The Roger Freestone Column : Keepers just don’t seem to be the same as they were
Thursday, 22nd Oct 2020 14:03
Roger Freestone talks directly to Swansea Independent and recalls the distinct differences in goalkeeping from his days that ended 15 years ago to now.
I realise that goalkeeping, just like outfield play is constantly changing, much the same as it always has done. However, for me, the basic principles of goalkeeping seem to be far more in the distance when I watch top flight games these days. Some would say goalkeeping ended when Peter Schmeichel hung up his boots. Now there was a man who could do the basics at the highest of levels, and do it with a word I think is missing far more these days - bravery. For many of us he was the first man we saw jump with legs and arms outstretched to make some world class saves for Manchester United. He was disciplined, strong, commanding and used his voice to great advantage when patrolling his area. Now, okay, I understand not everyone is a Peter Schmeichel, but then these principles don’t even seem evident today. He is on record as saying he regretted leaving Man Utd too early, most strikers would say he was there far too long. He was a giant. With one on one in-depth coaching for keepers it surprises me greatly. So much time is spent on development, and at Swansea we have the best coach in this area, but that aside across the board I find it frustrating.
I’ve seen keepers not even get dirty as the worst of games weather wise have progressed, I rarely hear them take charge of their defence, after all they can see the whole game in front of them. I don’t hear calls or commands, and I see even less evidence of defenders actually taking note. That tells me they are not hearing or not getting the information they need from someone behind them who is actually watching the game whilst they involve themselves in it. This is crucial because you do get caught out as a defender, ball watching they call it, I think it’s more down to ill discipline mentally. I have to smile when I hear my pal Wyndham Evans reference me in his commentary, passionate boy is Wyndham and I tell you something now, I didn’t play with him but by hell you knew when you had been tackled by him. I doubt he would get a game these days, like Tommy Smith, remember him ? Fearless players with a wall of noise behind them that constantly encouraged them or advised them of situations they couldn’t see themselves. That noise was the goalkeeper. The area commander, the boss who stood firm bravely when others were swinging their boots.
Defenders need to feel confident in their keeper, and that confidence is grown when they hear and see a commanding force in the goal. And it spooked the opposing attackers too. Unless your name was Duncan Ferguson, you needed different tactics against him. We used to train with fifty fifty crosses coming in, and I knew that contact would be made, Frank Burrows wanted to make training as life like as possible. You knew you would get a knock as you claimed the ball from a cross, it made you more aware of what was and could happen, and prepare for it. Positioning, body angles, strength training, the ability to enhance your voice on the pitch, and tell people what is going on. It breeds confidence. I used to research the players I would be up against, or you knew from playing against them their weak spots. That could be their own bravery and you would play on it. Constantly. If the going got tough a player like Kwami Ampadu would always be there to help out. Or indeed Steve Jones, Mark Harris, Sky Walker, proper tough men, that helped a lot. You can’t throw a defence together and hope it works, it has to start with the keeper then the spine of the team, we all know that.
And you all need to be confident in your team mates to be there when the stakes are high.
Maybe I am an old sweat but without the complete skill set, belief, strength, confidence, agility and a commanding respect nobody will ever be the next Peter Schmeichel, and that’s why we have never seen anything like him since. It’s too hard, it hurts too much, it takes a degree of clever stupidity with your bravery, and I just don’t see it these days. Clubs concede the most ridiculous of goals, many of which with proper goalkeeper management wouldn’t even happen let alone occur in the first place. We have always been blessed in most cases with tremendous Swansea goalkeepers, and don’t forget big Nev, a real craftsman, I know he feels the same as me.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a knock or two,but here’s a big difference between that and being afraid to take one.
Roger Freestone was talking to Keith Haynes.
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