With pre-season well and truly in full swing following the return of our first team contingency last week and our opening friendly victory at Worksop Town on Saturday, we spoke with Thomas Fawdry.
Our goalkeeper coach is responsible for the development of our men between the sticks here at Oakwell, working closely with both Brad Collins and Jack Walton, and is now familiarising himself with new recruit Jamie Searle after his arrival this summer.
In addition, Fawdry is overseeing the progress of academy stopper Kieren Flavell, who featured amongst the substitutes in our final two fixtures last term.
“It’s a really good, strong group of goalkeepers – all good personalities and characters,” began Fawdry. “I’ve been working a little bit with the younger goalkeepers in the under 23s, just making sure that they’re ready and prepared to come back in.
“Obviously, Jack and Brad have come back in this week, fighting fit, so it’s been a really positive start.”
Having coached on the other side of the world with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, the coach had some knowledge of our Kiwi goalkeeper, who was plying his trade at Melville United in Hamilton on the North Island.
Searle has had stints with Aston Villa and Swansea City since moving to the UK in 2019, and Fawdry says he is impressed with the 21-year-old’s work ethic.
“I hadn’t met Jamie until he came in, but he’s someone I was aware of for some time having spent time in New Zealand and, knowing the climate of goalkeeping over there, he’s someone I was aware of for a couple of years,” continued Fawdry.
“He came over from a really small place in New Zealand, straight into Aston Villa at a Premier League academy, so he’s gone from playing local football in New Zealand to a professional Category One academy.
“I’m sure it was a bit of a culture shock for him, initially, but he’s going through that process where he’s been in England for a few years now; he’s been exposed to football at under 23s level and small amounts at senior level, so it’s been good to see his mentality and character.
“He’s a friendly guy, but he’s got a real strong work ethic and willingness to learn.”
Heading into the new campaign, competition for places – particularly in the goalkeeping department – is healthy as the Reds aim to enjoy a productive season.
Fawdry hinted that there could be temporary moves away from Oakwell for our younger players in order to have that crucial exposure to first team football and aid their development.
“It’s really important that we have a strong goalkeeping department,” he asserted. “We want competition for places, we want the goalkeepers to compete and have a winning mentality, so he [Searle] fits into that straight away.
“Brad and Jack are always competitive and always welcome, and it’s been really good to have Nick Colgan around in pre-season to share his experiences with the goalkeepers.
“So, we’ve got a strong group of goalkeepers. We want to make them competitive, we want to expose them to games, we want to expose our young goalkeepers to loans to make sure they’re getting the experience in senior football as well.”
With Michael Duff in the Oakwell hotseat for just less than a fortnight, Fawdry and his fellow coaches have relished getting to grips with our new Head Coach’s ideology.
First impressions have been positive for our goalkeeper coach, who is looking forward to building a strong relationship with the former Northern Ireland international.
“The new gaffer has come in and has been really positive and really honest,” he insisted. “He’s come in with good ideas in terms of shaping the culture, so it’s been really good to work with in the early stages and early part of pre-season.
"We’ve got a clear identity going forward and a clear philosophy with how we want to play and approach the season.”