Watson's got the lot

Roy Hodgson's new-look England set-up includes the arrival of Birmingham City's Dave Watson as goalkeeper coach. The ex-Barnsley player, who knows a thing or two about England's finest between the sticks, caught up with Kait Borsay ahead of the European Championship.

Kait Borsay catches up with new England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson ahead of Euro 2012.

It's not good timing or a coincidence that the careers of Joe Hart and Ben Foster were much invigorated by spending a season at Birmingham City. It's no fluke either that England U21 goalkeeper Jack Butland, the player who will most likely challenge for the senior No.1 shirt in years to come, has also spent the last five years learning his trade at St Andrews. "When I got the phone call (from England) I was delighted," said Watson. "I didn't take a second or hesitate at all in accepting the invitation. I couldn't believe what a great opportunity had been bestowed upon me. I want to embrace it and enjoy it and try and be part of something that's going to go on and be successful." Watson is touted as one of coaching's bright young things. Now aged 38, his own career at hometown club Barnsley was cruelly cut short by a knee injury and he was forced to retire from the game some ten years ago. If there can be a positive taken from having your dream taken so young, particularly in goalkeeping terms, it is that Watson demands that those under his tutelage make the most of their talent: learn, develop and be at the very top of their game. Their ambitions must match his. Here is a coach determined to return England to the golden age of goalkeeping after a decade of mixed success. "To finish as a young player who didn't achieve what I wanted to achieve, probably the hardest thing I see is people not giving it their all. "Players who have an abundance of talent and they're not prepared to give everything to let that talent flourish. I find that very frustrating." Watson describes himself as a simple and traditional guy. Royston-born and developed through the youth system at Barnsley he remained a one-club man. In all he made over 200 appearances for the Tykes and played for the England U21 side, alongside a rich vein of talent that included the likes of Jamie Rednapp, Steve McManaman, Andy Cole and Sol Campbell. He admits that until he started playing for England at the age of 17 he wasn't really sure if he was good enough for a career in the professional game.

Injury heartache

Following an injury sustained in a game against Norwich in September 1998 Watson spent over two years trying to rehabilitate a knee that was slowly giving up on him. When he realised the prognosis was getting worse rather than better he turned to coaching. "It's difficult giving up on your dream," he said. "Without friends and family I wouldn't have been able to eventually come through that dark phase to a place where I've been offered the kind of opportunity that has just come my way." What Watson was unable to achieve as a young goalkeeper himself is now realised through the players he coaches: "You live and breathe through them now so any success is like a shared success. If those lads are producing on the field that's your time there." Watson credits his goalkeeping coach at Barnsley, Eric Steele - who now works at Manchester United - as being a big influence on his career. "As a coach and a guy he's phenomenal," he adds with genuine admiration. "I think for him to now be working at Manchester United is a credit to him - the work, effort and desire he shows, and the commitment to want to improve. "From that perspective I couldn't have asked for a better role model. Because it's just there in front of you and if you want to achieve you just follow that pathway."
Personal touch
Steele has even had a hand in his Watson's personal life. Whilst Watson was getting his badges Steele would put him up at his house so he could watch him coach at Aston Villa. Watson went to watch the team play in a Europa Cup qualifying game with Steele's wife Elaine and found himself sitting next to the Villa assistant manager, John Deehan's eldest daughter, Emma. Afterwards there was a well-timed dinner party by Elaine, along to which Deehan and wife Linda brought Emma. The rest is history. The couple had their first child Ethan, in July last year.Watson went onto work as goalkeeping coach with Northampton, Oldham, Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest before replacing Nigel Spink at Birmingham in January 2008. He also began working with the England U19 side. It's known the FA were keen to promote from within, particularly after being so impressed following Watson's work with the England youth teams. He'll be working alongside Ray Clemence and is quick to point out that his appointment won't have been based on his experience working with goalkeepers in the league alone. "Ray Clemence and Martin Thomas at the FA have given me fantastic opportunities by asking me to coach the younger teams and opening doors for me - irrespective of the work I've done with Joe and the other lads I've coached." He's relishing the chance of working with Joe Hart again, having spent a year nurturing the raw talent that arrived at Birmingham's Wast Hills training centre some three seasons ago. "It was a true testament to him that he made the decision that there was no point sitting on the bench at Manchester City," Watson said of Hart. "He took himself out of his comfort zone because he wanted to play football. For me as a coach that gives you a great start. "He's got a fantastic attitude, he would spend hours and hours on that training ground if you let him. He enjoys his football, and he enjoyed learning and developing. The biggest advantage he had was that he was open-minded when he went into the analysis room and it took criticism on board and used it as a real educational tool. That for me, was how we developed his game and he just got better and better. "He's a great guy, he wanted to play football and he just embraced everything I gave him. Not only did he produce better performances on the football field, he matured off it." Watson comes across as tough but fair. And not devoid of interest in the personal development of his players either. "At certain points you need to have that distance, things are done and said, but ultimately it's about having a close relationship," he said. "It's a two-way trust thing. When you get in the video room and you're analysing what's coming against you or analysing your own performance in a game, it's got to be open and it's got to be a two-way conversation." It's endearing to know Hart was as keen to impress his coach off the pitch as on it whilst at Birmingham. Watson remembers a picture message he got from the now England No.1, then aged 22, proudly displaying a lasagne that he had just made at his mum and dad's house. Watson quips that it was a good job he was never subjected to a taste test.
Hart mentor
After Hart returned to Manchester City newly promoted Birmingham bought Ben Foster, who again excelled under Watson. It was hoped that the combination of his most recent manager at West Brom, Roy Hodgson, and his old Birmingham mentor would coax Foster out of retirement but Watson has his own opinion on the matter. "If I took my coaching head off and saw it as an England fan I may be frustrated that Ben's not a part of it this summer but I know his body and in all fairness it is the right decision," he said. "He would struggle to play 38 games if he got involved with England. Of course I'm disappointed because he's a great guy and he's got a great talent and he deserves to be in the England set up but unfortunately for him it's too much for his body." At club level Watson has been nurturing the talent of Butland, who is on the list of standby players for Euro 2012. The youngster, who has been coached by Watson since the age of fourteen, is hotly tipped for future success. Talking about the 19 year-old, Watson said: "He has a great physical presence, great speed and agility around the goal; he's a fantastic goalkeeper. "He's been fortunate as a young keeper to have worked with Joe and Ben and to have seen and learnt characteristics from these guys that make you stand out and make you special - and he's embraced all of those things. He will be the one to come through and challenge these guys." The son of a mining surveyor and a hairdresser Watson is straight talking and to the point. His strong Barnsley accent deep-seated and unmistakable, I can't think that any of his old teammates ever struggled to hear him on the pitch, or were particularly keen to subject themselves to an earful from him. Away from the pitch one of his many pleasures is walking his dog Wogan, (named by Watson, a Radio 2 fan after the young pup arrived on the day of Sir Terry's knighthood), a compliant and handsome golden retriever. You get the feeling though that could the dog don a pair of goalkeeping gloves and stand upright in front of a goalmouth Watson would make a point of coaching him too.

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