was to be told his fate at Swindon I was probably as nervous, apprehensive and excited at the same time as Leigh's proud Dad! I kept texting him asking if he had been told yet. When we spoke and he told me he had been taken on I don't mind admitting I was like a kid at christmas as I was so pleased that he had got what he had worked so hard for. Obviously Leigh now has to build on all that hard work and next season won't be easy for him as he has to adjust to the training in the senior environment. Also with no official reserve team finding game time will be crucial. Of course you can learn from being coached and training each day, that goes without saying, but you learn so much by playing games and for Leigh to continue to improve he will need this. I personally would like to see him have a good pre season with the squad and then go out on loan at Southern League level. There he will be in an environment where 3 points are at stake, playing on a range of different standard pitches against men who have grafted throughout the day in their day jobs and just want to win a game of football. He will experience balls being delivered into his box and have to compete for crosses with big target men or brutes of centre halves up for set pieces and this will toughen him up and help him develop. I certainly look forward to seeing how he progresses over the next twelve months as he tries to earn that second pro contract which is often harder than getting the first. If anyone will work hard to do that it will be Leigh!
Over the course of the season in my goalkeeping school the numbers of goalkeepers in both my age groups have fluctuated for the first time in 5 seasons. There are a number of reasons for this including some teams having their training nights on a Monday now preventing some goalkeepers coming to my Monday sessions. There are also numerous other activities out there in this day and age for children to do and of course in the current economic climate money is understandably tight for parents. Normally there is a higher turnover of goalkeepers in my younger group than my older group as at such a young age their attention span is shorter and some aren't really sure if they want to be a goalkeeper or a striker! However after a concern mid season i'm pleased to say my numbers are back up and I feel we have just the right balance in each group. Also having Dan Callaghan come onboard to join me and Chippy has been a great help. I coached Dan at the Centre of Excellence previously and now he is starting to get involved in coaching and I am more than happy to help him along the way as like Leigh Bedwell, Dan has a great attitude and work ethic and is a nice lad also. The kids have taken to Dan and we will continue to help him and encourage him on his coaching pathway.
I am very lucky that I work with both the goalkeepers at Swindon and my goalkeeping school as I enjoy seeing and helping goalkeepers at all levels of the game develop and improve and ultimately enjoy playing in goal. We are now into the last month before we close for the summer break which I do every year. This gives the children and their parents the chance to put their feet up and also me and Chippy!! Working hard is important but also knowing when to switch off and relax is as well and helps keep the body and mind fresh and enthusiastic. After 12 weeks off we will be opening up again and I am also still hopeful of running a two day course as I do each year in the Summer, though I am still searching for an appropriate venue. I am also looking into the possibility of opening up a session in the North Wiltshire area next season on another night and am currently looking at venues and logistics so watch this space.
After being let down on delivery times and some other customer service issues by my last supplier for my own branded goalkeeping glove, I have been in talks with a new supplier. We have between us designed a new glove, a sample has been made and I am currently testing this glove out personally. I have to say I am very excited about it and feel this could be the best one yet, so again watch this space for further news......
Well thats all for now folks, its been good to catch up!