RYDC arranged a Twitter Q&A with Graeme Smith, Head of Academy goalkeeping, this week.
The former Light Blues keeper – who joined Rangers from Kilmarnock in 2007 and was on the bench in the 2008 UEFA Cup and Scottish Cup Finals – is delighted to be back at the club and loves working with the talented crop of youngsters at the training ground.
Check out the highlights of his session…
Q – Chris – Rangers are renowned for producing top goalkeepers, what are the key attributes you look for in a goalkeeper at youth level?
A – At youth level we do not expect them to be the finished article and there is not one set way because you may have two very different GKs in terms of physicality, technique etc. But I think if they know how to be effective with the attributes they have, then that is a great starting point.
Q – 4LadsHadADream – How much are you enjoying being at club?
A – I am loving being back! I had a few opportunities to continue playing two years ago and it was a tough decision to retire from playing but the opportunity to come back full time in a coaching capacity at the club I love was a big factor. I am really enjoying my role and it is the 2nd best thing to playing which I am happy with.
Q – What is your best asset you are passing on to the youngsters?
A – I would say my experience and knowledge of Goalkeeping and playing professionally for 19 years. I have been a number 1, 2, & 3 at various stages of my career and I know what it takes to train and play for our club. Almost all the situations that the Academy Goalkeepers are and will go through I have experienced in my career so hopefully I can pass that knowledge on to produce the best Rangers Goalkeepers possible.
Q – Do you remember the reserve game you played in at training ground which we drew 4-4 & Daily got sent off after 45 seconds? What a game! (If memory is correct!)
A – I genuinely don’t, sorry! If I lost 4 goals it was a good game to forget by the sound of it! 😁
A – Haha! They sometimes play myself & Conor Brennan (Academy GK Coach) and they are just ahead in wins due to Thommo moaning at the ref……they do not like to play me at singles so take what you will from that! 😊
Q – Michael Seafarer – Has the principles of goalkeeper training changed over the years?
A – Not in my opinion. There are certain parts of training that we adapt to due to modern trends in the game and possibly more is based on analysis but the basic principles for me remain the same in terms of which things you have to do well in order to gain successful outcomes in training and games.
Q – How do you see this evolving in the future especially with advancements in technology?
A – Similar to the last question, there are certain current trends that we will incorporate into our training to improve our individual and team success and understanding but for me a Goalkeeper’s job remains the same. Data and analysis is a good ‘technology’ to use in terms of aiding problem solving, talent ID & recruitment.
Q – Graeme Mullen – What level of focus and at what stage does ensuring ‘kicking’ ability is at a high level begin?
A – I think it can be introduced as early as possible so that it becomes a ‘normal’ part of the Goalkeepers training week. This for me would ensure that they improve this aspect of the game at the same time as the rest of their skills, then once they gain their natural strength – they already have the technique and understanding to be successful in ‘kicking’ ability.
Q – Also do you agree that being able to kick well with both feet and under pressure is a massively neglected skill in GK’s?
A – Most modern Goalkeepers can kick the ball well, but I believe that the best GKs are comfortable on both sides. I am also a great believer in training kicking under pressure as I see a lot of GKs who struggle with this and it is also the most relevant in terms of match scenarios.
Q – Kimmie Irvine -How much do you enjoy being at this club?
A – I love being back at the club. I am very fortunate that I grew up a Rangers fan, have played for the club, and am now coaching at the club which is not done often and is something which I am extremely proud of.
Q – What is your favourite memory of being a goalkeeping coach?
A – I’ve been quite fortunate in my short time at the club that I have lots of good memories but probably the two that stand out are winning the Alkass Cup against some top teams and also our Reserve league victory last season.
Q – Who was your idol growing up?
A – Graeme Souness as I played in midfield up until I was about 13, Goalkeeper wise was Bodo Illgner & Peter Schmeichel
Q – Jamie Hare – Hello Graeme, What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in the current situation?
A – Not being on the grass on a day to day basis is very challenging because it’s what I enjoy the most. Although I’m still in regular contact with the GKs and they are performing well with their individual programmes the day to day Goalkeeping not being part of things is the most challenging part.
Q – How difficult is it to set training for goalkeepers to train by themselves?
A – There are certain parts of Goalkeeping training that can be done individually but when it comes to various serves and movements it is almost impossible to create match/training scenarios.
Q – Who were your heroes growing up?
A – From a young age I was a Rangers fan so early doors it was the likes of Ian Durrant, Ally McCoist, Richard Gough etc from the late 80s and then in the 90s was the likes of Andy Goram, Brian Laudrup, Paul Gascoigne etc
Q – Can you tell us what you remember about the day in Manchester? Cheers mate
A – I don’t really remember much about the day of the game and the game itself unfortunately. The thing that sticks in my mind was more the build up from after the shootout in Florence and the clamour for tickets, travel, accommodation that all my family and friends were having (and half of Scotland also)😁
Q – Alan Johnstone – Who’s going to replace Allan McGregor once he’s retired!?? In your opinion
A – A good question but also a difficult one at this time. I believe that we have the correct Goalkeeping pathway within the Academy to hopefully produce the next Allan McGregor but with Wes & Jak leaving this week I still think a few of the GK graduates still have to be patient and ‘earn their stripes’ as such by gaining valuable experience by attaining loan moves over the next few seasons. Also, what will determine the next few seasons is how long Allan thinks he can play for as international retirement for Allan has benefited Rangers in my opinion.
Q – Tom Miller – G man – who were the keepers that inspired you as a kid?
A – From a young age I kind of had the “Goalie Bug’ but I never properly went in goals until U14s. The GKs that inspired me early were Bodo Illgner, Peter Schmeichel then as I got older the likes of Edwin Van Der Sar, Andy Goram and latterly as a Professional Gigi Buffon, Iker Casillas……not that many! 😂
Q – And how important is it that the man between the sticks communicates well with those in front of him in and out of possession
A – This subject has always been important for me in terms of good GKs being great GKs. Information and understanding of the game are crucial within the team environment in order to be successful. At times the more you do with your voice, the less you have to do in terms of saves and the greatest Goalkeepers throughout the years have been influential with their communication and leadership skills.
Q – Nick – How great is it for the Academy goalkeepers that you can point to Allan McGregor to show them what is possible?
A – Allan is certainly the benchmark in terms of an Academy Goalkeeper getting to the first team and playing regularly however I think that he admits himself that it was not a comfortable journey to get there. He had to gain loan experience, deal with frustrations of not playing when he thought he should and had his fair share of injuries and this is something that we discuss regularly with our GKs. They will have various obstacles, deviations in their pathway but it is ultimately down to how they handle these situations that will determine whether they have a successful career.
Q – Scott Semple – from Hong Kong – Favourite overseas trip?
A – I think you will know this one. Been very fortunate to see lots of cities and been on some great trips but the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament takes some beating! Great format, great location and great people involved in the whole setup.
Q – Mon The Teddy Bears – How good is Robby McCrorie?
A – Robby has performed well in his previous loans with Berwick Rangers and Queen of the South. He was tasked with a bigger challenge in the SPL with Livingston which is an unforgiving league for a Goalkeeper.
If he can attain a similar level of loan and performance when football resumes, then the next challenge for him will be to try and force his way into the first team squad. He must remain patient and continue to improve on his previous few challenges to give himself the best opportunity to be successful.
Q – James Innes – Robby McCrorie must be considered to be back up and learn from the best we have had in recent years, but he will have to keep his feet on the ground, mind my pun.
A – In my opinion Robby must continue to play regularly at his current age and stage of development. He was learning to be consistent at a good level in the SPL but that has ended unfortunately. If he can gain more experience at that level and show he is capable of performing consistently over a longer period the natural next challenge/progression is that he can remain in the building and challenge for the back-up spot if that is where the manager sees him at that time.
Q – Graeme Mullin – Thanks for the in-depth response Graeme, good/accurate kicking under pressure is an area of Goalkeeping that I think really adds massive value. Good luck and well done in all your work at the club so far.
A – Thank you for the kind words. I agree that you need to have a broad variety of distribution skills both under pressure and in starting attacks to play at the highest level of the game.
GS – That’s all for now. Thanks for all your questions, I enjoyed answering them. Your support for RYDC is also greatly appreciated as they make a positive impact with yearly donations to the academy. Stay safe and thanks again for your support.
RYDC is proud to have provided more than £8.5 million to the Rangers Academy since 2002 – with profit from their portfolio of products.
For full details on RYDC, Rangers Lotto, Rangers Pools, The Union Jackpot, Scratchcards and Stadium Bricks visit www.rydc.co.uk or call 0141 427 4914.
And look out for more Q&A’s in the weeks ahead.