Life as a pro: Earning your right

Life as a pro: Earning your right

Being a goalkeeper isn’t always the easiest when you’re not playing. Goalkeepers aren’t frequently substituted on or off for even ten minutes in a game. Unless due to injury or unfortunately because of a red card, they are normally one of the first names on the team sheet. 

It’s very unusual for a manger to change his first-choice goalkeeper unless it’s due to an injury, a cup game or they have a serious drop in form over a number of matches, however this can always happen. So you need to train hard, prepare both mentally and physically as you can be needed to come on at any time.  Additionally, Generally, it is more difficult for goalkeepers to secure the right loan for their development, however loans can turn up unexpectedly and they may be right for both clubs and ‘keeper so they can prove to be a great move. Plus there’s nothing better than actual match experience to help you improve.  The pace of the game, reading the play getting your angles right can’t always be ‘life like’ in a training session.

For outfield players that aren’t starting, they can be used as substitutes at any point in the match during the season. They can still gain that crucial experience whilst getting 20/35 minutes here and there. They can also come on and impact games and gradually gain experience to prove themselves to the manager. Which can then lead to them starting more regularly. If however, goalkeepers are needed they are thrown in the deep end and expected to perform from the get go, we have to be prepared for that. 

Some clubs have lots of players out on loan and it seems that players at bigger clubs have an easier time finding loan clubs, than those at smaller, lower-level ones, undoubtedly due to a stereotype that players from bigger clubs are better and for sure sometimes they are.  A lot of clubs also want to be associated with the big ones and will support loans for interest and development of the younger player and obviously to boost their own squads, a relationship like this can ensure a regular supply of developing talent.  But I do wonder whether players from lower levels may be missing great opportunities for their development, not because of their ability but because some clubs don’t have the networks and connections in place to secure the right loan for the player.  

It’s quite often discussed whether all the current loanees, many who are proving to be very good players, will get their chance to play for their respective first team. Some have made the odd appearance here and there, but the real test will be if they can become regular starting players and not just squad players. I hope that this is the ultimate plan, although in the long run it does mean that there will be a number of good players available for other clubs if they don’t! 

For some clubs the loan system could be seen as a money-making scheme and sometimes loan deals are even more lucrative than actual permanent transfers. Premier League clubs have been known to put clauses in their loan contracts that benefit their bank balances rather nicely. For example, loan clubs usually agree to pay a percentage of the players wages which is standard procedure for a loan however some clubs also add clauses to the agreement that if their player doesn’t play the loaning club will have to pay a substantial amount more of the wages for the loanee. This forces clubs to play players when potentially they don’t deserve to play, either from a dip in form or for tactical reasons

Regardless of what position you play or prefer to play in, all players need to earn their right to play, whatever club, whatever level and whatever position.  You need to show commitment, drive, passion as well as your ability and that competitiveness against others fighting for your position from within your own team and from others. It’s an extremely competitive environment where fighting for and achieving those three points each week can be crucial to success both individually and for your club.

by Lewis Ward, Swindon Town FC

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