Video analysis and beating Cristiano Ronaldo: Introducing Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan

Abashed, bruised, belittled, Cristiano Ronaldo dragged himself from the Roots Hall turf, through the chorus of customary boos and Southend celebrations and into a quiet changing room.

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 6:00 am

Outside; a pitch invasion, unbridled joy and pandemonium at Southend United’s greatest ever triumph. The Sky Sports cameras panned through highlights of Manchester United efforts; of Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo trying and failing to save face and book their place in the League Cup fifth round. Southend United, though, victorious. 1-0.

Holding champagne in the middle of the madness, microphone a few inches from his nose, was one man; Darryl Flahavan, the evening’s man of the match.

14 years on from that famous night Southend supporters still regard the keeper, now Sheffield Wednesday’s goalkeeping coach, as one of the club’s seminal figures. His form between the sticks helped them to back-to-back promotions that took them to the Championship in the mid-00s – their golden period.

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Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had to wait six years to get one over on now-Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan after he shut him out in a match between Southend United and Manchester United.

Grainy YouTube footage of the climax of those glory years, where the Shrimpers left the Red Devils red-faced, still gets occasional airtime in the Flahavan household.

Any why not? The evening’s standout performer, the then-28-year-old made a string of saves to deny a side full to bursting with full internationals aside, from future Owls midfielders David Jones and Kieran Lee.

Three in particular, each from Ronaldo, would not be out of place in any of the European Cup finals the Portuguese has competed in since.

Video footage is something the Southampton-born coach is all about. Having made his way through the Saints youth ranks alongside both Garry Monk and James Beattie, his career in the football league ended in 2016 when Monk invited him to join his ranks as a keeper coach at Leeds United. Flahavan has been with him at every club since.

New Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan.

He’s a popular and engaging teacher who looks to employ the most modern and enjoyable methods he can, according to former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, who spoke to The Star about the six months he spent under Flahavan’s rule during Monk’s short reign in 2017.

The attention to detail Monk places in his set-up is one that runs throughout his coaching staff, it would seem.

“He's a new generation goalkeeping coach and because he's still young, he'll still be getting better with time and it's credit to him he's done what he's done already,” Konstantopoulos said of the 41-year-old.

“In my career there weren't many goalkeeping coaches that put so much detail on video analysis. He always wants to look at replays, situations, the goals you conceded and what you can do better. It's a modern way of looking at things.

“He studies the games and opponents coming up and every training is focused on their strengths and what we can do for that. There's always a focus on what we can do to improve but he also makes you look at the things you've done well. It's a lot of paying attention to detail.”

Video footage from Sheffield Wednesday’s first few days back at their Middlewood Road training ground suggests a camp happy, focused and together.

Flahavan’s fellow inductees Beattie and Andrew Hughes appear to have settled in well as the keeper coach gets to know Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson ahead of the resumption of the pair’s battle for ascendancy between the sticks.

Konstantopoulos, whose name Wednesday fans will recognise as the Hartlepool keeper that oh-so-nearly saved Steven MacLean’s late penalty in the 2005 League One playoff final, said he has no doubts Flahavan will quickly place himself as one of the most popular members of the set-up.

“Darryl is a top lad,” he said. “The good thing is that he makes training very enjoyable. I really enjoyed my time with him. He's very methodical, he pays attention to detail, video analysis before and after games, he gives you clear tips and points on opponents and things like that.

“Each goalkeeper is different. Some want to focus on the game and drills alone, some want all that detail and all the aspects of video. And he will change things for that preference.

“The thing with Darryl is that he becomes friends with you, he's a very approachable guy and he gets along with everyone.”

The injection of new blood is a move vitally important to any manager hoping to impose his ideas on a squad, said the six-foot-seven Greek international, who also played with Monk at Swansea.

Only now, he believes, can you truly begin to judge the manager’s record at Sheffield Wednesday.

“It's very important,” he said. “The management team is a team within a team and the more understanding they have of each other, the more results show a reflection of the manager in charge.

“It makes things easier to get their message across to the players. Garry has people he trusts, that’s natural, they're all on the same wavelength and it's easier to work with the players.”

And what of that unlikely Ronaldo / Flahavan saga?

The keeper played on for two seasons at Southend, notching up over 300 appearances in the process, before a back-up gig at Crystal Palace, a handful of loan spells, stints at Bournemouth and Crawley and then into coaching.

Ronaldo? Well, we know what happened next and incredibly, the Portuguese superstar returned to get one over on his Roots Hall nemesis, netting twice in a 2013 pre-season friendly between Bournemouth and Real Madrid that finished 6-0 to the Spanish giants. The other scorers? Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Casemiro and Sami Khedira.

You can’t win them all. But at 1-1 against Cristiano Ronaldo, you win on aggregate.


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