Earlier this year we met up with Craig McCreeth, Head of Goalkeeping for London Bees, Watford FC Academy Goalkeeping Coach and FA Disability Regional Talent Centre Goalkeeping Coach. Craig kindly agreed to do an interview in order to give us to have a little insight into the world of goalkeeping.
Here it is:
Where are you from:
I was born and grew up in Edgware.
How did you get into goalkeeping?
I was only ever interested in playing in goal, and always wanted to be a goalkeeper. There was always something appealing about not having to run around, letting the ball come to me and diving around in the mud (sorry Mum).
What made you go into coaching and specifically goalkeeping coaching and then coaching womens’ teams?
With goalkeeping being such a huge part of who I am, when it became clear my playing career wasn’t going to progress much further due to a combination of a neck injury sustained while playing and the psychological affects that had, I decided to put all my focus into coaching when offered the role as academy goalkeeping coach at Barnet FC in September 2014 and in December 2014 I got the job at London Bees as Head of Goalkeeping.
I followed London Bees from Barnet (Bees used to be known as Barnet F.C. Ladies, they re-branded as London Bees after joining the new WSL 2 for the 2013 season but are still affiliated with Barnet FC). Tracy Kevins, who was then Manager to Barnet Ladies, asked me to play in goal at training one evening, when her goalkeepers couldn’t make training, and I stuck around ever since.
As a coach do you do basic coaching courses and specialise in goalkeeping?
Not quite, I am doing both goalkeeping and outfield badges: I got my Level 1 Outfield and Goalkeeping qualification whilst at college. In 2015 passed my Level 2 Outfield and Goalkeeping coaching badge. In May 2016 I passed my Level 3 (B Licence) Goalkeeping, which I will be following with a Level 3 (UEFA B) Outfield Assessment in December.
What is the main difference in coaching boys and girls?
The main difference is the physicality of the female keeper, being shorter and less powerful it is even more important to get positioning right to cover the goal effectively. It’s important as a coach to cater for the individual differences in your session, be that technical ability, tactical knowledge, physical, psychological, social or in their learning style (visual, audible, kinaesthetic).
What different things do you have to work on: e.g from approx. age 11 boys develop more upper body strength?
Repetition is a great tool to use in developing goalkeepers especially at an early age, and as goalkeepers develop it is important to add more and more realism into the session. The true art of coaching is being able to put on sessions that allow both realism and repetition. I also like to use a medicine ball in training for core work, throwing and occasionally handling to develop strength, power and control.
Something I am starting to introduce across the board is taking goal kicks from a more central position, this means that instead of the goalkeeper having to scramble back across their goal to get in position they are already there, it also makes playing out and supporting playing out from the back a lot easier, and on the rare occasion all goes wrong the goalkeeper is in a position to defend the goal effectively.
What qualities do you look for in a goalkeeper?
CRAZY, you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper!
You also have to have a very special desire and willingness to want to defend the goal at all costs.
Focus, concentration and communication are all by-products of experience and guidance through a goalkeeper’s playing journey.
What do you enjoy most about working with the Bees?
This season’s group of Bees are one of the best teams I’ve been a part of, the best group of individuals, always there for each other, always happy to see each other, they work hard but also get along socially. As a group their dedication and commitment is second to none. I always look forward to training and match days with them.
My first season was very difficult for the Bees but this year, with new manager David Edmondson, they have done incredibly well. Dave brought in some new faces who really added to the squad. Everyone has bought into his playing style and that shows in the results. We went 7 games unbeaten (which included that game against Chelsea) and that string of games one of the most satisfying periods I’ve experienced within the game.
For me working under Dave has been great, I’ve learnt a lot from him this season and he’s been incredibly supportive helping me prepare for my UEFA B Licence assessment this month and when I had my Goalkeeping B Licence assessment in May, for which I am extremely grateful.
The scheduling this season was very difficult with long gaps between games but the players have come in and trained as hard as if they have a game each week – I have not witnessed this dedication before.
Next year the mini-season will give Bees the opportunity to get the young players involved then when the main season begins more players will be in contention for a starting place. Naturally the ambition for Bees is promotion.
What are your ambitions as far as coaching are concerned?
Obviously I would like to coach in WSL1, hopefully with the Bees, and of course every coach would love to work with their national team, for me its either Wales on my Mum’s side or England on my Dad’s.
Are there any goalkeepers that inspire you?
I’m really keen on Kasper Schmeichel, Hugo Lloris and Tom Heaton because they are breaking the mould of what a goalkeeper “should” look like, they are smaller, more agile goalkeepers with incredible technique.
There are also a couple of goalkeeping coaches that I look up to, Tim Dittmer who is the England U21 Goalkeeping Coach and Tony Roberts who is Swansea City FC’s 1st Team Goalkeeping Coach as well as being Wales National Team Goalkeeping Coach, both put on fantastic sessions and have a modern, developing way of coaching which I enjoy learning from. I was also lucky enough to spend some time with Tony Roberts while doing my Goalkeeping B Licence and his knowledge and passion for goalkeeping is second to none, he is by far one of the most inspirational people for me and my coaching journey.
We would like to thank Craig for giving up his time for this interview and wish him all the best with his future career, which we look forward to following.