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GK Special: Tom Weal on working with sports science and psychology

6 April 2020

With Academy goalkeepers Archie Mair and Daniel Barden both making their U19s international debuts for Scotland and Wales respectively this season, Goalkeeping Coach Tom Weal can see progress is being made.

In a feature that originally appeared in OTBC, our official award-winning matchday programme, we spoke to Tim Krul, Archie Mair, Joe Rose and goalkeeping coaches Ed Wootten and Tom Weal to understand the factors that contribute to the success.

Finally, Tom Weal… What do you put the achievements of our goalkeepers down to?

TW: I think it’s the holistic approach to developing goalkeepers that the academy and club have got. We work very closely so it’s never just me and the academy keepers or Ed and the first-team keepers.

We work closely with all different departments including sports science, so that includes Jay Eastoe-Smith for me as well as people in psychology.

Then you have the outfield coaches like Steve Weaver and David Wright. It’s not a singular approach. We give them a secure support structure, so I think the success of the lads is down to them, but we provide a solid support network as they drive their own success.

David Wright Reading Cropped Cropped.jpg Archie told us about the backgrounds of our different keepers and how their techniques and diversity have helped.

TW: It’s invaluable for the lads. Ed is fantastic at exposing the academy keepers to first team training. They get exposed to Tim and Michael, who have very different backgrounds and training and are very different goalkeepers.

It allows those lads to pick little bits up from each of them and have little nuggets of conversation, which are often far more powerful than anything I can do for them to be honest! Tim has played in the semi-finals of the World Cup.

You watch them work and if you just take one bit away everything you work with them, speak with them or see them in the gym, it’s a reflection of where we are as a club. It’s very fluid and open and everyone wants everyone to succeed and our aim is to give them every opportunity to do that. What makes you most proud of the young keepers?

TW: Learning and development. For our lads we’re not really training for the game on Friday, we’re training for the debut they make in two- or three-years’ time hopefully.

Mair villa game Cropped.jpg

As long as they’re applying themselves in the best possible way on and off the pitch and doing everything they can through analysis, sports science, nutrition and show an application for having an understanding of what makes them better, that really ticks boxes for me.

Now and again, we hope to get a few good performances and successes off the back of that and that’s a bonus.

We give them a lot of autonomy and responsibility to drive that development so when they do apply themselves under our support structure, that’s what we’re after – that desire to make a career and get a debut for the first team. Hopefully the rest will follow.

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