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Glen Johnson On Queen’s Park, Goalkeeping And Coaching Across The Globe

Glen Johnson On Queen’s Park, Goalkeeping And Coaching Across The Globe

An interview with Queens Park goalkeeping coach Glen Johnson, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You are the head of goalkeeping at Queen’s Park having been appointed in 2021. How would you reflect on your time at the club and your experience of Scottish football so far?

“It’s been a really enjoyable time, I’ve loved every minute of my time here and feel so proud to be working at, and adding value to such a historic football club.  Being able to work alongside the many great people here, is an honour.

“I didn’t realise just how big a part Queen’s Park has played in the development of the game in those early years until I came up here.

“From a personal standpoint, it’s been great to continue my development as a coach, working under the likes of Marijn Beuker, Owen Coyle & the current gaffer, Callum Davidson.

“To get promoted from League One, in the first season here, and be 45 minutes away from winning the Championship last season, were both amazing experiences, learning from & taking the positive/negative from every situation.

From a goalkeeping point of view, we have really started to develop the academy goalkeeping pathway, with Callan McKenna getting various call-ups to Scotland 17’s & 19’s squads, plus making his 1st team debut at just 16 years old. He has just made the move down to AFC Bournemouth, which is extremely pleasing.

“From a senior standpoint, Calum Ferrie has been outstanding for us the last 3 years, being named Championship GK of the Year & PFA Championship GK of the Year, so again, really pleasing for our goalkeeping group.

“I think Scottish football is heavily underrated and undervalued at times, it’s a brilliant product with amazing history, I believe it will continue to grow from strength to strength, and long may that continue.”

What does the role of a goalkeeper coach look like on a daily basis?

“It will differ from day to day. I have the week more a less planned one week ahead of time. For me, goalkeeping is so unpredictable, so I have to make sure that all areas of the goalkeepers’ training day/week/month are stimulating & challenging.

“The way we see goalkeeping at Queen’s Park will probably differ from other clubs. We want our goalkeepers to be training under stress, we want to create an environment that will challenge them both physically and mentally, with this in mind, we focus a lot on cognitive work, both on & off the pitch, with a lot of unannounced – game real practice.

“We will also do a good amount of analysis post training/match with our goalkeepers, be it U18, B team or 1st team. A lot of extra work is done with the goalkeepers to develop specific skills & techniques as part of their individual development plans.

“As we get closer to match day, we will start to work on the perceived strengths of our upcoming opponents, looking at the details of any potential threats.

“Goalkeepers/goalkeeping coaches tend to eat, sleep & drink goalkeeping, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Before arriving in Scotland, you worked in English football at clubs such as Gillingham, Braintree Town, Dagenham & Redbridge and West Ham United. What are your highlights from those clubs?

“I’d spent the majority of my coaching career working away in the national league, at times having to work 2 other jobs to make it possible for me to take on those coaching roles. Having that grounding makes me hungry to do my very best every single day because I know what it’s like to be up at 6 am to do a day’s window cleaning, to finish at 4-5 pm, to then get into training at 6 pm, fully prepared to coach.

“I did this in my first season in the national league at with Braintree Town, it was tough going at times, yet was an amazing experience, which I look back on with such fondness, as we had very little to work with from a budget, facilities & equipment standpoint.

“Working with Danny & Nicky Cowley (who were both full-time teachers at the time) was brilliant, it’s no surprise to see them go on and do so well. For us to go to places like Tranmere, Grimsby, and Wrexham and beat them in their own backyard was great. We eventually finished 3rd and lost 1-2 over a two-legged playoff semi-final.

“I eventually got a great opportunity to move into League One at Gillingham, under Peter Taylor. That was a real eye-opener for me, to see first-hand the difference in quality from the National League to that level, the pace & how quickly players did things, was amazing. I loved my time at Gills, and should never have left, but life happens and you have to keep moving.

“After leaving Gills I joined the coaching staff at West Ham, with the Women’s team. It was a wonderful experience, for which I learnt a lot, working with international goalkeepers, Anna Moorhouse and Becky Spencer.

“An opportunity presented itself to team up with Peter Taylor again at Dagenham & Redbridge, which was one I could I couldn’t turn down. PT gave me my first opportunity to coach in the football league, so I felt I owed him some loyalty, so was more than pleased to join his coaching staff.

“Dagenham is a wonderful club, with so many great people behind the scenes. From a goalkeeping perspective, we had some positive success with Elliot Justham being named National League Player of the Month a couple of times and D&R Player of the Year,  three years on the trot, which is credit to him.”

You have coached abroad with Pune FC in India and Crystal Palace Baltimore in the US. What was it like working abroad as a coach?

“I was 24 when I took the job at CP Baltimore, I gave up a flourishing window cleaning business to accept the opportunity, which was the best decision I’ve ever made.

“Living and working in Baltimore, getting to travel all across North America, playing established franchises like Tampa Bay Rowdies, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, Puerto Rico Islanders etc was just amazing.

“I worked with goalkeeper Evan Bush, who has been a top top-class MLS goalkeeper for the last 13-14 years. So many beautiful memories that I’ll cherish forever.

“I moved to India aged 27, with a bit more coaching & life experience under my belt, saying that India was a completely different kettle of fish, when I first got there I couldn’t believe some of the sights I’d send in my first 24 hours, yet you adapt, and it just becomes the norm.

“It is a fascinating country with wonderful people. Travelling all over India, and seeing the many diverse cultures in such a vast land, was breathtaking at times. From Mumbai, to Goa, to Kolkata, to Shillong in North East India. Some of the most beautiful places I’ve been privileged to see.

“We competed in the I-League, this was before the establishment of the ISL, and also played in the AFC Cup, which is the equivalent to the Europa League, travelling to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and Burma. Again, I know I’ve said this a lot tonight, but amazing experiences, that I feel humbled to have experienced.”

Finally, Glen, the role of goalkeeper is changing as the game continually develops due to the influence of Pep Guardiola and other coaches who emphasise playing out from the back. What do you believe are the key components that a modern goalkeeper needs to succeed?

“As a goalkeeper coach, I think we need to help our goalkeeper become adaptable. I mean this in the sense of adapting to whatever a club philosophy is, whatever style of play the head coach will want.

“It changes from club to club, head coach to head coach, so a goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach will need to make sure they have all their tools sharpened and ready to go for whatever the requirements are.

“What I would say, as I alluded to earlier, when joining Gillingham, the higher you go, the better the quality and quicker the game.

“With that in mind, the more tools you’ll need in your tool bag. It’s our job as goalkeeping coaches, to make sure our goalkeepers have as many of those tools in their locker as possible, so they’ll be able to operate at the highest level possible.

“The biggest thing I’ve learnt as a coach and try to instil into the goalkeepers I work with, is we/they have to be open-minded and adaptable. If you have those two traits, that’s half the battle to being successful in my opinion.”


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    I admire your authenticity, vulnerability, and courage in sharing your personal stories, struggles, and triumphs with your readers.