Westcarr’s development to first-team supported by footwork improvement says GK coach Edwards

Academy goalkeeper coach Matthew Edwards says Academy ‘keeper Rhys Westcarr’s footwork for his size, has helped the most in his development into the first-team.

Edwards explained how Westcarr, already around 6’4 when aged just 16-years-old, now a non-contract signing with the senior squad, is naturally going to need focus on his movement, whilst the ‘keeper coach also praised his player’s improved discipline of lifestyle.

“With Rhys I would go the other way and say if we can really improve the technical stuff, which he has, his feet are a lot quicker, his handling’s become a lot better – the size is always going to be there,” says Edwards.

“For me it’s easy for big goalies to rely on being big which can cause other technical issues where maybe if goalies have been big from a young age, they rely on getting in the way and neglect the technical stuff.

“There’s certain things due to size, like crosses for example, I would always encourage him to be as positive as possible because the size of him, if he’s coming out for crosses, people are going to get out the way, and he can really help the team and be effective from things like that in particular.

“From a shot stopping point of view, it’s still working on quick feet, power, similar to if I was working with someone who was 5’9 – the staples of goalkeeping.

“Making him a professional athlete in terms of the lifestyle has helped him massively. Being consistent in the gym, his diet, has made him more consistent on the pitch. At the back end of last season he was playing for the U23s and you could notice the difference, as a 16-year-old playing for the U23s. Any little footwork things, like that, at 6’4 at 16, naturally your feet are going to be slower than someone who is 5’9 so really working on that, making sure his feet were sharp, getting into position. That’s always going to be something that’s difficult for someone his size and his age”.

Edwards, who made his own professional debut aged 19 for Rochdale, says Westcarr must show he is a leader on the pitch, based on the former pro’s own experience in senior football.

The ‘keeper replaced injured Josh Lillis as a 69th minute substitute in a 1-1 draw vs Oldham – protected by current West Ham defender Craig Dawson.

“I always say to the ‘keepers, you’re the only one who can see all of the pitch so you’ve gotta use that, you’ve gotta be organising.

“To be a first-team player, can he be a stand-out for the 23s every time. You’ve got to be a leader in the 23s. Even though he is one of the youngest, he’s now become one of the more experienced because he’s had that first-team experience and can he take that into those games, be loud, be organised.

“Being consistent. That constant repetition of technique. If you’ve got a set of 10, can you catch all 10 every time. Coming into training with the same mindset you would if it was a cup final in terms of how hard you’re going to work and concentrate.

“Lads i’ve played with – the ones who do things properly are the ones who have the best careers. How can I still improve when I’m at home, sleep, rest, or watching games on the tele to learn from. Football’s got to be your life”.

This is Edwards’ second season coaching Westcarr but they had a brief encounter when the Academy ‘keeper was around 13-years-old.

“Funnily enough, I first met Rhys when he was about 13/14 and I was doing some of my private coaching and he came up for one day. But he signed for Oldham a week or so after that so after that one day I didn’t see him again then for a few years. I would say the first time I met him, it was ‘he’s got loads of natural ability”.

Edwards also provided an update on fellow Academy ‘keepers Harvey Kelly and Ethan Cotton.

“Harvey, for me, his fitness, his lifestyle, the way he eats, is brilliant. The amount he’s come on in the last few years is brilliant and it’s all because of his lifestyle and how hard he wants to work when he comes to training. It’s just getting him that exposure to men’s football. He’s got a hip injury. He’s absolutely fine on his feet but he can’t do any diving for the impact from it. These sessions we’ve just got to tailor it, so whereas when Rhys was diving, Harvey was slightly different. It means he can stay sharp so when he’s fully fit, he’s ready to go straight away.

“Ethan’s had a little taste of senior football, I think it was with Goole, last season, so that bit will become important. He had a knee injury, he’s been back the last couple of months but it’s still building to get him to that physical state which he was before that injury.

Westcarr returns to U19s action in the league cup against Frickley Athletic on Wednesday 29th September, 12pm kick-off.