Alan Biggs at Large: Goalkeepers will be key for Nigel Adkins at Sheffield United

Mark Howard
Mark Howard

Whoever’s looking out from between the sticks for Sheffield United next season will have a different view to the rest of us... and the manager will be keen to hear it.

Maybe put a notebook and pen in that little kitbag in the back of the net? Certainly, Mark Howard and company can expect to have a crucial input into half-time team talks.

Nigel Adkins meets the media at Bramall Lane

Nigel Adkins meets the media at Bramall Lane

New chief Nigel Adkins reckons keepers can see the game better than any player on the field (plus most watching it). And, of course, he should know.

The former custodian-turned physio-turned manager is also well qualified to debunk the theory that goalies don’t make good bosses. Four promotions put the lie to that one.

But listening to the ex-Scunthorpe and Southampton manager does make you wonder why there are not more of his kind.

“As a keeper you’re always looking to problem-solve. . .you’re looking at the whole team and you’re looking for the things that happen in front of you,” says the one-time Liverpool trainee who turned out for Tranmere and Wigan before joining Bangor City as player-manager and leading the little Welsh outfit into Europe.

“I’ll always go and speak to my keeper at half-time, sit down and say: ‘From where you’re looking at the game, where’s the issue? Where are the dangers?’”

Adkins has seen the game from all angles. “I had 300 plus matches as a goalkeeper and then I became a physio so, all of a sudden, for 500 odd games, I’m watching from the sidelines.

It’s a different view entirely. And then I have 500 odd games as a manager and again I’m looking from the side or sometimes from the stand. It’s a different game from up there – it looks a slower tempo – but you can see the distances more clearly. I prefer the touchline and I think supporters prefer to see the manager there too.

“But we all see it differently from different perspectives. Opinions can vary depending on where people sit.”

It’s why the Birkenhead-born 50-year-old is always keen to hear how it looks from the position where he learned about football – and from where you can get a snapshot of the whole pitch and every player.

In fact, there have been some brilliantly successful keeper-managers ones. The Belgian, Raymond Goethals, won the European Cup with Marseilles during an outstanding career that also delivered good times for Standard Liege and his country. And Dino Zoff’s impressive feats with Juventus and Italy are legendary.

“I think it’s going to become more and more prevalent,” Adkins tells this column, pointing to characteristic traits that further reinforce his argument.

“As a keeper you’ve got to be thick-skinned. If you make a mistake it gets highlighted ten-fold. You are closer to supporters where you can hear all the banter that goes on.

It means you have to be single-minded – and being thick-skinned is very much a trait you need as a manager.”