Tag Archives: West Ham

David Moyes

The David Moyes effect

Since David Moyes took over for the second time at West Ham, he has made the side a better team, with the likes of Sebastien Haller benefitting from the Scot’s approach.

But what has the former Everton and Manchester United boss done that has made a real difference in his three games in charge, and what does he offer the Hammers and their long-term plans to challenge the established top six?

Stability

The 56-year-old offers a back-to-basics approach to which will be needed for the East London club to at least stay in the league this season. At the start of the campaign, pundits including ESPN’s Don Hutchison were saying that they were going to be able to challenge for the top four, while this hasn’t been the case these players are the same and have real ability to save their season if used correctly.

Moyes will work on the training pitch with the squad to improve the little margins that they’ve not been getting right. Despite West Ham having many flair players, they are going to need to start passing normally before they can show their skills because it’s the trying to be exuberant that has cost the side an identity that they’re new manager will have to get back.

We have already seen a marked improvement in Haller, who scored his sixth goal of the season in West Ham’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth, and it was the players around him who really helped the Frenchman flourish.

The inclusion of Mark Noble made a big difference, and the Hammers needs their skipper and Declan Rice in a midfield to offer a combative duo in front of the back line. Mix in another hard worker in Robert Snodgrass, and the London club overpowered a poor Cherries side.

Defensive issues slowly being corrected?

With 21 games played the Hammers sit 16th in the league, having won one and lost one in the league under their new manager.

They’ve conceded one in three, including beating Gillingham in the FA Cap – a team they might have failed to see off under Manuel Pellegrini, considering Oxford United beat them earlier this season. Prior to that, they had conceded four in three games.

Lukasz Fabianski is one of the best keepers in the league, and a workman-like defence of Issa Diop and either Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna should be enough to keep them up this season. From there, the club can look to get a serious partner for Diop, who is by far the club’s best defender.

Fabianski only recently returned to action after three months out with an injury, and Moyes will be hoping he can now stay fit. A mix-up between No.2 keeper David Martin and Balbuena cost the Hammers a point against Sheffield United, underlining Fabianki’s importance.

With Everton coming up for West Ham, it could be a make or break game for their season. If they get the tactics right, then they could be four points above the drop zone, and they will then surely have enough about them to get results and achieve safety.

Tactics

Having Snodgrass ahead of Manuel Lanzini is beneficial because while Lanzini is a better player, he has been below par and doesn’t perform well on the right-hand side.

Snodgrass has three goals and two assists compared to the Argentine’s three assists. He seems rejuvenated by playing for his fellow Scot, getting the assist for Mark Noble’s first against Bournemouth while also having an equaliser ruled out by VAR against Sheffield United.

Wingers have been a real problem for West Ham as they don’t have many good left-sided forwards, Of course, Felipe Anderson can play there but if he is being used as an attacking midfielder then they are short out wide. Pablo Fornals is also better when being played through the middle.

This means that when Moyes is playing with three at the back and a variation of five or six through the middle, he is using a formation that works to the strength of the squad. This will get the best out of all their attacking players, and if Haller plays up front on his own he can thrive with the level of creativity around him.

Moyes tempers expectations

Despite Hammers fans feeling that they need to be in European football, it is clear that the way the club is some way off that, despite spending lots of money on the likes of Haller from Frankfurt, Fornals from Villarreal and Alban Ajeti from FC Basel without splashing serious cash on their defence.

West Ham’s backline is a mess, with both Ogbonna and Balbuena being inconsistent. Ryan Fredricks is underwhelming at right-back, with 34-year-old Pablo Zabaleta his only competition.

Moyes’s brand of football is not necessarily fun to watch but it will minimise the deficiency’s in the squad’s defence.

Without Fabianski, the Hammers leaked goals due to their defence not being as good as the players going forward. Finding a way to mix the defence up without creating a lack of understanding will be one of the biggest tasks ahead for the West Ham boss.

David Moyes for a season or so could build them in the way they need to as he seems to have some good ideas moving forward like it or not this is the situation that they’ve put themselves in Moyes could be a crucial part of the hammers revival.

Signing former Hammers back-up goalie Darren Randolph from Middlesbrough for £4m means that, if something happens to Fabianski, the Hammers don’t have to rely on Roberto, who has been a flop and is likely to be moved on, or Martin – a decent keeper but not of Premier League ability.

Their new boss has also seen that the centre of midfield is a problem as well with Noble and Rice being their only two serious contenders. This is due to inheriting Jack Wilshere’s injury record rather than his footballing talent, while Carlos Sanchez has proved to be a free transfer that hasn’t worked out.

West Ham need someone to fill the back-up void for Rice, who has played all 21 games in the Premier League this season.

Can Moyes keep West Ham up?

The Hammers have some tough games between now and the end of February, with a six-pointer against Everton at the London Stadium, followed by an away encounter with high-flying Leicester City.

They also face Liverpool twice in the space of just under a month, but between those games, they have a winnable tie against Brighton. On February 9th, they travel to the Etihad Stadium in an unlikely search ofor points before ending the month hosting Southampton. By then, they could be in a real fight if some of these games don’t go their way.

Overall, West Ham should have just enough and could nick some surprising points to see them finish between 11th and 16th. Next season is going to be really important for the Premier League side if they are going to challenge like the fans and owners want them too.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons by Hasegawa Takashi under licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Does the London Stadium now feel like home for the Hammers?

On Thursday August 4th 2016, West Ham United kicked off a new era in the club’s history at the London Stadium after bidding farewell to Upton Park, their home since 1904.

Has the move to Stratford been the fresh start and the springboard for the Hammers to step up to elite level, as owners David Gold and David Sullivan claimed it would be?

Three years on, and with encouraging signs both on and off the pitch, Elephant Sport has talked to two die-hard Irons supporters about whether the troubled settling period at the former 2012 Olympic Stadium is well and truly over and the club can look forward to better days.

Since switching from the old Boleyn Ground, which has since been redeveloped as flats, West Ham fans have witnessed a slow progression at their new home, and last season the club recorded their best-ever points tally at their new ground, taking 31 Premier League home game points from a possible 57.

Life at the London Stadium

Pete May, who writes the hammersintheheart blog and is the author of several books on West Ham, believes that life for the Hammers and their fans at their new home has been difficult to say the least.

“The move has undoubtedly been problematic, with a lot of teething troubles in those early days. For example, there were issues with the matchday stewarding and, of course, you saw it all boil over in March last year in the 3-0 loss to Burnley, when captain Mark Noble had to deal with pitch invaders.

“There were also chants aimed at the owners of ‘You’ve destroyed our club’ as well as some of the fans moaning about lack of money and transfer investment in the team.

“I do, however, think there are signs of the stadium doing us good as the club is stronger now financially and able to sign players such as Felipe Anderson for £36m and Sebastien Haller who cost £45m.

“Another great thing that helps is they have named one of the stands after club legend Billy Bonds. There was a big naming ceremony and Billy came out and broke down in tears, which was very moving.

“Little things like getting the correct colour for the carpet over the running track have also helped; it is now claret with the club badge, as opposed to a green one, and that does actually make it feel a bit more like West Ham’s home.”

The pitch invasion which accompanied that defeat by Burnley, when Sullivan and Gold had to exit the stadium for their own safety, was certainly a toxic low ebb of their tenure at the London Stadium, but it also served as a turning point.

The recruitment in May 2018 of manager Manuel Pellegrini, a Premier League winner with Manchester City, signalled a statement of ambition.

With the Argentine at the helm, and more revenue being generated by their 66,000-seat new home, West Ham have been able to attract higher profile players. This enabled them to finish tenth in the English top-flight last season.

Missed opportunities

Comedian and Stop! Hammer Time podcaster Phil Whelans thinks that the club missed a huge opportunity in the past and simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity to move into the London Stadium.

“It felt like there was a sort of opportunity to aim to be one of the solidly top three of four clubs in London rather than vying with the likes of Watford or Crystal Palace.

“West Ham have had a history of missed opportunities, I think the dynasty that had control of the club at the advent of the Premier League should have seen what this new league was going to become. I think they should have developed a massive new stand or made the old stadium bigger because the catchment area for the club goes out in Essex and Kent.

“I think the club could have speculated to accumulate at some point a long long time ago.”


“People are getting used to it, however, there was a lot of resentment at first”

Since the arrival of current boss Pellegrini, the Hammers have broken their transfer record three times in just over a year including bringing in Issa Diop, Anderson and, most recently, Haller. May believes that the stadium is a huge reason for this.

“I think being in a bigger stadium has definitely helped in a way as players are attracted by the thought of playing in it. We seem to be getting bigger names now like Anderson, Haller and Fornals who has just cost £23m, so I think that players like the idea of living in London and having a 60,000-plus capacity stadium to play in.”

Fan opinion

Overall, there has been a positive change for the claret and blue side of London since moving away from Upton Park and May feels the general mood around West Ham has improved.

“People are getting used to it, however, there was a lot of resentment at first. The other mistake that they made was lumping all of the families in with fans who like to stand up and sing, and so there was a mix of people who were standing up and sitting down.

“The problem was exacerbated by the club getting rid of a lot of the old stewards and bringing in people who were more used to stewarding concerts rather than football matches. It took a while, but these issues were ironed out after the first season or so, and generally it is getting better.”

There is a significant chance that either Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United may fall out of the top six this season, leaving a space or even spaces for newer sides like Leicester and West Ham, who have made great starts to the current campaign, to make a breakthrough.

“If you could somehow be a team that supplements that elite rather than displaces any one from it, then that is something to go for”

Phil Whelans told me: “I think certainly that the potential is there. Sometimes it all goes wrong for teams, and it’s currently going wrong for Manchester United. You have just got to keep it tight, keep building, keep investing and not just thinking the 11 players that got you seventh place will do even better next season. You have to keep freshening the squad, but certainly the platform is there.

“I think last season and this one so far have been good. We finished mid-table last season, and it feels like something we can build on this one. I guess you probably attract better players if you have become a bit more of a ‘glamour’ side, and possibly being in a big stadium with global TV coverage has helped in that respect.”

Atmosphere

Even though attendances don’t affect the financial standing of a club in the English top-flight like they used to – it’s all about TV money these days – the atmosphere generated by big crowds is a key weapon in a home side being able to generate the buzz that is needed to see off visiting teams.

West Ham United are currently only behind Manchester United and Arsenal in terms of average attendance at home this season with 59,917 being their average after four matches this season.

May feels his side have done well to fill their stadium.

“A lot of people didn’t think that West Ham would, but it hasn’t been much of a problem. The London Stadium has been getting noisier. That being said, when we win 5-0, it is loud and if we are losing it is quieter, and there isn’t a great deal we can do about it.”

There is still a lot of growing to do for the Hammers at their new stadium, on which the club has a 99-year lease, and Whelans has a perfect picture of what West Ham can become in the next 10 years.

“I feel like we need to start challenging for a bit of silverware and be a top European side in either the Champions League or the Europa League. We can definitely be a top eight team, but to be a top six team would mean displacing one of those existing clubs, and that will be tough.

“There would have to be a significant withdrawal of funds. I suppose it is conceivable that if, for example, Roman Abramovich’s visa problems continue, he might sell Chelsea, but I feel someone [equally rich] would step in and buy them. If you could somehow be a team that supplements that elite rather than displaces any one from it, then that is something to go for.”

West Ham v Liverpool

Bilic woeful but Moyes is an odd choice for Hammers

A day of remembrance at the London Stadium quickly turned sour for Slavan Bilic on Saturday. His side were simply all over the place as they sunk to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

It proved to be the final nail in the coffin of what has been a fairly prolonged exit. In the press conference after the game, the Croatian looked in an understandably sombre mood.

He proclaimed he was “not a broken man” when asked whether he would be given more time, however David Sullivan and David Gold apparently thought differently.

However, given the essential goodwill and patience Bilic was shown by the owners, you would be hard pushed to suggest they were in the wrong to show him the door.

Craig Shakespeare (Leicester) and Ronald Koeman (Everton) had a lot less time and better results comparatively, but West Ham’s slump extends further back than this season.

Toxic atmosphere

However, Bilic is now yesterday’s man, and in his place is David Moyes: damaged goods in the eyes of most West Ham fans and many neutrals after his unsuccessful stints at Manchester, United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland

Rumours of the former Everton manager’s imminent appointment saw Saturday’s toxic match day atmosphere continued on social media, and there were even reports of the owners considering a volte-face, given strength of the backlash.

With the Hammers 18th in the table with just nine points from 11 games, Sullivan and Gold – in something akin to a pre-emptive strike – released this bizarre welcome/hostage video with Moyes promoting unity within the club.

Some might argue the Scot’s reputation was unfairly tarnished by huge task of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at at Old Trafford, but few Real Sociedad and Sunderland fans will remember him fondly either.

His failures to admit what truly went wrong at United also seem to plague him. Just a few months ago, he claimed it was due to not landing major transfer targets.

Global brand

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live in October, Moyes claimed: “We offered more money to Tottenham [than Real Madrid for Bale]. Cesc Fabregas, who I spoke to on the phone several times, was not sure of his place in the Barcelona team, and I remember him saying if he didn’t start the first game for them, he would definitely be looking to join us.”

Moyes seems to be ignoring the fact he inherited a side which had comfortably won the Premier League the year previous and had started the season with a 4-0 away thumping of Swansea.

But by the end of it United, finished seventh and midfielder Marouane Fellaini – who Moyes had signed from his old club – was taking flack on a weekly basis.

Moyes is also ignoring the fact he never quite got to grips with the global brand that is Manchester United.

On their summer pre-season tour, the United side were reportedly forced into hiding on the roof of an Australian restaurant as fans massed beneath. Having been at Everton so long, Moyes never seemed to grasp how big a deal the Red Devils actually are.

Criticised

Then there was early disenchantment among the players over his tactics and training methods. Weirdly, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back was reportedly Moyes banning the players from eating chips…

‘Relegation, having only moved to the 60,000-seat London Stadium ahead of last season, would be disastrous for the East Londoners’

The former Everton manager even showed Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic videos of Phil Jagielka to help them defend; the response of Ferdinand was reportedly “What has he ever won?”

Ferdinand also criticised his communication skills, recalling in his 2014 autobiography: “You heard a lot of guys complaining ‘I just don’t know what he wants’. He had me doubting everything.”

These are all aspects of the managerial game which Moyes cannot afford to get wrong at West Ham.

At 54, he is not old in managerial terms, but somehow seems diminished from the forceful character who kept Everton in the upper reaches of the Premier League for so long.

Maybe Moyes and the Goodison Park club were simply a perfect fit, but his subsequent travails have convinced many Hammers fans that he’s not the man for their club.

Relegation from the top flight, having only moved to the 60,000-seat London Stadium ahead of last season, would be disastrous for the East Londoners. Moyes certainly feels like an odd – even desperate – choice to get them out of trouble.

‘Too dangerous’ – fans fear 2018 World Cup trouble

Fears are growing that the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia will be marred by hooliganism.

Hardcore thugs from Russia went on the rampage during Euro 2016, with England fans the victims in Marseille.

One Russian MP even went so far recently as to suggest that fighting among supporters should be a sport in itself.

With such worrying pronouncements coming from establishment figures, will fearful English football fans opt to stay away from the 2018 tournament?

Crystal Davis, Mike Newell and Lucas Chomicki spoke to supporters on their way to the London Stadium for the West Ham v Chelsea match in the Premier League to gauge their opinions.

 

Five Chinese Super League players Premier League clubs should be looking at

While it may not yet be able to compete with Europe’s elite in most aspects, the Chinese Super League has still become an attractive destination for players across the world seeking a fresh challenge – and a hefty pay packet.

President Xi Jinping’s 10-year plan to make the country a footballing superpower has resulted in CSL teams being bankrolled by massive corporate investment to make the great sporting leap forward.

This January alone, the likes of Brazilian international Oscar, Argentina’s Carlos Tevez and Belgian star Axel Witsel, have moved to Chinese clubs Shanghai SIPG, Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Quanjian in deals worth insane amounts of money in transfer fees and wages.

Former Chelsea player Oscar earned his £52m move to Shanghai SIPG after impressing in the Premier League, as did other recent additions to the CSL such as John Obi Mikel, Graziano Pelle and Demba Ba.

But to turn the tables – here are five CSL players who Premier League clubs might want to consider bringing over to England in the current transfer window.

Jackson Martinez: target for West Ham?

Last summer, West Ham’s pursuit of a striker in the “£30m” and upwards bracket was well-documented after they failed in their attempts to recruit Michy Batshuayi – who later signed for London rivals Chelsea – and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette.

The Hammers eventually managed to land Simone Zaza from Juventus in a loan deal that would become permanent after the Italian had made a certain amount of appearances, but the 25-year-old utterly failed to adapt to life in the Premier League, and is now set to return to Juventus before he is offloaded to another club.

jackson-martinez
©Jack Martinez’s official Twitter account

Their next target was former Hammer Jermain Defoe, but given his huge importance in their bid to avoid relegation, Sunderland have rejected the east London club’s £6m offer and made it clear they have no intention of selling.

Manager Slaven Bilic is now likely to look elsewhere, and having so far this season paid the price for his failure to recruit a decent striker last summer,  Guangzhou Evergrande’s Jackson Martinez would be well worth a look.

Martinez moved to China last January after a short and unsuccessful stint at Atletico Madrid, where he only managed to score two goals in 15 La Liga appearances. However, the 30-year-old Colombian’s prolific goalscoring record for Porto, which saw him finish as the Primeira Liga’s top-scorer in all three of his seasons in Portugal, proves how good he can be.

He can also boast Champions League experience and 10 goals in 40 appearances for his country, including appearances at both the Copa America and World Cup.

Whether Guangzhou would be willing to let him go remains to be seen, but he is the type of player many West Ham supporters would have hoped to see come in last summer to build on a successful final season at Upton Park before the move to the London Stadium.

Ezequiel Lavezzi: target for Everton?

©Wikimedia Commons

Everton appear to be in the market for a new winger, and Hebei China Fortune’s Ezequiel Lavezzi would be a superb option.

At 31, the Argentina international probably has a couple of good seasons left in him and remains a big name.

With Yannick Bolasie sidelined for a year and Gerard Deulofeu set to leave the Merseyside club on loan, manager Ronald Koeman is looking to add to that area of the squad, having already snapped up 19-year-old Ademola Lookman from Charlton for £11m.

“I know what we need to change and if everyone opens their eyes today maybe we will get further on our improvement as a team. Because that’s really what we need and that’s all about what happens this month,” Koeman told the Liverpool Echo regarding the club’s lack of transfer activity.

Manchester United’s Memphis Depay is rumoured to be Koeman’s top target; however, it is believed that the Red Devils will only consider letting the 22-year-old leave on a permanent deal, while Everton are reportedly insisting on a loan – so if Koeman cannot get his number one choice, Lavezzi could serve as an excellent alternative.

Like Depay, former PSG and Napoli star Lavezzi’s preference is to operate on the left-hand side where he can cut in and cause damage with his right foot. But he is just as capable of playing on the left or behind the striker, making him both a skilful and versatile asset.

A proven top-level success in Europe, he could be just the spark a club like Everton need to give propel themselves upwards.

Graziano Pelle: target for Watford?

©Graziano Pelle’s official Twitter account

Graziano Pelle and Watford could potentially be a match made in heaven.

With strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo having failed to reproduce last term’s form this season, the Hornets are in serious need of reinforcements up front, ailing to reproduce the goalscoring from they showed during the 2015/16 campaign, the Hornets could really do with some fresh impetus up front.

Given his aerial threat and impressive hold-up play, the former Southampton striker could fit the bill ideally.

Watford boss Walter Mazzarri likes to deploy Watford in a 3-5-2 formation, a set-up Pelle excelled in for Italy at Euro 2016, playing under current Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

The Shandong Luneng forward netted twice against Belgium and Spain to add to the 14 goals he scored in all competitions for Southampton that season before his move to China. At 31, Pelle could still have a couple of years of top-flight football in him.

Paulinho: target for West Brom?

©Wikimedia Commons

West Brom manager Tony Pulis is looking for a central midfielder and has already had a £13m bid for Morgan Schneiderlin rejected by Manchester United. 

Earlier this month, Pulis told the Birmingham Mail: “Morgan is just one of two or three we’re looking at.

“The most important thing is that you do your business with other clubs. It’s respectful to other clubs and then you move on from there. If we get the deals done, you get them done.”

The Red Devils want to recoup the £24m they paid Southampton for Schneiderlin in 2015, whilst the player’s preference to be reunited with his former Saints boss Ronald Koeman at Everton suggests he is out of the Baggies’ reach.

In that case, a decent alternative option might be Guangzhou Evergrande’s Paulinho. 

The 28-year-old Brazilian international did not have the best of times during his previous stint in England with Tottenham, but has all the right attributes to fit into a Pulis team. 

His strength, energy, defensive capabilities and physical presence in set-piece situations, makes him an ideal alternative to Schneiderlin and, ultimately, a good midfield option for West Brom to have.

Currently eighth in the table, he could be just the man to push them on for a Europa League spot.

Papiss Cisse: target for Hull City?

Barring miracles, Hull look destined for the drop this season.

©Wikimedia Commons

New boss Marcos Silva has spoken of the need to strengthen his squad if he is to save them, and one area he will have to address is their attacking options.

“I have confidence in our players, but it’s clear we need to improve our roster,” Silva said in his unveiling as Hull manager and as quoted on BBC Sport.

Joint lowest scorers in the Premier League so far this season, with just 17 goals in 20 games, Hull need a proven Premier League forward, and Senegal international Papiss Cisse is just that.

The 31-year-old made an instant impact in English football’s top flight when he joined Newcastle from Bundesliga outfit Freiburg in January 2012, scoring 13 goals in 14 league appearances that season – including an incredible strike against Chelsea – but struggled to follow up that dazzling debut. 

Since last summer, Cisse has been playing for Shandong Luneng. Anything would be an improvement on Hull’s current striking options, so the main issue could be if the player wants to join a relegation fight.

Coaching gives Baxter a new lease of life

Rejection as a young professional can sour any footballer’s love of the game, but coaching has rekindled Sam Baxter’s passion for being out on the pitch.

The goalkeeper, who began his career at West Ham, was released by Gillingham in the summer of 2014 and took the plunge into non-league football, determined to get things back on track.

But he quickly realised that the unglamorous life of a semi-professional wasn’t for him and, at 19 years old, dropped out of football.

“I completely fell out of love with it, I didn’t particularly like playing non-league,” he told me. “It was a hard time working during the day and then playing football in the evenings. I really needed to make a change so I could start enjoying it again.”

It wasn’t until his former goalkeeping coach Jerome John got in touch that he began to reconsider his life without football.

Elite academy

“He was encouraging me to keep playing and I told him how I felt. He basically said it’d be a shame to lose the progress that I’d made in my career and drop out of the game completely, so I was asked if I wanted to help out and do some coaching.”

“If I was still playing now, the amount of stuff I’ve learned while coaching and on these course would make me a hell of a better player”

The shot-stopper returned for his love of the game, and getting involved with a group of young American goalkeepers who had been scouted by an international academy to come over for an elite academy experience allowed him to find his feet.

The 21-year-old is now a full-time coach at former club West Ham, working six days a week with the under-eights up to the under-16s.

“I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “It’s a lot less pressure than playing, and helping the kids out and trying to help them not make the same mistakes as I did, is really encouraging. If you work all week with one of the under-eights on one-v-ones then come Saturday, he makes a one-v-one save, then it is very pleasing for me as a coach.”

Learning and growing

As a scholar with West Ham, Sam completed his level two outfield coaching badge as a schoolboy – the first step on a big journey.

“I then did the level two goalkeeping coaching badge on my own. I’ll be starting my UEFA B in May this year. I’m trying to do as many as I can to continue learning and growing as a player and as a coach.”

“For now, the excitement of seeing fledgling goalkeepers make their way through the ranks at his boyhood club is fulfilling enough”

The Essex-born keeper stresses how fleeting the career of a professional footballer can be, and the importance of getting both hands on your coaching badges early.

It’s a great thing to do because you never really know what’s round the corner,” he said. “If you go and do your cruciate then you’re going to need something to fall back on.

“Not only that, I’ve learned so much from it. If I was still playing now, the amount of stuff I’ve learned while coaching and on these course would make me a hell of a better player.”

Baxter is now loving life once again as a coach but admits that the door is still open to a return to professional football.

“Sometimes I do think about it. I’ve played in a couple of staff games recently and thought ‘maybe’. If I could find a place which allowed me to balance my coaching as well as playing, then I would definitely give it another go.”

For now, the excitement of seeing fledgling goalkeepers make their way through the ranks at his boyhood club is fulfilling enough.