Sheffield United: ‘Only those with a thick-skin should apply’

Sheffield United goalkeeper Mark Howard during training � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Sheffield United goalkeeper Mark Howard during training � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Sheffield United’s Mark Howard has laid bare the strength of character required to become professional goalkeeper, writes James Shield.

The 28-year-old, who returned to training following injury as Nigel Clough’s side prepared for tomorrow’s League One encounter against Fleetwood Town, also cited expert powers of concentration as a key attribute for those attempting to master football’s most demanding position.

“You know what’s probably going to happen if you make a mistake,” Howard said. “Because, unlike elsewhere on the pitch, the chances are that nobody is going to be able to bail you out.

“It going to happen over the course of a career so it’s more a case of, when it does, being able to bounce back. Not let it cloud your judgement or have a bad effect on the rest of your game.

“You can keep them to a minimum by staying switched on at all times. Even when the ball is up the other end of the pitch, and lots of people probably think we’re doing nothing, you’ve got to be alert and aware of what might happen.

“One of the things I enjoy doing, I think it’s a strength of my game, is being vocal and organising the defence. Goalkeepers get a good view of the whole pitch and, if we spot something, we can stop a dangerous situation unfolding by letting one of the other lads know.”

Howard is expected to miss Town’s visit despite making progress in his battle to overcome a back problem. United remained fifth despite being beaten by Peterborough in midweek while their opponents are 14th after drawing with Scunthorpe at Highbury three days ago.

“I’m not saying what we do is any tougher than other positions,” Howard said. “But you can’t argue that being a goalkeeper has got its own challenges which is why, I think at least, we’re a close knit bunch.

“We train together and we know what the other goalies are going through at any given time. There’s an understanding there.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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