One of the most common questions that gets asked around goalkeeping websites is how to get noticed by scouts and how to make it in football. Today Keeper Portal is going to start attempting to provide you with some unique insights from coaches and scouts with real experience in this area of the game!
Today we will be talking with Bob Warby, who is possibly one of the most passionate goalkeeper coaches I have ever spoken to and whose experience includes Head of Goalkeeper Development at Boston United and Goalkeeper Coach at Grimsby Town FC as well as a scout for Ipswich Town FC before branching out with his own range of goalkeeper products at WarbyGK.com
Bob, cutting straight to the point a little bit but in your experience what was the first thing that you looked for in a goalkeeper?
I personally looked for two things initially – hands and character. This was always superseded by the Gaffers requests of Height and Distribution! Personally I knew that good hands and strong character could be developed into a stronger end product, but many Managers and Scouts overlook these in favour of the taller Goalkeeper who can kick like a mule!
I know one of the biggest concerns for young goalkeepers is to do with their height, how important do you feel this is? Do you believe there is a minimum height you can be to play in goal at the top of the game?
In my opinion, height is not important; however I am firmly in the minority here. I believe that if you are good enough then you are tall enough. People use their height as an excuse to why they didn’t achieve however no club would turn you away if you had an unmatched ability in goal.
If your ability is of a similar level to the 6’4 goalkeeper you are competing against, then why would they retain the shorter player?
That is just my opinion though, and if you look at the above response regarding scouting, then you will see that the taller goalkeeper is favoured during the initial recruitment stage BUT, as said previously, no Scout worth his wage could ever ignore an outstanding talent.
During your time as a scout what level of games did you go to watch? Was it just games around the same level as your club, only games within the first so many levels of the football pyramid or were you involved in going right out to the Grass Roots Saturday and Sunday league games?
There is small benefit in looking at what you already know. It’s like when you have an empty fridge, you still return and open the fridge door even though you know it’s bare! The greatest pleasure in coaching is from taking a lad from a lower level and seeing him adjust to his new surroundings.
Most players already playing at a decent standard are “known” by the Coaching Staff anyway, and a quick phone call to a contact or two can help a decision but a lad playing at local level is virtually unknown and needs a lot of homework before approaching.
A scout’s reputation is only as good as the quality he recommends so the extra work is necessary to be confident in your recommendation.
What do you feel is the most overlooked part of a goalkeepers ability, i.e. goalkeepers don’t pay it enough attention when it is a massive thing for scouts and coaches to look for?
Professionalism and attitude are two key things I looked for. How does the lad carry himself in games? How does he react to his surroundings and team mates? This is the “unseen” element for players, they think they are being judged on their skill (which they are also!) but many fail to realise that Scouts would struggle to firmly recommend a player who may been deemed a “pain in the bum” by the Coaching Staff. There is a whole lost of boxes to tick, but often the decision falls down to these two elements.
During your time as a coach who was the best goalkeeper you worked with and what was it that made them so good?
I worked with a young lad from Lincoln at one of his “Club” Sessions (i.e all goalkeepers from that junior club attended the Goalkeeping Session). He was with me from day one, rarely missed a session and blossomed into a huge potential. He started off as a “gangly” adolescent with legs and arms everywhere, but with teaching developed into a real gem.
The one thing that really made him stand out in terms of potential was he had the sweetest left foot I have ever seen! He could drop the ball onto a pin head, and this was the persuading factor into me recommending him to a League Two Club. He’s still there now as an Under 16 so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed he’s given a scholarship!
We often speak to professional goalkeepers here at Keeper Portal and ask them what their best piece of advice has been and they usually give us some pearls of wisdom from one of their coaches, as a coach… What is the best piece of advice you have been given and from whom?
I’m going to be blunt and say that I didn’t listen to much advice, I always preferred to make my own conclusions – I guess that’s the stubborn streak in me! My problem was as a youngster there were no Goalkeeper Coaches, so I usually ended up with some well meaning parent trying to take me for a training session instead!!
As a senior player, I had a Brazilian manager……he insisted that everything is played with a purpose. If I launched a long kick he would go mental at me, explaining that a high ball is easy to defend and creates as many problems for us as it does for them! And he was right, he encouraged me to play everything short and then to support the player on the ball, look for the switch etc.
This was a revelation for me, as I’d been used to playing the traditional English way BUT we created so many more attacks this way, it was phenomenal! It was only when under extreme pressure that I launched it long, we mainly passed our way out of trouble!
Not necessarily goalkeeper related (I was largely self taught in that area!) but certainly this advice stands out in my memory – I found a new way of distribution, and I loved it!
Another common question we get asked is am I too old or too young, do you feel there is a certain age where by if you haven’t made it as a goalkeeper yet you never will?
No, I genuinely don’t however I will acknowledge that the older you get then the harder it becomes. I am a huge believer in never giving up, and had even planned to make a playing return post operation in 2009, but sadly the surgery was unsuccessful and I had to knock both Coaching and Playing on the head!
The problem comes because football is a risk averse sport, meaning a First Team Manager is highly unlikely to take a chance on an unknown player – no matter how good he is reported to be. The gaffer will always prefer a “proven” player as it is imperative for him to get the results first and player development comes second.
It’s best to be realistic, and that if you aren’t with a Pro Club in your early teens then the odds are that you probably never will be. Prepare yourself for the worst scenario (i.e. never being a Professional) as anything else from there on is a bonus! You just never know…….
If you could give advice to any young goalkeepers looking to break through what would it be?
Stop asking me for free gloves would be a start!! This is indicative of the entitlement culture being bred in the UK currently; youngsters feel the world owes them when the reality is far from this.
I always remember being sorely disappointed when the Youth Team players would disappear after training in the morning, proudly heading up town in their Club kit to show off and be “big time” – yet not one would ask for a bag of balls and a lift back to the Training Ground with me and the Goalkeepers (we tried to do two sessions a day where possible) – this was something that I could never understand! The Youth teamers didn’t even have to clean the boots or stadiums……….
From that, I would urge EVERY player to take nothing for granted. If you get a spare hour or so, take yourself out to the park and ping some balls with a purpose. Players should always be looking to improve, and youngsters must dedicate themselves to the game if they want to reap the rewards. It’s what you do outside of training that makes the difference: how badly do you want it?
Bob is currently very busy over at WarbyGK.com with the release of their new Optimum Goalkeeper Glove Range and he is also very busy securing deals with Warby Endorsees and getting the samples ready for their 2013/2014 range.