The secret behind Sheffield United's goalkeeping successes

Jamal Blackman makes a save against Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium
Jamal Blackman makes a save against Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium
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He spends most of his time working in the shadows but Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, thinks it is time to begin shedding some light on the work of goalkeeping coach Darren Ward.

Wilder has been fulsome in his praise of the 43-year-old this season, citing Ward’s expertise as a major factor behind Jamal Blackman’s form since arriving at Bramall Lane earlier this summer.

Sheffield United goalkeeping coach Darren Ward

Sheffield United goalkeeping coach Darren Ward

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s derby against Sheffield Wednesday, the United manager also attributed Simon Moore’s performances during last term’s League One title triumph to the knowledge Ward imparts during their training sessions.

“I think if you speak to both of them, and the same goes for Jake Eastwood who is a great young ‘keeper too, they’ll tell you how good Wardy is,” Wilder said. “He gives them everything they need to know, makes sure they understand what to expect during the games and then helps them develop the skills to perform like they do. What he does deserves to be recognised.

"The lads themselves, I know, will say the same thing.”

Ward, who was capped five times by Wales before retiring in 2009, initially worked at United’s Steelphalt Academy before taking over first-team duties. When Moore was injured during July’s friendly with Rotherham - he is set to take part in today’s development fixture against Millwall (kick-off 2pm) - Ward was handed the responsibility of ensuring Blackman, signed on loan from Chelsea, could step into the breach.

Blades goalkeeper Jamal Blackman has come in on loan from Chelsea

Blades goalkeeper Jamal Blackman has come in on loan from Chelsea

The youngster’s performances since have prompted Wilder to admit Moore faces a battle to regain his place as United prepare for their visit to Hillsborough.

“I’ve never had a ‘one’ or a ‘two’ goalkeeper,” he said. “The position is just far too important for that. It was a brave decision by Jamal to come up here from London. Like all of the Premier League lads, you know they’ve got ability but have they got the attitude? Jamal and Cameron (Carter-Vickers), who we’ve brought in from Spurs, have shown that they have. I think the strength and the attitude of the group helps. It rubs off.”

Simon Moore has missed this season so far through injury

Simon Moore has missed this season so far through injury

Simon Moore picked up an injury in the p[re-season friendly with Rotherham United

Simon Moore picked up an injury in the p[re-season friendly with Rotherham United