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Participant Focus: Max's journey

7 December 2020

It’s always a delight to hear from participants who attended the RDP programmes from years gone by.

In the past week, we heard from Max who was part of our Goalkeeper development programme up until 2017, and then went on to play Academy football, and is now focusing his attention on his education alongside his football commitments.

Max shared some of his journey so far:

How did you get into goalkeeping?

I was  playing for my local team, Deeping Rangers Clarets as a central defender at the age of 7, being the biggest player in the team it was almost a given I would play there. However, I had always shown an interest in goalkeeping though, and would always try and get in goal for the penalty shootouts after the game had finished. There was another Deeping Rangers team, Deeping blues, the better one of the two, and they had just lost their keeper to another team. As a result they were holding "try outs" for the role. I put myself forward to have a go and see what could happen. Not long after the session the manager told me that I would be the new goalkeeper of the team and since that I never looked back - taking inspiration off of the likes of Joe Hart and Iker Casillas.

What was your journey moving forwards?

From the age of 7 to 9 the team I played in was very successful team, winning the division 1 title two years in a row. We had played in many tournaments and we were able to come out as winners a few times in these events too.

At the age 9, we had a game against a Norwich City Centre of Excellence team in St Neots. I was very nervous for the game as it was the first time I had played against a team like that. In the game I concentrated on my own performance, communicating to my team mates but most importantly I saved a number of shots to play my bit in a good result for my side. After the game a Norwich scout, Paul Taylor, asked me for my name before getting in contact with my team coach. Subsequently, I was invited down to a six week trial where I was fortunate enough to be given a space at the Centre of Excellence at Norwich City.

Unfortunately the Centre of Excellence at the specific venue was closed down, however I was given the opportunity to join a Goalkeeper Programme on a Friday night which I loved not only because I finished school early, but I gained a lot of confidence and support from both Alex Kaufman, who overlooked and managed the whole programme, and Indie Darar, the goalkeeping coach. I spent 3 years in the Norwich goalkeeping development scheme, attending sometimes three sessions every Monday or Friday in Cambridgeshire, where I was picked for internal games and training sessions and fixtures at Norwich’s training ground.

Pushing myself to be the best I could be.  Close to the end of my time at Norwich, I wanted to take the next step in my early footballing career and push towards the Academy. Although it didn't happen at Norwich, the coaches and Paul Taylor were extremely supportive and were able to get in contact with Cambridge united. 

I spent just under 3 years at Cambridge united, loving every minute of it. The support I received off the coaching staff, such as Nigel Hurrell, Jimmy Unwin and a number of others was hugely beneficial to me, as well as meeting team mates who I’ve continued to stay close with and helping to make my time at the club to be even more enjoyable.

I was able to experience tours the team went on, big games against Premier League opposition as well as training with the first team for a week and making my youth team debut at a young age. 

However, my time at Cambridge came to an end when I was not offered a scholarship It was a big blow to the system for me, but with further support from my mum, I was determined to make a positive out of the situation. I came out of Cambridge and went straight into Yaxley Football Club, gaining valuable experiences playing for their reserve side in men’s football and additionally their U16s team on a Sunday.

I now play for the men’s team at Deeping Rangers as well as for the U18s side in the floodlit midweek league, doing everything I can to achieve my goals of being a professional footballer.

How did you find Academy football and what did you learn?

Academy football was brilliant. At first it was hard and I wasn't used to the intensity or technical side of football. But I didn't feel out of place, the group of boys and coaches helped me to adjust, and I was able to get my head around it, knowing that this is where I want to be. I would go to every training session and every game with a smile on my face and thoroughly enjoy every little bit of it. Every session was challenging, pushing me to be the best keeper I could be, all contributing to developing my overall game. I was lucky enough to play in games against top teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs but also experience some great opportunities. The one that stands out is being able to train with the with the first team for some sessions, experiencing the professional footballers day to day life. Academy football is such big commitment and it requires a lot of support from your family, and I know I wouldn't of got to where I got to without the support from my mum and grandad continuously driving me to and from training and games.

Not only did I learn so much on the pitch and on the footballing side of the game but being in an academy taught me hugely beneficial life skills: resilience, humility and respect to name a few. It also taught me about what kind of character I had and how situations off the pitch can influence my performance on the pitch, so finding the balance was crucial.

What are you doing now?

At the minute, I’m currently playing for my local men’s team, Deeping Rangers in step 5. As well as this, I’m studying A-Level sports and psychology at Sixth Form. 

What's your future ambitions? Work/Coaching/Playing etc?

For me the goal is still the same as what it was when I started playing football, to play professionally at the highest level I can. However alongside this I understand the importance of an education. Therefore I am aiming to be able to study Sports science and coaching at Loughborough university alongside my passion for playing the game. I would also love to be able to work in the professional game too, coaching at the top level and being able to share my experiences with young players and help them to achieve their goals and ambitions. 

If you had one message for young goalkeepers, what would it be?

In every session, "be a sponge"! Absorb as much information as you can to help develop your individual game, because the more knowledge you have, the greater effect it will have on your performance and the further you will progress in the game.

Max is a prime example of someone that has a pure enjoyment for football, works hard and turns everything into a positive. Everyone at the RDP is proud of his achievements to date and can’t wait to hear about his future success.

If you have a son / daughter interested in goalkeeping why not get in contact with us. We have weekly courses available for 6-16 year olds and opportunities during the school holidays.

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