Watford legend and current goalkeeping coach Alec Chamberlain is testament to the claims that you never stop improving, which bodes well considering the start Manuel Almunia has made to life at Vicarage Road.
He may have conceded five goals in his last match away to Derby County, but former Arsenal shot-stopper Almunia has been almost faultless since his arrival in the summer despite entering the twilight stage of his career at 35.
His current coach played until he was 42 and the likeable Chamberlain has stressed that you never stop learning.
Speaking to goalkeepers` website GK Icon, which was set up by former Hornet Richard Lee, Chamberlain said: “We had Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak on loan and he is a case in point really. He was 29 when he joined us and has now turned 30, has played in the Champions League and internationally, but was still very eager to learn and improve. That was a great example for the goalkeepers here that worked with him.
“I know Scott Loach really benefitted from working with Tomasz close up and quizzing him about things.
“I wasn`t expecting Tomasz to be as open minded as he was and as eager to learn. We knew he would want to get the games under his belt for obvious reasons but the way he went about training and the way he was with the other goalkeepers here spoke volumes about him.
“It just shows you that you are never too old to learn or improve and I felt that in my own career.
“I didn`t have a goalkeeping coach until I was 35 but I probably played as well as I ever did between the ages of 35 and 40 because I always felt I could improve.”
Chamberlain does most of his work on the London Colney training pitch and the ex-Colchester United, Luton Town and, most importantly, Watford goalkeeper has stressed there is only so much a coach can do ahead of matches.
He said: “The thing you have to do then is take those techniques [you learn in training] into match situations. That is the difficultly with coaching; going from being a very good technical goalkeeper to being a good match goalkeeper.
“I think that is where the biggest difficulty is – that cross over – because you can train every day of the year but you need the match practice and decisions.
“The hardest thing in football is your decision making in any position but certainly goalkeeping. That is the bit which is difficult to coach.
“You can point things out and show them DVDs but as a goalkeeper, you are the man out there making those decisions when the ball is played over the top and you are wondering whether to come or not. Or when the cross comes in and you are wondering whether to come or not.
“All you can do is help the goalkeepers get in the right starting positions to help them make those decisions.”
The above comments are from a two-part interview Chamberlain did with Gk Icon, which is a company that runs coaching sessions for goalkeepers of all ages across the country. Their website includes not only information on their courses, but advice for those hoping to improve as goalkeepers and also regular interviews with ‘keepers – one of which was Ben Foster. For more information or to read the interviews, go to GK Icon