At the still relatively young age of 31 Paul Farman has played for just three professional clubs throughout a career that has now broken through the 400-appearance barrier.
Often the first name on the team sheet, his prolonged spells with Lincoln (where he won promotion) and Stevenage suggest that he’s a player who likes to put down markers and maintain a level of loyality.
Just under a third of his games for the Blues have resulted in clean sheets so far this season and, having reached that significant career milestone, we wondered if he was the type of person to keep tabs on this kind of stat.
“I did know I’d passed 400 appearances actually, we were talking about it on the bus on the way back from Southend, funnily enough,” he admitted. “It’s a great milestone, I want to go and get another 100 now!
“I always say this but what you put in is what you get out, and I’ve worked hard since I was a young boy. I was always brought up like that, and I’ve stuck by it.
“What I dreamed of was playing in the Football League and I managed to do that at the age of 30. One of the highs was obviously the promotion with Lincoln, the day we won the league was just full of euphoria.
“Another high was getting the move to come up here, it meant I could move back up north and see the family a bit more. I’ve never really been up here or played here, but it was always a club I followed on Twitter and things like that, because I’ve known a lot of lads who have played here.
“I would love to get to 500 appearances. It’s about looking after my body and playing games, I think it’s just a case of doing what I need to do on the training pitch to make sure I survive.”
On the best coaching advice he’s received over the years, he commented: “I’ve really enjoyed working with Steve [Collis].
“We’re trying to tone down the way I am in games a little bit, but I think he understands it’s just the way I am. Games mean a lot to me, but sometimes it does come across as being a little bit desperate.
“I’m never quiet during a game but it’s just a way for me to stay involved when the boys are doing well.
“I like to keep people on their toes, even myself, and I’ve always said to the other lads that if I’m not doing my job they can tell me as well. There’s an understanding amongst us and we all want to do really well.”
On to this season and 12 clean sheets from 39 appearances is a sign that things are going well between the sticks.
“We’ve had three clean sheets on the bounce and that’s what it’s all about,” he told us. “I didn’t actually realise it was three until my wife mentioned it because we’re just concentrating on each game.
“I’m there to keep the ball out of our net, the forwards are there to score and they’ve been doing that. Jon [Mellish] keeps on scoring and when called upon I just do my best to keep it out of ours.
“Clean sheets are a real team effort. We’ve worked so hard and it’s paying off again now. A clean sheet gives you a real platform to go and win games, and if you can’t win you won’t lose if you keep the other team out.
“I saw a stat about us conceding the least amount of shots on target across the whole of the EFL, which is great. That shows you how much of a team effort it is, the way we play means everyone is doing their job in terms of pressing teams as early as we can.
“Every keeper loves a clean sheet, but during the run we just had I’d have taken winning games 6-5, because it’s the points that are more important.”
Speaking more about that run, which came after the team had missed a run of 10 games for a variety of postponement reasons, he said: “We obviously had a great first half of the season, which slowed down a bit after the new year, but we’ve picked up again.
“It’s been unbelievable, there’s so many highs and lows in football. We’ve got that momentum back and it’s great to be doing that with this bunch of lads.
“But, we can’t get away from it, the break we had with Covid and the postponements was hard. Training at home is hard, especially as a keeper, but even for the rest of the lads there’s only so much running you can do, and you can’t replicate what you do on the training pitch.
“It was a tough period and we’re just glad it’s done with. We didn’t ever get too low about it because we knew we would turn the corner, we didn’t just become a bad team overnight.
“We’ve got three wins on the bounce now and we’ve just got to keep looking forward and take that momentum into every game we’ve got left.
“If you’re asking if confidence was dented, it’s a hard thing to answer because personally it might not be, but other people in the group might be feeling it more than others.
“We’ve got good camaraderie within the dressing room so if someone is lacking in confidence a little bit we’ll pull them through. We’ve got a good group here and if anyone sees someone that needs a hand, they’ll give them it.”
And that was the case at the end of March when a late Leyton Orient goal left the popular stopper feeling like he’d just been kicked between the proverbials.
“After that goal went in I just wanted the pitch to swallow me up,” he revealed. “That’s the life of a goalie, you see mistakes on Sky Sports News and Match of the Day every weekend, but it’s about how you bounce back from them.
“I wish I could say I can count my mistakes on one hand, but I can’t, no one can. That’s why it has to be your character that comes through in the end.
“I held my hands up after the match and I think you get a lot of respect from the dressing room when you do that. There’s no point being defensive about it, we spoke about it and then it was behind us.
“We haven’t got many games left now so there’s no point dwelling on anything like that. Mistakes are part and parcel of the game for every player, you’ve just got to focus on the next one and make sure you do that right.
“You dust down and you know the next high isn’t too far away, because you have belief in how you go about your work. That’s why it nice to save the penalty against Southend.
“I tend not to watch penalties that players have taken before, because I prefer to go off what I’m feeling in the game and the run up, and things like that. I knew Akinola had scored a lot of penalties but I also knew their captain might take it, because I don’t think he’d ever missed one.
“When there’s a slow run up it’s just about playing a bit of cat and mouse on the line then seeing what happens. I’ve saved two this season, but I can’t remember the last one I saved before that, so it’s nice.
“We’ve had a lot of penalties given against us this season so I would have liked to have saved more. It’s great when you do save them and it’s even better when you go on to win.”
Looking ahead, there are now eight games to go, starting at Barrow, and with the team sat within touching distance of the play-offs it’s still all very much to play for.
“If we all hit the targets we’ve been set before games, and if we make sure we’re doing our jobs properly, we know we’ll pick up results,” he said. “We’ve got a young squad but we’re all learning and developing constantly.
“I think when you looked at our starting 11 at the start of the season there weren’t many lads who had started a lot of league games. It’s a credit to them because they’ve came here and played games and dealt with the pressure that comes with it.
“The gaffer has been great. With so many young players I think he’s managed it really well. He knows when the lads need a push and when they need a lift.
“He made sure we didn’t forget why we were where we were, and he was constantly highlighting reasons why we played well, and picking out the errors in a positive way.
“Even though I am more experienced I like to be in and around the younger lads because I am still immature! There isn’t really an age divide in the dressing room, we all mix well together and it’s a great bunch of lads.
“We know what we want to do this season, but we aren’t looking too far beyond the next game. That’s all you can do, take each opponent on their own merits and try to win that game.
“Barrow are next, both teams want to win this one for their own reasons, and it was a game that got a lot of coverage when we played them at Brunton Park. The teams hadn’t met each other for so long, and that game seems so long ago now.
“We’re obviously at their place this time so we’re expecting a tough one. There are no easy ones in this league and I know the fans will be looking forward to it, so that does add a little bit extra.
“It’s a huge shame that they can’t be there, and it’s also a shame that we say that we’re actually getting used to having to play in empty stadiums. That’s just not right.
“We know from when fans were allowed at Brunton Park that it makes a real difference, and it really was strange through those first few games when they weren’t there to cheer us on.
“Like I say, it’s mad to say that we have adjusted to it, but I suppose we’ve had to, there’s been no choice. It doesn’t change the fact you get butterflies before the game, and you’re still very much up for it, but you do miss the atmosphere and the comments.
“It is what it is and you have to deal with it. The thing you really miss is the way the crowd are when you’re on top in a game, particularly if you’re behind or level. They can definitely make it harder for the opposition. It’ll be great once we do get them back.”
And we had one last burning topic to discuss before we let him go.
“The thing I do with the ball before kick off … oh yeah,” he told us. “The new balls tend to come with a film on them, so I like to try to get that off.
“That’s why I run to the centre circle, pick it up and give it a bit of a roll over. It get rids of that film, that’s all it’s about.”
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