What characterises the top flight's spread of goalkeeping gurus?
Goalkeeper coaches play an integral role in ensuring their clubs are successful. Even so, much like the stoppers they support and coach, they are probably among the less celebrated and recognised in their team.
The era of one-coach goalkeeper departments is long gone in the Premier League, with many clubs employing assistant goalkeeper coaches. Liverpool sport a three-man department, with Brighton and Chelsea, amongst others, utilising the multi-coach model in their goalkeeping groups. In fact, Chelsea's goalkeeping coach trio of Ben Roberts, Henrique Hilario, and James Russell doesn't account for the fact that ex-Blues stopper Carlo Cudicini is also on the coaching staff in a non-goalkeeping capacity.
Up until Todd Boehly's takeover of the London club, Petr Cech also held a senior position.
But more of that to come. We’ve shone a spotlight on who the Premier League’s goalkeeper coaches are, and what the spread of coaches can tell us about the English top flight's tendencies towards the type of coach it puts in charge of developing its goalkeepers.
The average age of a 2022/23 season Premier League goalkeeper coach is 46.14 years old*.
Brighton's Jack Stern (who shares the role with Ricard Segarra) is the youngest in the league at 34, while Leeds' Marcos Abad is the runner up at 37. Southampton’s Andrew Sparkes is only a matter of months older, with Nottingham Forest’s Danny Alcock (38) and Newcastle United’s Shwan Jalal (39) the only others aged under 40.
Jalal's colleague at Newcastle, Adam Bartlett, is 36. However, Bartlett holds a slightly different role, overseeing the entire goalkeeping set up.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Marco Savorani edges Leicester City’s Mike Stowell by a matter of days as the oldest at 57, while there are seven others over the age of 50. Looking at the Premier League table at the time of research, there is no real correlation between the age of a club’s goalkeeper coach and how successful that club has been so far this season. However, this is a simplistic position to take. Whilst age itself might not be the factor to consider here, the generation of goalkeeping certain coaches have grown professionally in could account for certain approaches and methodologies.
It is worth considering the stylistic approach of certain coaches relative to the development of goalkeepers they've coached, and how the types of goalkeepers they've developed (or not developed) may account for this.
Where they’re from
The top flight sees a diverse range of backgrounds amongst first team goalkeeper coaches.
The highest number of foreign born goalkeeper coaches is from Spain, with seven. They are Arsenal’s Iñaki Caña and Aston Villa’s Javier Garcia, who both come from Barcelona, with Manchester City’s Xabier Mancisidor, Brighton & Hove Albion’s Ricard Segarra, Brentford’s Manu Sotelo, Leeds’ Marcos Abad, with West Ham United’s Xavi Valero also hailing from the Iberian Peninsula.
There is a spread of those born in England, with Sunderland, Bishop Auckland, Salford, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and New Milton providing one goalkeeper coach each, while Leicester’s Mike Stowell and Everton’s Alan Kelly Jr. both come from Preston. Newcastle’s Shwan Jalal was born in Baghdad, Iraq but grew up in Hastings. The league also has two Welsh, one Italian, one Portuguese and one Brazilian.
Interestingly, only Liverpool, Brentford, and Brighton have goalkeeper coaches of the same nationality as their respective number ones. Manu Sotelo and David Raya hail from opposite northern corners of Spain, but both centred their developments as coach and player on the style of Barcelona. Brighton's Ricard Segarra and number one Robert Sanchez also both hail from Spain, with Segarra working within the goalkeeping set up at the famous La Masia academy for nearly 20 years.
Sotelo's profile on the Brentford website notes how the Spanish goalkeeping coach became a Barcelona supporter due to their style of play, and that - like Leeds' Marcos Abad - he would have pursued a career in teaching had he not worked in football. Raya, likewise, grew up playing futsal and football in Catalonia, and was signed for Brentford under fellow Catalan Iñaki Caña's stewardship of the goalkeeping department in 2019.
Claudio Taffarel's appointment by Liverpool in 2021, held dually with his role as Brazil's national goalkeeping coach, raised a few eyebrows. Working closely with Brazil's and Liverpool's number one, Alisson Becker, it's understandable to see why he was brought in.
“The boss said to me he thought it might be a good idea to bring in another goalie coach,” Achterberg revealed to The Athletic six weeks after Taffarel's arrival.
“Jack [Robinson, assistant goalkeeping coach] and I spend a lot of time on the road and those goalies who don’t travel and don’t get a game at the weekend need training — it’s about ensuring the younger ones especially take the next step.
“I never saw Taffa coming in as any sort of threat. He’s a good guy with lots of experience. We can all only benefit from having someone like him around", continue Achterberg.
“We use his qualities to help the goalies. Having more hands to keep them working, especially the younger ones, is perfect. It’s just a case of having the right planning.”
AFC Bournemouth’s Neil Moss is one of two goalkeeper coaches in the Premier League to have played for the club they currently coach, turning professional in 1993 with Bournemouth and making his debut as a 17-year-old before joining Southampton in 1995, then returning to the Cherries in 2002 and staying with them until his retirement. Ben Roberts played for Brighton during his playing career, where he was coaching before following Graham Potter to Chelsea. Henrique Hilario, meanwhile, also played for Chelsea before transitioning into their coaching set up.
Liverpool’s Cláudio Taffarel had by far the most successful playing career, reaching the pinnacle of club and international football as he won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and added two Copa Américas. His club career saw a UEFA Cup, UEFA Supercup, two Coppa Italias with Parma, plus two league titles and cups with Galatasaray.
Crystal Palace’s Dean Kiely and Everton’s Alan Kelly Jr. both represented the Republic of Ireland, while the latter also won the League Cup with Blackburn Rovers. Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Tony Roberts represented Wales twice.
Various goalkeeper coaches in the Premier League played in the lower divisions, while several didn’t have a notable playing career at all. In fact, Leeds’ Marcos Abad was a primary school teacher before making his way into professional football, as will be discussed further in an upcoming Goalkeeper.com exclusive with the Spanish goalkeeper coach.
United's Hartis is another, with the Englishman not previously playing at a senior professional level before starting his coaching career in the late 1980s.
Previous Premier League coaching experience
Eight Premier League goalkeeper coaches have also coached in the first-team of another club currently in the top flight at some point during their career. They are Arsenal’s Iñaki Caña (Brentford), Man United’s Richard Hartis (Leeds), Brentford’s Manu Sotelo (Nottingham Forest), Fulham’s Hugo Oliveira (Everton), Chelsea’s Ben Roberts (Brighton), Aston Villa’s Javier Garcia (Arsenal), Wolves’ Tony Roberts (Arsenal) and West Ham’s Xavi Valero (Liverpool, Chelsea video analyst).
There are also goalkeeper coaches at various levels that stick with managers. In addition to Ben Roberts joining Graham Potter at Chelsea, Hugo Oliveira has already worked with Marco Silva and Javier Garcia has moved clubs with Unai Emery.
Valero has an impressive spread of clubs he worked with before arriving at the London Stadium, having spent time at Liverpool, Internazionale, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid and Hebei.
Southampton’s Andrew Sparkes has arguably had the most intriguing pathway, having previously been with Swansea’s youth team, taken up various roles in the Red Bull group (the Salzburg and New York varieties), then gone on to Swansea's U23s and Orlando Pirates in South Africa, before joining the set up at St Mary's on the South Coast.
National team coaching
The Premier League will always look to get the best people in any position to give themselves an edge, so perhaps it’s natural that some of their goalkeeper coaches have carried out their duties at international level.
Several of those currently have jobs alongside their domestic role, as Liverpool’s Taffarel coaches for Brazil, Palace’s Kiely represents the Republic of Ireland, and Wolves’ Roberts is with Wales. Leeds' Abad works with the Spanish FA, although not directly with the senior national team squad.
Looking back, there is also international experience for Fulham’s Oliveira (Portugal 2009-2011), Southampton’s Sparkes (Sierra Leone 2013-2014), Man United’s Hartis (England U20 2016-2019) and Everton’s Kelly (Republic of Ireland 2006-2013, 2020-21).
Former Premier League goalkeeper coaches saturate the English FA's coaching set up.
Both current and ex-England goalkeeper coaches Martyn Margetson and Dave Watson both coached in the Premier League until 2019 (Everton) and 2022 (Southampton), with Watson fulfilling a wider role under Ralph Hasenhuttl. Anthony White aided Neil Moss at Bournemouth before leaving in 2019 to join the FA set up, with the Cherries in the Championship by that point.
Adrian Tucker, previously of Sunderland and Swansea during their time in the top flight, has coached the Wales' Women's National Team, as well as the Moroccan national team, before following in White's footsteps and joining the FA set up in 2021.
Time in their role
The managerial merry-go-round in the Premier League and others is often being reported on, but how often do top-tier clubs change their goalkeeper coach? So far, there haven’t been any changes in 2023.
Bournemouth’s Neil Moss (December), Aston Villa’s Javier Garcia (November), Newcastle’s Shwan Jalal (October), Brighton’s Ricard Segarra (September) and Chelsea’s Ben Roberts (September) were all appointed in 2022. However, it should be noted that Moss had previously been with the Cherries from July 2009 until June 2021, returning to the club after Scott Parker’s departure, and that Segarra joins American Jack Stern in a two man first team goalkeeper coaching set up at the Amex.
Stern and Jalal's journeys have been particularly interesting. Jalal took all of two years to progress from his first senior coaching role as Head of Academy Goalkeeping at Rochdale to working with Adam Bartlett as the duo heading up Newcastle's goalkeeping set up following the departure of veteran Simon Smith from St James' Park in the summer of 2022. He joined the Magpies directly from League Two side Stockport County.
Stern, meanwhile, became only the second goalkeeper coach in the Premier League currently at first team level who has made the move from the MLS to the Premier League, rather than from English football the other way. The other was Southampton's Sparkes, when he joined the Saints from Orlando Pirates in 2019.
But far the longest-serving goalkeeper coach in the Premier League is Leicester’s Mike Stowell, who has been with the club since July 2005. Liverpool's John Achterberg is second, having been with the Reds since 2009 but involved directly with the first team since 2011. Man City’s Xabier Mancisidor is comes in third place having taken up his role in July 2013 under Manuel Pellegrini.
The full list of Premier League goalkeeper coaches can be found below:
Aston Villa: Javier Garcia
Arsenal: Iñaki Caña
Bournemouth: Neil Moss, Gareth Stewart
Brentford: Manu Sotelo
Brighton and Hove Albion: Jack Stern, Ricard Segarra
Chelsea: Henrique Hilario, Ben Roberts, James Russell
Crystal Palace: Dean Kiely
Everton: Alan Kelly Jr.
Fulham: Hugo Oliveira
Leeds United: Marcos Abad
Leicester City: Mike Stowell
Liverpool: John Achterberg, Claudio Taffarel, Jack Robinson
Manchester City: Xabier Mancisidor, Richard Wright
Manchester United: Richard Hartis, Craig Mawson
Newcastle United: Adam Bartlett, Shwan Jalal (Bartlett holds the ‘Head of Goalkeeping’ role whilst Jalal is the First Team Goalkeeper Coach)
Nottingham Forest: Danny Alcock
Southampton: Andrew Sparkes
Tottenham Hotspur: Marco Savorani
West Ham United: Xavi Valero
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Tony Roberts
*average Premier League goalkeeper coach age calculated by adding the ages of all the aforementioned goalkeeper coaches (aside from Liverpool's Jack Robinson, due to unavailability of accurate information on his age) and dividing by 28 (the number of coaches above minus Robinson)