Shwan Jalal out to make up for lost time after being sidelined for a frustrating three and a half months
This season began with three straight clean sheets for Shwan Jalal and in their last five games he’s had another four, but the period in between was ‘frustrating’ to say the least.
The veteran goalkeeper joined the club in the summer from National League champions Macclesfield and appeared to hit the ground running under then Town boss Martin Allen.
Allen wrote in his Daily Mail column on 13th August that he’d take Jalal over Chelsea’s £72m keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
But by the end of the month youngster Callum Burton had been borrowed from Hull City and Jalal was suddenly dropped.
He returned to the side in September and made four more appearances, before Achilles tendonitis took him out of the equation.
A seven week period of injury turned into a three and a half month spell on the sidelines as Burton retained his starting place.
“It’s been a bit frustrating,” said the former Bournemouth stopper.
“Obviously I didn’t envisage being out of the team for as long as I was.”
What compounded the 35-year-old’s frustration was the lack of clarity over why he lost his place in August.
“In a word, no, I didn’t really understand the reasons,” he said.
“There was no rhyme or reason, it was one of those I just had to get on with.
“I’ve been a professional for 18 years, managers make a decision, you just have to respect it and get on with it.”
When Allen was sacked just after Christmas, hope began to rise again for Jalal.
But he knew he wouldn’t just waltz back into the starting XI.
“I thought there was a chance.
“I spoke to John Pemberton when he was in charge. I’d not played in such a long time that I was never going to walk straight back into the side.
“I took it upon myself to do a lot of work with the youth team goalkeeping coach Dave O’Hare, just trying to get my fitness back up.
“When John was in charge I was doing sessions before the games and trying to get myself back up to speed again.
“I knew a new manager would come in and I knew I had to be ready to play.”
A moment of madness for Burton, who was red carded for retaliation against Ebbsfleet then returned to Hull, and the arrival of new boss John Sheridan still didn’t guarantee Jalal first team football, at least in his mind.
“I worked with Callum and he’s a very good, young, up and coming goalkeeper.
“When things are heated like that, the striker did his best to provoke him and maybe Callum got dragged into it.
“On another day maybe the referee wouldn’t have seen it.
“As it goes, that’s what happened.
“I never took it for granted, Joe Anyon is still there as well, all I knew was that come the following weekend it would be myself or Joe.
“I’ve played over 400 games, I know when I’m ready, I felt ready and luckily enough I got the shirt against Bedford.”
The veteran appears to have grabbed his second chance with both hands.
Town haven’t conceded in league action since Jalal returned between the sticks in Sheridan’s team.
Being philosophical about the way the season has gone might be a little easier now he’s playing, but Jalal is keen to put his 24-game absence from action behind him by helping the Spireites remain in the National League.
“I’m experienced enough to know that’s football and you’ve just got to take your chance when you’re given it.
“That’s what I’m trying to do now, trying to make up for lost time.
“A new manager has come in, training has been a lot more intense, it’s about learning the way he wants to work.
“Last year with Macclesfield we won the league and I thought, I had a hope we’d hit the ground running and we did, winning the first three games of the season.
“But unfortunately what happened, happened.
“We are confident, there’s a good feeling about the place and we’ve got to back ourselves.”