Being the reserve goalkeeper at a football club, can be a thankless task. If the number one choice is playing well, making no mistakes and has cemented their place in the team, it can be difficult for the reserve to keep their motivation and spirits up. Unlike an outfield substitute, a reserve goalkeeper is rarely brought in to the action, unless the first choice keeper has been injured or sent off.
So, as a reserve goalkeeper, what can you do to ensure that when your chance arrives, you are ready to seize upon it and make the most of it?
Firstly, it’s vital that a reserve goalkeeper trains with the same intensity and purpose as the number one choice. If the reserve goalkeeper is not, at the very least, matching the number one choice in terms of effort, determination and focus in training, then chances are, an opportunity in the team will never come. Not only that but if a chance does come, the reserve goalkeeper has to be 100% ready to step in. Anything less and they will not only be letting themselves down but also their team-mates and supporters.
Each training session has to be thought of as another opportunity to show the manager, that you deserve your place in the team come the weekend. It can be difficult, as you will probably be friends with the first choice, especially having trained with them so often. However, if you take one look at the strikers training, each of them wants to play ahead of the other and the goalkeeping position should be no different.
Keeping motivation levels high can be difficult but one day during the season, for whatever reason, the reserve goalkeeper usually gets an opportunity to play and that is what keeps them going. That one chance and being ready to take it. Participating in regular diving, handling and rhythm work sessions, are key for a reserve goalkeeper in order to remain at the top of their game and be prepared for a chance when it arrives. Simply participating in regular training sessions is the minimum during the course of a week. To really make an impression on a manager, a goalkeeper should be willing to take on extra work, after the usual training session has concluded. This can include extra ball handling skills from crosses and shots because much of the time, strikers and set-piece takers will also want to practice after the training session is over.
During the course of recent seasons, some of the best goalkeepers in the world have been reserves. Iker Casillas, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers the world has ever seen, had to settle for a place on the bench during the 2013/14 season. However, he remained at the club, continued to train and then re-claimed his position the following season. One look at the video of Casillas in action, following his return to the team, highlights how hard he kept training. It would be impossible to come back in and perform like this without putting in the effort.
As a young reserve goalkeeper, Jack Butland is a great example. Having been kept on the bench at Stoke City for so long, as Asmir Begovic was in possession of the number one jersey, Butland continued to work hard at his game. Even on joining Stoke from Birmingham, Butland was talking about playing for England, even though he probably knew he would not even go straight in to the Stoke team. Then, when Begovic left to join Chelsea, he was ready to make the number one jersey his own and is an England international.
The majority of the world’s best goalkeepers started life as a reserve or have been a reserve at some point during their career. If you ask them what the secret is, it’s all about being ready to take that chance when it arrives through hard work in training..