BARNSLEY goalkeeper coach Tom Fawdry is enjoying his first role in English first team football and working with ‘calmest man in the stadium’ Brad Collins who he believes could reach the highest level of the game.
Fawdry, 35, took over from Kevin Pilkington two months ago after spells in Australia and New Zealand.
Collins, 24, is a leading candidate for the Reds’ Player of the Year so far, making the most saves of any Championship goalkeeper this season by far and being a consistently good performer in a dismal season for the second-bottom Reds.
Fawdry told the Chronicle: “Brad’s been fantastic to work with.
“When I look at profiles of goalkeeper, I always look at how they protect the goal, how they defend the space, how they distribute the ball.
“Brad has all those attributes in abundance. I like the way he approaches the game – he’s normally the calmest man in the stadium.
“For a young player to have that confidence is very rare. He’s very humble and open-minded as well.
“He’s got a real opportunity to progress within the game, and that’s up to him.
“If he plays at his current standard over a sustained period, there’s no reason why he can’t progress to the highest level.”
Barnsley’s other first team goalkeeper is Jack Walton, 23, who was number one until being replaced by Collins in January.
Fawdry said: “He’s a fantastic character. He’s one of the hardest working goalkeepers I’ve come across.
“He’s got an intention and desire to progress in the game as well.
“It’s unfortunate for him that Brad has been so consistent and played so far.
“But we continue to improve Jack and make sure he’s ready when he’s called upon.”
It is unusual for a club to have goalkeepers aged 24 and 23 but Fawdry enjoys working with such young players.
“To develop and improve players and hopefully give them the tools they need to perform at the highest level is the perfect role for me.
“We want to continue to develop young players and play them.
“Getting good minutes in a top league helps them get to the top level.
“It was what drew me to the role.”
Fawdry was a youth team player at Crawley Town but stopped playing when ‘I realised I wouldn’t have longevity in a professional playing career.’
He focused on coaching and, after going to university, was given a full-time role as head of academy goalkeeping at Portsmouth aged 23, before going on to do the same role at Charlton Athletic.
He then moved to New Zealand and Australia, where he worked with the Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory before returning earlier this year.
“It was always my intention to come back and work in English football.
“I have a love for travel and I really enjoyed working in other football cultures. But I always wanted to work at the top level in England.
“Football is in our blood here and it’s the biggest sport in England by far.
“In Australia it’s one of the biggest-growing sports but it doesn’t have the same culture and identity.
“You can’t compare it.
“It’s great to be back in such a passionate footballing place like Barnsley.
“The opportunity presented itself on my return, it’s a club I was aware of.
“It’s the opportunity to work in the Championship at a good club.
“It’s the chance to work with a young group of players.
“It’s been great so far. We haven’t had the best run of results but I’ve really enjoyed being involved with the club and being in the Championship.”
Fawdry arrived in October, the latest in a series of new appointments following a host of departures at Oakwell including the phsyio, analyst, sports scientist, groundsman, chief executive and secretary. He said: “In the best case scenario you have longevity in the staff.
“I was one of the last people to come in, it was interesting. It would have been best to have a full pre-season but everyone has been very welcoming. We have a group of staff that wants to work hard.”
Weeks after Fawdry’s arrival, head coach Markus Schopp was sacked with Jo Laumann taking over as caretaker for most of November.
Fawdry was the only other coach working with the first team at that time so had extra responsibility.
“It was great. Jo was fantastic and continues to be fantastic. It was great to share responsibility and for all the staff to work together in a good way.
“We had to adapt and really dig deep to support the players in the best way.
“It was wonderful to be involved in that.”
Last month, Poya Asbaghi arrived as the new head coach with assistant Ferran Sibila.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air, they have come in with solutions to help us in the short-term and a clear identity that I think will be successful in the long-term.
“It’s been really positive.
“Since Poya and Ferran came in there’s been a real positive intention to be more solid and consistent. Everything is run very professionally with the intention to build the identity and get results.
“It was a promising start but we have to be more consistent and get results.”