EB had the opportunity to meet Everton (and arguably the World’s) best ever goalkeeper Neville Southall at the weekend. ‘Big Nev’ as he is known to the Goodison faithful, is Everton’s record appearance holder and the most decorated player in the club’s history. He also has an opinion or two on football…. so we asked him some tactics related questions….
Why do pundit’s say you should never get beaten on the near post? Surely getting beaten on the far post is just as bad?
I’d look to trap people and get them do what I wanted them to do…. it’s mostly a mental thing. I’d stand on the near post which is basically saying to the striker to go and hit it far post so I was telling them where I wanted them to hit it. In one on ones you could pretend to go one way to make the striker go the other way… knowing what they were going to do you could prepare your body to move that way when the ball is struck.
You played in Championship winning sides in the 80’s and had games when you were quite inactive due to the quality of talent in front of you at Everton. How did you maintain your concentration?
I’d use a red / amber / green light system. When we had the ball in their final third it was green, I could relax. When it got to the half way line it went amber, and when they took it to the final third it was red. Look at Rob Green in the World Cup (vs USA)… he’s switched off and wasn’t ready for the shot. You can’t focus intensely for 90 mins…anyone who says so is lying…sometimes you can concentrate too much and your mind goes empty… but you need to get used to switching your brain up and down.
What is the number one attribute which defines a great keeper as opposed to a good keeper?
Decision making without question. If you haven’t got that right you haven’t got a chance of making it to the top. When to come for a cross, when to stay on your line etc. Look at Market Traders, they know when to buy and when not to sell. In the top flight every player is fit, the difference is in the decision making, same as it is anywhere on the pitch. Look at Beardsley when he played for us, threading through balls game after game…but no one was on his wave length to get on the end of them.
Victor Valdez at Barcelona is often used as a sweeper. Do you see this as a growing trend for keepers?
Keepers have been sweepers for years. It’s dependent on the defenders in front of you. If you’ve got 4 quick defenders you know you’re not going to have to do much. If you have slow players you’ll be doing plenty. Barthez at United had Rio Ferdinand and Laurent Blanc in front of him, one very slow, one lightening quick, and this often confused him and he’d get caught out. The tempo isn’t necessarily quicker these days, its just that teams all play deeper, counter attack football so with the break away it just seems quicker. In the modern games teams setup to counter attack, so deeper defensive lines, meaning you don’t get the through balls you used to get from the half way line years ago. Through balls now are closer to the goal and the mental knowledge to be able to read the game for a keeper is massive.
Would you advocate studying opponent’s pre match or ‘in-game’ technology for preparing to face opponents in penalty shoot outs like Joe Hart at Euro 2012?
No. You can’t look at it as one penalty in a shoot out, it’s over the 5. Buffon didn’t move unless he had to in that shoot out. Hart was wasting mental energy trying to put them off. He didn’t have the focus on what he was going to do. It’s all about emotion. If someone tells me Player X has hit his last 10 pens to the right but I fancy he’s going to the left it causes indecision in the keepers mind. The first penalty is vital, You need to go with instinct, I didn’t want people talking to me between penalties and if I needed to rely on an i-pad I’d be f*cked.
What would you say are Tim Howard’s strengths and weaknesses as a keeper?
His shot stopping and dealing with crosses is great. He also swears more than me which is fu*king great. If I was to be really picky I’d say he needs to look at his kicking. Sometimes if we’ve got little guys up front and you kick it long it’s going to come straight back at you.
You are now a coach with your own foundation. Tell us about how you learned your trade and the coaching style you use to train players
I’ve had plenty of coaches -Gordon Banks and Peter Bonetti for example – but Wilf McGuiness taught me everything I needed to know about goalkeeping. He’d say if a striker smashes you – Teddy Sheringham broke my ribs twice – you’ve got to get up and laugh at them. Jim Barron was probably my best coach; he got me the fittest I’ve ever been with his military sessions. My idol was Pat Jenning’s who also played at Everton in the 80’s in the later days of his career.
In terms of coaching, textbooks are well and good but individual plans are crucial. If you have one keeper whose 5ft and one who’s 6ft why teach them the same? One could be a coward whilst one will have plenty of bottle. I encourage younger kids to mix in with the older lads who have different qualities and so it’s not that much of a change when they move up the age groups. Coaching is about learning on the spot, you need to give kids info but cant overload if they don’t understand it. From 10 yrs you’ve got to ask them questions, find out what makes them tick. I don’t talk, talk, talk to them. What’s the point? I like to facilitate, let them discuss things.
Neville Southall’s new book ‘The Bin Man Chronicles’ is available to buy at all Good Book Shops and online retailers.
Many thanks to James Corbett and De Coubertin books for enabling the interview.