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      Palace Academy Goalkeeper Day: Inspiring the new generation between the sticks


      Crystal Palace’s young Academy goalkeepers experienced a day they will never forget, meeting their heroes in the first-team and learning from those at the top of their game.

      Led by Academy goalkeeping coach Jordan Knight, players from the Under-11s through to the Under-16s were invited to experience a unique ‘Goalkeeper Day,’ where they were initially coached by goalkeepers from the Under-18s squad.

      This gave them exposure to the PDP (Professional Development Phase) which is where they will be aiming to get into once they progress beyond U16s level. Following their training session, they went across the road to meet their heroes - the first-team goalkeepers - and see them train.

      “You can't underestimate how important something like this is.” Explained Knight.

      “If you are the under-11 goalkeeper, getting the opportunity to watch the first-team goalkeepers up close, literally to be introduced to them, to watch them in the flesh, it's so powerful.

      “It's such a unique tool that we're very lucky and very fortunate that the first-team have allowed us that opportunity, first and foremost.

      “We know we're lucky, but then the lads, for them to see exactly what it is - that you get consistent messages from us when we're coaching them - when they walk through the door, there's not a bundle of difference.

      “In terms of what's different: it’s the speed and the power of the ball, the game is a lot quicker, obviously, but actually the base techniques and what they do [is mostly the same].

      “For them to go over and from the session they've done in the morning to see what the first-team guys are doing - there's so much consistency in the messages they’re seeing.”

      Having first-team goalkeeper coach Dean Kiley put across the same messages and similar methods of training for the younger goalkeepers is crucial, as Knight goes on to add: “The key thing that what Deano [Dean Kiely] is saying to the first-team boys is what we're coaching our lads weekly.

      “It's so powerful for them to actually see this. Half the time they'll look at us and go, ‘what does the coach know?’ But also the first-team goalie coach says something again and it might be the thing that triggers it for them.

      “So, to be able to do it, to expose them to the top end of the football club, it's so massive and it gives them such a spring in their step as well.

      “To have a link between us and them, it's so powerful because there are some clubs where there isn't that, there's no crossover. We'll speak to Deano every week, we know what's going on there, he knows what's going on here.

      “We might be across two different sites but the reality is, what we are all trying to do, we all want to produce goalkeepers for this football club. So, from a goalkeeping perspective, that link's massive because there'll be times when they'll need our goalkeepers to step up.

      “It can't be an alien environment, it can't be people that they're not used to being around. So, to be able to drip-feed something like this today to the very, very youngest groups [is crucial].

      “Lads in our U18 teams - Billy [Eastwood], Billy's trained with the first-team this season, international breaks, opportunities come up, it's not alien to him.

      “So, to have that link between the academy and the first team, it's vital to be able to build something that's successful.”

      That link between the Academy and the first-team was exemplified in the latter part of the day, where the first-team goalkeepers went to the Academy to do a Q&A with all the younger ‘keepers.

      An opportunity like this, to pick the brains of their idols and understand more about them, was priceless and offered so much to round off the day: “I think there's so many takeaways that the lads will have had from today. I think at every moment today there's a learning opportunity for them.

      “When they get the opportunity to sit with the first team boys, [they need to think] ‘can I take one nugget?’

      “Whatever they've taken in, there's so many opportunities to learn something on a day lke this. Whether that's the key details that Deano's putting across when he's coaching, the miniscule details that make such a difference.

      “Whether that's listening to the boys talk in there when we've done the Q&A, or whether it's just watching and then trying to go and imitate them.

      “The whole time they've been in the building - what can they learn, what can we take away from it? I think there's so many takeaways that the lads will have had from today. I think at every moment today there's been a learning opportunity for them. So, I think it's been really, really successful overall.”