What Do Scouts and Coaches Look For In a Goalkeeper?

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 This was always superseded by the Gaffers requests of Height and Distribution!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.

Fancy winning a sponsorship from WarbyGK worth over £500? Every purchase of gloves up to August 30th is entered into a draw to win a full sponsorship deal including 10 pairs of WarbyGK Goalkeeper Gloves of your choice, a WarbyGK Icon Goalkeeper Jersey, a WarbyGK Volley Rain Suit, a WarbyGK Drills Training Shirt, a pair of WarbyGK Spring 3/4 Pants, a WarbyGK Goalkeeper Beanie and a WarbyGK Goalkeeper Cap.

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Comments (16)

  1. G Wednesday - 23 / 05 / 2012
    My son was turned down flat just because a director at an academy read his details and he's no to small my son was 16 and 5.8 at the time he wasn't even see. He got his teams player of the season and 15 man of the matches from 20 league games and 3 cup games
    • kpadmin Tuesday - 05 / 06 / 2012
      I wish I could say that this is shocking... unfortunately the first question any coach or academy wants to know is how tall is he/she and how tall are they likely to grow to? Hope your son kept going and will eventually prove the academy wrong!
  2. Mike Thursday - 07 / 06 / 2012
    I was dropped by Liverpool age 13 as I was too small... I'm now 19 and 6 ft 3! It's daft how they decide things so early!
    • Daz @ KeeperPortal Sunday - 10 / 06 / 2012
      Your not the first person I've heard of that was released for being too small only to shoot up a few years later!
  3. @goalLee1 Sunday - 21 / 10 / 2012
    I am a goalkeeper I'm 5'8 I have been told by three different academy coaches that I have everything to be a pro keeper all I need is around 3inchs. And one clubs academy director turned me down because of my lack of height
  4. GMac Monday - 05 / 11 / 2012
    I can only image how frustrating it is for players to practice their craft for years on end -- overcoming numerous financial and emotional obstacles, honing their skills to near perfection (and racking up accolades by the dozens in the process) -- only to be told that they are too short. It will be a great day when scouts and coaches realize that height is not the end-all and be-all of greatness.
  5. adam Thursday - 29 / 11 / 2012
    im a goalkeeper that cant seem to get trials no matter how good i play,i played kennedy cup for wexford and was on the team of the tournement i started ahead of the starting goalkeeper for the ireland u/15 i am also part of the international squad,i was picked on the international B team and i feel this is because i am so small i am 5 ft 10 and the other goalkeepers are 6 ft,everybody that knows anything abouts football says im the best in the county but i feel that the other goalkeepers are getting picked ahead of me because of my height
  6. salome Tuesday - 29 / 01 / 2013
    Can someone advise me please.I have a 10yr old who is currently a goalkeeper in a premiership academy. I got a good job in Canada and not sure if I should turn the job down or relocate with my son. Is he still likely to make it in football in Canada. Are there good goalkeeper coaches in Alberta Canada?
  7. Dan Monday - 18 / 02 / 2013
    Please answer! I just turned 14 around a month ago now and I literally just started playing football about 1 year ago, I've just got confidence to join a club but Im not sure if any scouts will be interested in me. Im around 6 ft now but my skills in goal are not so good. Im trying to train as much as I can but i feel as though I won't even make reserve goalkeeper for a small club! I would like to ask, did i start to late?
  8. @kylovelly Sunday - 24 / 02 / 2013
    I'm 5ft8 and i'm always being told it will be impossible to play pro, but I've never seen being small as a disadvantage sure it will be harder to reach a cross and challenge a 6ft3 striker but ive adapted my own style for being small, im sure there are advantages to being smaller, its really just how much you put in and practice, and just believing in your ability
  9. Saleh Albaghdady Monday - 18 / 03 / 2013
    I, practice every day and I'm only 11yrs old and I'm 146cm, so I am keep getting told that I am too short, and I literally practice day and night! I even got turned down from an academy 'cause of it!
  10. sss Monday - 25 / 03 / 2013
    height is everything i got released by leicester as i was 'too small' even though they said i was good enougn
  11. grundulis00 Thursday - 24 / 10 / 2013
    Hello could I have some advice I am playing under 15's and I play for Gateshead whites I have a game on Sunday that I think is important although it is not a cup match its just a league game but still important anyway my manager said there is a scout coming so I just want to prepare for the game what advice would you give for me to do well and for the scout to spot me by the way its a scout from Newcastle I am tall and probably one of the best goalkeepers as iv been offered to go to many clubs but I'm loyal I just wanted to know what should I do for the scout to spot me
  12. Daz @ KeeperPortal Friday - 25 / 10 / 2013
    Hi there! Firstly congratulations on having someone come down to watch you! Usually you don't find out which game they will be at so that's an advantage (kinda) that you have! Firstly don't worry about them 'spotting you' they are coming to watch you for a reason. Goalkeeper is a funny position to scout, they may come down and you don't touch the ball... So there isn't much you can do sometimes. Make sure that you do all the basics right, communicating with your defence, coming for crosses and focus on good distribution which is so important in today's game. Then if the game allows it hope that you pull off some good saves. You won't know who it is or how long they are there for but stay professional from the second you get there till you leave, including your warmup. Finally, just relax. They are there for a reason. Enjoy!
    • grundulis00 Friday - 25 / 10 / 2013
      thanks for your answer the scout isn't just watching me he is watching my team and the opposition and there is guaranteed to be goals for us and for them because my team is in the 6th position and they are 2nd so yeah. and I can say that I am one of the best u15 goalkeepers in Newcastle or Gateshead and I'm not being selfish but my team is in division 5 or 4 which is bad and a team from the premier league even offered me to go but I dint because I just like to play for my team and I guess its good for me that I play for my school team as well as I could get spotted there ? and acculy a guy trains me that could have had the chance to play for arsenal so I guess that pretty good :) and if I may ask what country do you specialaize in ? or what city
      • grundulis00 Friday - 25 / 10 / 2013
        actually iv got a question is a scout more likely to pick a English person or any kind of player as I am originally from Latvia just wanted to know if scouts look at any particular nation or are they just looking for talent

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