"...working with an academy goalkeeper who is on loan in the football league, that can be quite challenging both in terms of helping them, but at the same time managing the expectations of the team manager and the club’s fans".
Name, age, where you are based?
Steve Hale, 46, based in Swindon, Wiltshire
I’m currently the First Team Goalkeeping Coach at Oldham Athletic in League Two having joined at the start of November 2018 on a deal until May 2019. I’ve worked under three different managers in that time, Frankie Bunn who I signed for, Pete Wild the academy manager who has been a caretaker manager and Paul Scholes.
I have the UEFA A Goalkeeping Licence along with my UEFA B Outfield and also the Advanced Youth Award Goalkeeping.
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
I started on the coaching pathway in my early thirties. I was playing non-league but starting to pick up niggling injuries, so just decided to start on my coaching qualifications. At around the same time, I set up my own private goalkeeping coaching school www.stevehalegoalkeeping.co.uk and I had been invited in by the academy manager at Swindon Town to do one session a week with the academy goalkeepers at the club.
Over time I grew the programme there and eventually went full-time in the academy at Swindon. Overall, I was at the club 9 years and in my last 2 years there I stepped up to also work with the first team. My title at the club was “Head of Goalkeeping” and I coached every single goalkeeper from Under 9 to the first team professional goalkeepers.
My next move was actually dropping from League One with Swindon to the National League with Forest Green Rovers, which I saw as a challenge as they were looking to try and get promoted to the football league.
After 18 months there, I took a short-term contract at League One side Walsall and helped the club alongside the other staff, to avoid relegation in what was a difficult season for the club.
My next stop and where I currently am is Oldham Athletic in League Two.
I have had a varied pathway from grass roots and non-league football to academy football and then working at League One, League Two and National League level. I’ve had such a wide range of positive and negative experiences along the way which has helped develop me massively as both a person and a coach.
Any memorable events or achievements?
In my time at Swindon, when I stepped up to look after all the goalkeepers at the club, my work with the first team saw us achieve the highest place finish in some 15 years at the club, in league one. We reached the league one play off final at Wembley. Sadly, we got beaten 4-0 on the day by a very strong Preston North End team, but that was a great experience. That season I had a great time coaching Wes Foderingham who at the end of the season, went on to join Glasgow Rangers.
Moving on to Forest Green Rovers, in my first season there we reached the National League play off final at Wembley and beat the more fancied Tranmere Rovers to gain promotion to the football league for the first time in the club’s history.
In my time so far at Oldham Athletic we had a good FA Cup run with the highlight, beating Premiership side Fulham at Craven Cottage in the third round. Our goalkeeper Daniel Iversen with help from homework I had done, saved a late penalty to help us beat them 2-1 on what was a great day for the club.
What is your training focus with your current team/players?
I focus on the first team goalkeepers at Oldham but also integrate the Scholar goalkeepers at the club as much as possible, including being part of the match day warm up in a first team game. I am also interested in the academy setup although so far time hasn’t really allowed me to get too involved at this stage.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development thus far?
I don’t think there is one thing alone that has helped me develop, I feel its been a culmination of experiences. Firstly, all the courses I have completed have been great and watching and working with the national tutors at the FA such as Martin Thomas, Simon Smith, Eric Steele, Tony Parks, Tim Dittmer. Alongside this I’ve studied the game itself and how its changing for the goalkeeper. Lastly just simply being involved every day in the game across the different levels both in terms of on the training pitch but also on a match day and the challenges you face.
I’ve worked with three young goalkeepers in Lawrence Vigouroux (Liverpool) Brad Collins (Chelsea) and Daniel Iversen (Leicester) who have been on loan from Premiership sides in league football and worked to help them adapt in the senior environment. I also worked with Sam Russell who at 34 was a very experienced goalkeeper so that was a different type of challenge.
Some main challenges as a GK Coach being?
Certainly, when working with an academy goalkeeper who is on loan in the football league that can be quite challenging both in terms of helping them, but at the same time managing the expectations of the team manager and the club’s fans. These are young goalkeepers who have potential, that’s why they are at big clubs, but they lack senior game experience and the realities of league football where points are at stake, relegation or promotion issues and managers jobs are on the line.
The young goalkeeper can have a rollercoaster of a ride where they play brilliantly one week but then make mistakes that prove costly the next. Dealing with crosses is often a very tough challenge for them in the football league coming out of academy football. Your aim is to try and help them achieve a level of consistency across the course of the season and develop as a goalkeeper while at the same time try and help the team achieve positive results.
The future -what’s next for you?
I’m currently only contracted to Oldham Athletic until the end of May so I am waiting to see what my future holds.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from many sources, from tutors that helped put me on my coaching pathway, along with goalkeeping coaches I have worked under. George Wood (ex Scotland, Arsenal and Everton Goalkeeper) was one of the first team goalkeeping coaches at Swindon while I was working in the academy there and he encouraged me massively and I looked up to him.
One of the biggest inspirations is seeing goalkeepers you work with do well, whether that’s at first team level in the professional game, an academy goalkeeper striving for a scholarship and then professional deal or young goalkeepers in my grass roots coaching school.