Opinion: Mick Payne On A Case For Balanced Goalkeeping

By Richard Scott

News • Jan 3, 2024

Opinion: Mick Payne On A Case For Balanced Goalkeeping

England C goalkeeper coach Mick Payne discusses the case of the omnipresent ‘modern day goalkeeper’.

Despite the term ‘modern day goalkeeper’ being often thrown about by many people in football including managers and pundits, experienced goalkeeper coach Mick Payne knows that being an excellent shot-stopper will always be the most important part of being a goalkeeper.

While being able to play out with your feet is an important part of a goalkeeper's armory, Payne, who has previously coached at Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and with the England C team for two decades, as well as providing punditry for a number of BBC local radio stations, believes that saving shots will always be a goalkeeper’s number one priority. 

Payne, speaking exclusively to Goalkeeper.com, said “It's the modern day take that gets bandied around frequently. I must say I am still out on it. The position says goalkeeper, you’re keeping goal, to stop the ball going in the net.

“The way it’s evolved, I can see why it’s evolved, there is a big reason.

“We’ve got to be careful where young goalkeepers are being put under pressure with it. It’s the nature of the beast, I get that, which you sign up for. Sometimes they’re not comfortable with the ball at their feet but the team wants to play that way and, also in terms of playing out, perhaps their defenders are not comfortable with receiving the ball close to their goal as well. Whether it will change time will tell.

“But what happens, and I will go back to the likes of Ederson and Alisson, you will still see them playing long when needed. Look at Pickford, sometimes he needs to take a little bit off his striking of the ball because he does strike a great ball.

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“I say it many times: goalkeeper’s feet is like a set of golf clubs. You have got to be able to putt it if you like, that little side foot out, that little chip ball. Sometimes you have to fade it or even drive it and loft it. 

"I say when I am coaching my goalkeepers, your feet have got to be good, both feet of course, you can’t be relying on one and if you’re comfortable with your feet and also very efficient in your goalkeeping technique then I think you can go quite a way in the game.”

The unique nature of the goalkeeper position requires dedicated staff to look. From goalkeeper coaches - which, up until and into the 21st century, were not commonplace - to goalkeeper scouts, which is something we’ve seen an influx of over the last few years, football club have a whole department set up to coach and support goalkeepers. 

Most Premier League clubs have two if not three goalkeeper coaches on their coaching staff, whereas a decade ago there would be one coach looking after all the goalkeepers - if that, at lower levels of the game. 

Goalkeepers themselves have branched out into other specialties. Former Watford goalkeeper Richard Lee is now a goalkeeper-specific agent. Lee brokered the deal for Ben Foster to join Wrexham last season, among countless others.

Payne explains the importance of having people in key places who know the position across all bases.

“The goalkeeping position is a specialised one.

“It needs specialised coaching, special understanding. It also needs a real understanding of what is needed for a goalkeeper especially when scouts go out there.

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“We can all say ‘Oh he’s a great shot stopper’ but that is the requirement, of course it’s the requirement.

“As I tell everyone ‘If you’re a chef and you can’t cook a boiled egg you aren’t going to go too far in the game.’ Goalkeeping is all about shot-stopping if you can’t save a shot then you aren’t going far.

“On top of all of that, you have got to have all the tools in the box. We’ve mentioned feet. You have got to be comfortable with that. Good communication, have a real presence, a good understanding, be able to read the game, be able to overcome mistakes because there are going to be mistakes in a goalkeeper’s season without a shadow of a doubt. The best goalkeepers are the ones who make the fewest mistakes, they’re ones who go on to do very well.

“Coaching is a vital part of the game. If you have a successful goalkeeper or one who is playing well then you will have a successful season.”

The Premier League has a lot of fantastic goalkeepers right across the board. Its shot-stoppers coming from all different walks of life and bring different styles of goalkeeping.

Payne also believes that this evolution is filtering its way down the leagues as up and coming goalkeepers are learning their trade at the lower end of the English game.

He said: “From the Premier League down there are lots of good goalkeepers.

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“In terms of English goalkeepers, (Jordan) Pickford for me is now starting to look the article. I know he has been in a side that has been struggling, but he is now starting to mature a lot. Perhaps that is a little bit harsh on him but he has proven himself as an England goalkeeper. He will go on and get a lot more caps indeed, so he’s impressed me.

“In terms of other goalkeepers, Guglielmo Vicario at Tottenham Hotspur, he has come in and done exceptionally well. He came in under the radar this could partly be why he has really impressed.

“There has been a bit of debate about the Arsenal goalkeepers with Raya and Ramsdale and I think that is going to run for a while. I don’t think it bodes well as both goalkeepers look nervous for Arsenal. Both have got to prove something every time they play and that doesn’t help the situation.

“There is another young goalkeeper who is now playing in the Premier League and that is James Trafford at Burnley now. He's got a big fee on his head for a young English goalkeeper.

“They paid a lot of money to Manchester City for him. I saw him playing for Bolton as well and when I saw him last week he really stepped up to the mark, he was outstanding.

“He is a young goalkeeper and they don’t always get the opportunity so fair play to Vincent Kompany for giving him the shirt and giving him a chance to establish himself.

“In the Championship down there are lots of good goalkeepers, experienced goalkeepers playing within that set up.

“All in all, as we go down each division - League One, League Two, what you tend to see happen is Premier League sides’ young goalkeepers are out on loan.

“They come down to Championship or League One or even League Two and, they get the chance to play because the key to it all is they get the opportunity to play.

“It’s alright being in the training ground day in, day out, week in, week out, but you have got to play and that's the only way you can do it. 

As we head into 2024 many of us have our hopes of what the new year will bring for us, whether it be personal or professional.

For many goalkeepers, it’s to be successful either by winning games or lifting trophies.

Payne just wants every goalkeeper to go out and enjoy themselves.

He said: “I’m always behind all the goalkeepers, I am always in their corner. As I’ve said it’s a position you sign up for. It’s a position with no hiding place.

“It’s a position that needs a total understanding of what is required but, for all the goalkeepers out there, playing with presence, play with confidence, play with a real desire to get better in every game but play with a smile on your face because there is nothing better than playing.”

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