Goalkeeper Coach Ryan Mackerness joins Keeper Portal

We’d like to welcome Ryan Mackerness to the Keeper Portal team, he is going to be providing some unique insights into the goalkeeping world using his experience and knowledge as a professional goalkeeping coach.

We sat down and fired a few questions at him to give you all a bit of background on Ryan, we’re sure he will be creating some fantastic content in the very near future!

Hi Ryan, what made you want to be a goalkeeper coach and how did you get started?
I have always been a goalkeeper/interested in goalkeeping since the age of 8. I was highly interested and studious on how Goalkeepers trained.

I played for my local side, school and representative teams. When I was 15 was asked to join the youth set up at Newport County AFC and played a few games for their u18’s whilst still in school. I was at their academy full time from the ages of 16-18, and was around the first team squad.

To be honest I wasn’t really good enough, but luckily the then academy manager saw potential in me as a GK coach. As soon as I was released as a player I was offered a chance to take the 8-16 year old goalkeepers in the evenings once a week (When I was 18).

It has built up from there really and I went ‘full time’ into goalkeeper coaching at the age of 24. I had a lot of support, advice and help from a lot of people, but especially Pat Mountain (Wolves GK Coach).

I worked at Cardiff as Academy Gk coach when I was 27 and via Bristol City ended up back at Newport as 1st team GK Coach at the age of 29. 11 years after leaving as a youth team goalkeeper and 5 years after leaving as Academy Goalkeeper Coach.

Having worked at Cardiff, Bristol and now Newport County, what are the main differences between the clubs? Do you have to adapt your coaching to the clubs philosophy or is it just focused on the individual keepers strengths and weaknesses?
Cardiff and Bristol are both massive football clubs in this area, where as Newport are a lot smaller but their fan base has grown almost 75% in the past 3 years so they are growing fast. This means there is a difference in facilities and infrastructure but as long as you have balls, a pitch and goal posts your work is still the same.

Both Cardiff and Bristol were academy roles (Although I did fill in for a period as 1st team GK Coach at Cardiff), whereas at Newport I was 1st team GK Coach.

Obviously whilst at Cardiff and Bristol you are looking at developing and nurture the young keepers and giving them the best chance of making it as professionals. At Newport, where I took a massive interest in all the goalkeepers at the club, my main priority was developing and preparing the senior goalkeepers to win football matches.

It’s a result business so as soon as you work at that level you are preparing the goalkeepers to win matches, so you have to adapt to that. So if they have a weakness, you try and make that better as it could affect the result of the match.

Also though you make sure they can fulfil their role in the team philosophy/tactics so the recruitment and coaching of the goalkeepers within that is extremely important.

I found that academy football teams ‘play out from the back’ more, compared to working in first team environment in league 2 where everything is a bit more direct. So you need to adapt your coaching to that.

What advice would you give to anybody who wanted to get into goalkeeper coaching?
Work hard and be open to all ideas/methods and never stop learning. I try to go to as many conferences and watch as many sessions and matches as possible.

It’s also important though to have your own belief in how you think goalkeepers should be coached and be your own person.

A lot of people believe that a good coach should have played the game at a good level; what do you say to this?
Like I have already mentioned I tried to make it as a player but wasn’t good enough to be a pro player. I think you need to have played the game a bit but not necessarily as a pro.

You need to be able to identify with them, know how they are feeling and why they reacted in a certain way.

I don’t know what it’s like to play In front of 1000’s of people (although I have in front of a few hundred) but I have been putting in sessions as a coach from my teens and watching games through the eyes of a ‘coach’ since then.

Pros that play into their 30’s haven’t had the opportunity to gather the same level of coaching experience most of the time so there are pros and cons to both, but no right or wrong way in my opinion.

Lollichon at Chelsea wasn’t a pro player and has a great reputation and is working at a top club. A lot of team managers/coaches have worked at the highest level without being pro players (Mourinho, AVB, Paul Clement etc), so it is only natural it would happen in goalkeeper coaching too.

As a coach, what are the fundamentals you look for in a goalkeeper? Are there certain attributes that are easier to develop?
Well the main one is stopping the ball going in to the goal! Seriously though, I think lately we have come away from focusing on having effective shot stoppers and are more worried about distribution.

Distribution is very important in the modern game BUT still not more important than shot stopping for me.

I know the stats, you may only have 1-4 saves to make per game but touch the ball 30+ times with your feet. Those 1-4 saves are important though, as if they are not made your team will more often than not lose the game.

I have come across a lot of young goalkeepers who are excellent distributors but not very effective shot stoppers, cross takers or at 1v1’s. You need to try and be good at everything and be a rounded goalkeeper.

In terms of what is easier to develop, it’s depends on the individual traits of the goalkeeper really and what their mentality to improve is like.

Ryan Mackerness - GK Coach - Tom Heaton David Marshall
Ryan working with Tom Heaton, David Marshall and Jordan Santiago

Who’s the best keeper you have worked with during your coaching career? What do you think made them the best?
I have been fortunate enough to have briefly worked with David Marshall and Tom Heaton both Premiership and international goalkeepers in their own right.

Longer term though I have worked more with Lenny Pidgeley, Joe Day and Jamie Stephens at Newport.

I have not seen anyone peak or have such a rounded performance as Lenny did in on in the play off final in my first season at the club. He peaked at the perfect moment for us then took that form into the next season after promotion too. He is an excellent all round technician and had a great grounding at Chelsea.

Joe had one of the longest and best ‘purple patches’ I have ever seen for the 3 months he had on loan to us early last season before signing permanent. He is brave, a great athlete and works harder than anyone I have ever seen with a fantastic attitude. He will go far in the game because of it. His shot stopping from distance, mentality in 1v1 situations and physical presence in dealing with crosses made a massive difference to the team when he came in.

Jamie has the best reactions and is the bravest shot stopper I have ever seen at any level from short range. He is still very young and has a great chance of being a regular 1st team football league GK in the very near future.

If you could only give one piece of advice to goalkeepers, what would it be?
Work hard and never stand still and think you are as good as your going to be. Otherwise other people will pass you and become better than you. And enjoy playing in goal most importantly!

One thing that we see getting asked a lot is what keepers can do in terms of training on their own, what advice would you give for that?
It’s very limited but try and get someone to serve if you can, if not use a wall or a rebounder product to serve you is the next best thing to work on your technique. Also you can work on your footwork and power on your own also.

You can always work on your distribution alone; all you need is a ball and a patch of grass.

What are your aims as a goalkeeper coach? Do you intend to keep progressing with your coaching badges and working your way up the ladder?
I want to keep pushing myself and work at the highest level possible and see where that takes me. I want to try and become the best Goalkeeper coach I can and always get better. I’m very ambitious.

I’m looking to do the new UEFA ‘A’ Goalkeeping diploma when it released by UEFA, it’s the first UEFA credited GK qualification (rather than the current national FA ones) and then the conventional A licence (outfield) after that.

Thanks Ryan! 

Keep an eye out for Ryan’s first posts in the very near future!

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Daz @ KeeperPortal

Owner and creator of Keeper Portal, an FA qualified goalkeeping coach as well as being pretty impressive at keeping balls out of a net.

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