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The big interview – John Vaughan

Posted: Tue 05 Nov 2013

Blues goalkeeping coach John Vaughan

Image by: PA Photos catches up with the club’s first team goalkeeping coach for an in-depth interview.

John Vaughan joined Blues as the club’s goalkeeping coach in July 2012, having previously worked in the same role for Lee Clark at Huddersfield Town. Before moving into coaching, Vaughan had a playing career that spanned 18 years with a number of clubs.

You started your career at West Ham. How did that come about?
"I played for the borough and the county – Middlesex. I was from West London and I started going to West Ham a couple of nights a week when I was 14 or 15 and then got offered a two-year apprenticeship. We won the FA Youth Cup while I was there. Tony Cottee was an apprentice in the year younger than me. The main goalkeeper at that time was Phil Parkes. Phil hardly missed a game the whole time I was there. At West Ham I went out on loan and got some experience at Charlton, Bristol Rovers, Bristol City and Wrexham. Eventually I got the opportunity to go to Fulham thinking I’d never get the opportunity at West Ham because Phil never got injured. I left and went to Fulham and Phil pretty much broke down then and they ended up signing Alan McKnight. Had I stayed I think I may have got a chance."

You had an 18-year playing career, what were the highlights of that?
"I got promoted twice at Cambridge; I was promoted at Preston and promoted at Lincoln. At Cambridge we had a real five-year spell. The first year nothing really happened, and then the three years after that was just crackers. We got promoted and got to the quarter final of the FA Cup. The following season we got promoted and we got to the quarter final of the FA Cup again and the season we were top of the Championship pretty much all season. There was us Middlesbrough and Ipswich. We fell away a bit at the end and Middlesbrough and Ipswich were promoted and we were beaten in the play-offs by Leicester who made it into the Premier League. That was the first Premier League as well. I think the following season we got relegated. The trouble with Cambridge was that no matter how successful we were, it just wasn’t a footballing city. Even when we were near the top of the Championship playing Newcastle at home, there’d be more Newcastle supporters there than home supporters. If we were playing another small club there might only be 2-3000 fans there. It wasn’t a big club like Birmingham, so it was never going to last. Later on in my career I went to Preston which is a big club with a lot of history. We got promoted and won the league with 18-20,000 coming to watch us play every week."

So, did you ever get to play at Wembley?
"Yes, I did in the play-off final for Cambridge. We beat Chesterfield 1-0 at the old Wembley. Although it wasn’t a full house it was a fantastic experience."

What year did you finally finish playing and how did you get into coaching?
"It was at Lincoln and I think it was 2000. I retired because of a back injury. My back had been playing up and I couldn’t train or play properly as a result. I had a couple of years out of the game. I didn’t really intend to go into coaching, but I thought in the end football is what you know and I did my badges. I had a pal that was on the coaching course I was on and he got the assistant manager’s job at York and they needed a goalkeeping coach. I’d go over there two mornings a week and also do Macclesfield a couple of afternoons a week and Grimsby. From doing that I was offered the academy job at Huddersfield just to do the kids. After a while I was asked if I’d work with the first team keepers, so I started doing that. Then they offered me the job full time. I was there seven years before I came here."

While you were there you worked with former Blues favourite Ian Bennett didn’t you?
"Yes I did. I originally knew Benno when he was 18 or 19 and I used to train with him. When he left Sheffield United we signed him at Huddersfield. He was brought in as cover for a very good and athletic young lad and to show him another way of playing in goal. We didn’t expect him to play, but the young lad did his knee so Benno took over. He played pretty much all the games when they went on the record 40 odd match unbeaten run."

Turning to your role at Blues, what is an average day in terms of working with the goalkeepers?
"It varies. It’s dependant on if you’ve got a midweek game and what day of the week it is. Certain days you’ll just concentrate on different things and it just depends what’s happened in games – one day it might be predominantly working on crosses or corners, or it could depend on who you are playing and the tactics they like to use. Throughout the course of the week you try and do a little bit of everything. A large chunk of it is shot stopping, but also crosses, distribution, working on their kicking. They’re integrated into the team, so they do the training with the team as well."

Is it true that goalkeepers have to work a lot harder and are a lot fitter than they used to be?
"Looking back to when I worked with Phil Parkes he was about six foot three or four and probably weighed about 17 stone. He wasn’t an athlete. But to be fair to Phil if you stuck him in goal he was one of the finest goalkeepers I ever worked with. It would be interesting to see what he would be like in today’s game alongside the likes of Joe Hart and David James who are real physical specimens. When I came into the game there were very few players that had six packs and were ripped and lean but now pretty much all of them are. That’s not to say that the lads when I played weren’t fit because some of them were frighteningly fit. It’s just the game in general has changed. Everybody is fitter and faster although I think some of the quality has been lost in that. I think it is more about power and speed."

Most goalkeepers you see these days are pretty tall. How important is that?
"That’s one of my pet hates. I was fairly short for a goalkeeper and I would have loved to have been six foot two or three because I think I would have had a better career. But in someone like Nick Townsend’s case where I’m trying to get him out on loan, one of the first questions I’m asked is how tall he is not how good he is. I think Nick would be a better goalkeeper if he was taller but he’s better than an awful lot of goalkeepers that are a lot taller than him. Ideally a keeper would be six feet three or six feet four, but just because they’re not it doesn’t mean they won’t be a great goalkeeper."

Darren Randolph is the number one goalkeeper at Blues this season. How impressed with him have you been?
"I’ve been delighted with Darren. He’s not the biggest but he comes and gets everything, can throw it a mile and kick it a mile."

He made a couple of mistakes a couple of weeks ago that cost goals. How did he handle that?
"In a way I was almost waiting for it to happen because he’s been so good. If you play in goal it’s an occupational hazard and he’s old enough and ugly enough! There’s not a goalkeeper born that didn’t make mistakes. Being a goalkeeper it’s magnified and everybody sees it. If a midfield player’s pass goes astray it can be glossed over but when a goalkeeper makes a mistake everybody sees it. It goes with the territory and it’s part of a goalkeeper’s lot. If you can’t recover from making a mistake you won’t last long and the best ones bin it and move on it’s the only way."

Finally, in Darren Randolph and Colin Doyle you’re working with two very experienced goalkeepers. With older goalkeepers how receptive are they to coaching?
"I’ve come across very few goalkeepers that give you any trouble. With goalkeepers the position usually dictates that they’re good blokes and they want to work hard. You can’t hide when you’re a goalkeeper. There’s no hiding place. People talk about the goalkeepers’ union but there is one and it’s different. Goalkeepers are different. It’s a bit of a little closed shop. Goalkeeping coaches are pretty much always ex-goalkeepers that have played. There’s camaraderie and a respect because we’ve all played that position and we know how hard it is and how lonely it can be if you’re having a hard time. We’ve all let one in through our legs."