INTERVIEW: A lonely place to be

Final part of our interview with United's keeper coach

In the final part of our interview with keeper coach Tony Caig, he talked about the emergence of Mark Gillespie, the difficulty of having to say goodbye to Adam Collin and the impact Sean O’Hanlon had on the squad following his arrival at Brunton Park back in January this year.

“Some people might be surprised with the number of games Mark has played at such a young age, but he earned the right to do that,” he said. “In any situation where goals are being conceded you will always find that the second goalkeeper will get a chance. 

“That happened for Mark and he has taken to it very quickly. To be fair to him, he has progressed in every season he's been here and there's no reason he can't keep getting better. 

“He came back to us from his loan with Blyth Spartans a different goalkeeper - I think he kept eight clean sheets in 12 games with them - and you could tell that the experience had done him the world of good.”

“I think we saw for ourselves the type of goalkeeper Mark was after what happened to him in the Shrewsbury game,” he added. 

“He made a couple of mistakes, but the good thing was that we were at Brammall Lane just two days later. We looked at how Mark had been performing and we looked at the mistakes that had been made, and we felt it was just one of those things. 

“As it was, he had an excellent game against Sheffield United and I think he learned as much about himself that weekend as he ever will.”

The flip side of the emergence of Mark Gillespie, of course, was the shift of the previously ever-present and accomplished stopper Adam Collin to the bench.

“I don’t mind admitting that the situation with the way things went for Adam was difficult for me and him, because we have a very good relationship going back to our time together at Newcastle,” he explained.

“Adam had three really consistent years in the team and he was very good for this club. This became a really tough season for him because the team were conceding, and it always comes back to the goalkeeper when that happens. 

“You can change the defenders, the midfielders, or the formation, but if that doesn't work it will always come back to the goalkeeper. Sometimes between the posts is a lonely place to be.”

“The period before Christmas, when we were conceding a lot of goals, was tough for us all,” he said. “It was hard to be upbeat on a Monday morning because we knew we had to sit through the DVDs and work out what had happened.

“Depending on what type of character you are, you always look at yourself after you concede a couple of goals. But it’s important to remember, after that, to also look at what the rest of the team could have done. It sounds daft but there are games where you have lost 4-0 and you actually come off the pitch feeling like you've had a good game. 

“I always tell the keepers that they have to separate what they do from what the team do. If the team don't play well, but you’ve had a good game, you have to pat yourself on the back. There will always be goals that go in where you feel you could have done something different, but you can't blame yourself for every single one of them.”

“I don't think it was a coincidence that we stopped conceding so many goals when Sean [O'Hanlon] came into the team,” he told us. “He's a proper League One defender and he loves to attack the ball and get it away from danger. He's a good leader and he helped those around him to grow in confidence, because of the way he played.”

The end of the season brought a difficult day when stopper Adam Collin had to be told that his contract would not be renewed going forward.

“That was unbelievably tough,” he admitted. “I’ve known Adam for so long and all I can say is that he is a fantastic professional. 

“He’s had to work hard to get where he is and, even when Mark was in the team, you would always find that Adam was training properly and giving out any advice he thought would help. From a coaching point of view that is brilliant to see. 

“I do have an input to the decision with the advice I give to the manager but, when it comes down to it, the final decision will always be his. What I do know is that Adam is a very good keeper and I am sure he will go on to do well at his new club.” 

Click HERE for part one of this interview.

Click HERE for part two of this interview.

United Player subscribers can see a four-part interview with Tony Caig now. Click HERE to go to the Player platform. Follow the same link for more information on United Player, and to subscribe.
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