FAST-improving goalkeeper Gary Woods has a big future in the game - as long as he avoids complacency.
That is the view of Doncaster Rovers assistant manager Richard O’Kelly as the South Yorkshire club prepare to return to league duty at Bristol City on Saturday.
O’Kelly believes Woods will continue to flourish, providing he does not take his place in the team for granted.
“He is a young goalkeeper who has broken on to the scene and done well but it is how he copes with the next bit that is important,” he told The Star.
“Football has a habit of knocking you back so it is how Gary copes with the setbacks that will decide how far he goes in the game.
“All the indications are that he will be able to cope with the mental and physical side of the game.
“He has good people around him in Lee Butler and Neil Sullivan so he can go as far as he wants to.”
Manager Sean O’Driscoll is set to have a selection headache at Ashton Gate, with Sullivan having recently shaken off an ankle knock.
The experienced Sullivan had to settle for a place on the substitutes bench against league leaders Queens Park Rangers, with O’Driscoll opting to persevere with Woods.
Indeed, O’Driscoll handed the youngster his full debut in between the sticks in February. He went on to make four successive appearances.
However, after shipping in six goals at home to Ipswich Town, O’Driscoll omitted Woods from the starting line-up.
But following two matches on the bench, the youngster was then recalled against Watford after Sullivan picked up another injury. Woods has now featured in the last six matches, keeping one clean sheet.
With Sullivan having regained full fitness, Woods faces a battle to hang on to the number one spot.
But O’Kelly has heaped praise on Woods and feels the 20-year-old is developing into a shot-stopper of some potential.
“Over the last couple of months, Gary has really stepped up to the plate,” O’Kelly admitted.
“He came into the side and did well and then we had the Ipswich game which, from a team point of view, wasn’t great for him.
“Gary got the opportunity again to get back into the squad because of Neil (Sullivan) picking up an injury and since then he has excelled.
“His understanding, distribution seem to have moved up a notch.
“We have always known Gary was a good character. For someone so young, he shows a lot of maturity in everything he does on and off the training pitch and we are really pleased with him.”