The Coronavirus outbreak couldn’t have come at a worse time for Alloa Athletic goalkeeper Neil Parry.
The aptly-named shot-stopper was just returning from injury when the pandemic hit, meaning he missed almost the entirety of the 2019-20 season.
There is one positive he take from this season, though – his work with young goalies at East Kilbride Youth Club (EKYC), where he has coached alongside fellow Alloa teammate, Chris Henry. His experience at high levels has provided aspiring young goalkeepers the best practices and skills to progress.
“Goalkeeping is 90% mentality and 10% ability, in my opinion,” he told YFS’ Euan Wood in an exclusive interview.
“I’ve trained with some goalkeepers who can look world class but when it comes to games they don’t play well.”
“I’d tell them to go out and enjoy playing as a goalkeeper. There is no better feeling than when your contribution has helped the team.
“We all make mistakes, the best do, what you need to do is learn from it when you do and move on, and don’t let it affect you”.
It’s easier said than done though, and Parry knows that all too well. He is currently trying to get ready for next season, after only playing six times last year.
“It's the worst,” he admitted. “I've been fortunate enough to have not had a real serious injury in my career and I probably took my fitness for granted. Having a long spell not training or watching was difficult.”
“In truth you don't feel part of it. You are doing rehab on your own with the physio and [on] a Saturday when the boys get a win, you can't enjoy it as you haven't contributed.”
“It's made me realize though to take care of my body as much as possible and enjoy football as you can only be one injury from retirement.”
Despite being in the government-imposed lockdown, Parry has kept himself prepared for when the new Championship season begins by continuing to train despite current restrictions.
“Everybody can still do the basics for fitness. I’ve enjoyed going out 5ks and timing while trying to beat it.”
“But what we should all be doing is footwork, it’s really important for a goalkeeper to be able to get across their goal. I’m a huge believer in doing loads of fast feet and you only need a few cones and a small space.”
Today, it is common to see young goalkeepers with good feet moving outfield. It is a tough position for any young kid to play – make one mistake, and everyone knows about it.
“Being a goalkeeper is high pressure, if you make a mistake and it leads to a goal you need to be mentally strong,” Parry added. “I don't think outfield players really understand that and I do think coaches need to understand that. Mistakes will happen but as long as you work hard to learn from them that's all a coach can expect.”
“I've made plenty of mistakes and when I was younger. I took it really badly but now I am able to shrug it off. You become a better goalkeeper through experience so it's important players and coaches aren't too hard on goalkeepers who slip up.”
Having an illustrious career in Scottish football, Parry explained what his most memorable moments have been.
“The two that stick out would be getting man of the match against Celtic in the quarter-final of the League Cup, we got beat 2-0 but I played really well and just enjoyed the whole experience.”
“The other would be the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup we played Rangers at Ibrox with Albion Rovers. We were winning with eight minutes to go when Mohsni barged me into the goal. We hung on for a draw and replay but that was our chance and it still hurts to this day that a refereeing decision cost us.”
Hopefully, Neil will be back with Alloa and EKYC soon.
(Photo from Alloa Athletic FC.)