Rover returns to Ashton Gate
Monday, 09 August, 2010
England goalkeeper coach goes back to Bristol with U21s.
England Under-21s Goalkeeping Coach Martin Thomas is looking forward to a return to Ashton Gate this week after serving for six years in Bristol as a player.
However Thomas’s time there wasn’t with City, hosts of England’s match with Uzbekistan on Tuesday night, but with their rivals Rovers. During his spell with ‘The Gas’ in the late ‘70s, the club were forced to play their home games at Ashton Gate.
Thomas, who now doubles up coaching the young England ‘keepers during international time with his work in The FA’s Football Development department as a coach educator, also played his first game for Rovers away at the Robins.
“I’d only just finished school and joined Rovers and I actually made my debut at Ashton Gate in July ’76,” said Thomas. “It was a testimonial for one of their former midfielders, Trevor Tainton. He was a bit of a legend at City and wanted the local derby to be his testimonial.
“At the time City were in the first division and we were in the second division, but there was still a big rivalry between the two clubs. They are very passionate about their football so hopefully on Tuesday we can see them all get behind the Under-21s.”
The Welshman continued: “There was actually a spell while I was at Rovers, after the stadium at Eastville burned down, that we played at Ashton Gate. The ‘Gasheads’ thought that was a bit too far, but needs must and we played all our home fixtures there while Eastville was being restored.
“I’m not sure who was more annoyed with the move – their fans or ours!”
As Thomas prepared the current Under-21s goalkeepers, Frank Fielding and Alex McCarthy, for Tuesday’s meeting with Uzbekistan, one familiar face was looking on from the tunnel. New Robins signing David James.
“They've got a goalkeeper with a lot of experience, it’s a fantastic signing for them,” said Thomas. “I had the chance to work with David during 2005 for the England friendly against Holland at Villa Park, the Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland World Cup qualifiers, then the USA tour.
“When you’re working with the senior lads it's about preparing them and making sure they do everything they need before going into the game. You don’t get a great deal of time to work with them usually, so it’s about maintaining their standards.
“With the Under-21s you also have to get the players prepared for the demands of international football and help their development. While at U16 level it’s a completely different culture again. We’ve just come from the Nordic tournament with the U16s and had the players together for the best part of 12 days, so can work with them more during that time.
“At The FA we work closely with the clubs’ coaches, and they are the ones who have the contact time with the players. We just borrow them, so we offer them something a little different and give them an experience of international football and playing against unfamiliar opposition.”
Thomas’ love for coaching began in the late ‘80s while he played for Newcastle United when the Northumberland County FA put on the preliminary course at the club’s training ground for a dozen players. Martin was one of them, alongside names such as Glenn Roeder, Paul Goddard, Peter Beardsley and Gazza, and he was soon hooked.
“I did the course, enjoyed it, and when I signed for Birmingham I thought I’d carry on coaching and take my full badge. At the back end of my career I was playing part-time at Cheltenham I also workings as a freelance goalkeeping coach going around a few clubs.
“I also worked at Lilleshall during that time and then started coaching the national teams and it’s stemmed from there. I really enjoyed it and new it was something I wanted to do full-time.”
And what is it that Thomas enjoys most about coaching?
“To me coaching is teaching, and the rewarding thing is to look back at some of the goalkeepers I’ve worked with and maybe in a small way I have helped them along the way,” he said.
“I also coach the coaches and support them, too. I deliver the Level 1 Goalkeeping Courses to the coaches right the way through to Level 4,” he explained.
“The majority of the people who take Level 1 are outfield coaches and they want to know a bit more about the basic understanding of goalkeeping. That’s open entry, so you don’t need to have another badge to take that course.
“Level 2 is a little more technical and talks about the role of the goalkeeper during the game. To take that you need to have qualified as a Level 2 Coach, but the pathway is there and goalkeeping courses are aimed at people of all levels.”
If you are interested in taking a coaching course, visit our Get Into Football section or contact your local County FA to see the range of course that are on offer.
You can follow all the latest from the England Under-21s camp here on TheFA.com, on the team's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EnglandU21s), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/thefadotcom).
Tickets for this match are now on sale from the hotline number 0871 222 6666, or in person at Ashton Gate and online by clicking here.
Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions (under-16s/senior citizens).
A discount applies for groups of 15 or more booking, with prices than reduced to £5 (adults) and £2.50 (concessions). For more information call 0871 222 6666 or download the appropriate form below.
Group Booking form, click here
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