Ben Roberts, Brighton’s well-respected goalkeeper coach, is not one to be in the spotlight. In his case, that is not necessary. His work speaks for him.
“Well done Robert Sanchez on your full call,” Wycombe goalkeeper David Stockdale tweeted last week. “Another reminder of why Ben Roberts is the best in the business.”
The rise of Seagulls goalkeeper Sanchez this season and the first call up for Spain is a big compliment to Roberts, Brighton and the player himself.
Brighton goalkeeper coach Ben Roberts is well respected by the players he has worked with
Roberts has been with Brighton since 2015 and spent five years at Charlton Athletic
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find space on that cap, such is the number of stoppers that former Middlesbrough and Brighton goalkeeper Roberts, 45, is credited.
Nick Pope, Sanchez, Mat Ryan, Tim Krul, and Alex McCarthy are some of the heads who have come to owe Roberts a deep debt of gratitude.
But his influence can be seen all over English football, with Roberts as the common link between a long list of goalkeepers who have all built successful careers for themselves.
At Yeovil, along with a young McCarthy, there was Stephen Henderson.
At Charlton, Pope, Ben Hamer, Neil Etheridge, David Button and Dillon Phillips are just a few who have benefited from Roberts’ expertise.
Now in Brighton, before Sanchez, there were Stockdale, Christian Walton, Jason Steele and Ryan.
Roberts’ latest success is Robert Sanchez, who has earned his first call-up for the Spanish squad
Roberts also played an important role in the career of Burnley and the English stopper Nick Pope
“He has an eye for a goalkeeper,” said Cardiff No 1 Phillips. ‘I worked with a lot of keepers under Ben [at Charlton] but they all left as better goalkeepers. It is no coincidence that they all worked under Ben. ‘
In the search for the secret to Roberts’ success, there are recurring themes.
The strong relationships he builds with his goalkeepers is mentioned with an emphasis on Roberts’ human touch in his coaching style.
He remains ‘incredibly protective’ of his allegations and ‘fights for them,’ a source said of Roberts who had to retire at the age of 29 due to a back injury.
And now that Pope has reached the highest level, the support he received from Roberts at the start of his senior journey seems particularly relevant.
Roberts recalled to Sportsmail this week that he was willing to risk his own job when then-Charlton manager Bob Peeters hooked Pope at half time after a shaky first 45 minutes at Blackburn.
As a player, Roberts reached the FA Cup final with Middlesbrough in 1997 (above) before retiring with an injury at the age of 29.
Roberts said, ‘I was sitting in the stands and called on the radio,’ What’s going on? ‘
‘They were like,’ Uh, Ben, the manager is going to get Popey off ‘. I said, “Come on, you will kill the kid, tell him if he does, I’ll walk out of the stadium.”
‘I looked in the Trainline app to see how I would get back to London. It had warmed up during half time, but after that the manager was fine. He stopped him and Popey went ahead and made five or six big saves. ‘
When Sanchez also spoke to Sportsmail last month, he explained in detail the key role Roberts played in his rise, describing the hard love he received that he now realizes was vital.
“When he gives you that hard love, I think he sees something in you,” Phillips said.
About his own experiences, Phillips added, ‘Ben has that confidence in me when he was 17, 18 years old, to pick me up when the manager asked’ who is going to sit on the couch today? ‘
While in Charlton, Roberts (left) worked with Pope (center) and Dillon Philllips
‘People who didn’t know goalkeeping at the club may have thought’ we need a more experienced one ‘, but he will be supporting you all the time.’
Holland goalkeeper Krul will always remember the role Roberts played in helping to ‘rebuild’ him physically and mentally in Brighton after the ‘dark times’ he endured after the knee injury he sustained while on his international service in October 2015, which effectively ended his life. Newcastle career.
Because of the levels that Roberts helped Ryan reach – ‘he was literally man-of-the-match every match,’ said Krul – the Dutchman remained a backup goalkeeper during the 2017-18 season, which he loaned to the Amex. but added: ‘That was when he [Roberts] also said ‘you are not number 2. You are young enough to show the world what you can do’ and I had to take a gamble and go to Norwich but he forced me to do it because he knew I still had so many years in me. I am very happy that he gave me that faith. ‘
Roberts has the flexibility in his approach and is happy in finding the right methods to help any goalkeeper thrive, not an easy task when they all have their own strengths, likes and dislikes.
“He can work with any style,” Phillips said. ‘Hames [Hamer]for example, was incredible with his feet at the time. The sessions we used to do when he was playing would amplify that and show that so that he felt good playing matches. ‘
Krul said, “I’m different from Maty Ryan and Niki Maenpaa. For example, with me you don’t train me 120 percent every day. Sometimes you just have to go, ‘okay, I need 60 percent, a little bit more chilled, a little bit more quality in the treatment’ and get a little off the boil.
Current Norwich stopper Tim Krul has had rave reviews for Roberts’ approach to coaching
‘We’re three different styles of goalkeepers, but in his sessions he succeeded – he with Casper Ankergren as backup – and the level we reached in those sessions was like match training. I found joy again. ‘
Roberts’ sessions are not only intense, but also inclusive.
“The group was always a happy one,” said Phillips. ‘A lot of coaches are good at it now. They probably weren’t in the past. It was their way or it wasn’t.
‘But there was always a positive atmosphere during training, whether you play or not.
‘If you’re not clear it’s hard, but under Ben you knew you would have a good, fun training and also learn and improve if you put everything in.
“Nothing was given to you easily, but it was made fun to just be around him.”
Innovation has always been central to Roberts’ approach. Phillips, now 25, remembers one time when he was a sophomore – ’18, 19 years old ‘- and Roberts surprised him by using techniques from another sport to improve his responses.
He said, “He was always looking for ways to improve training. He [Roberts] was the first team goalkeeper coach but took the time to take me before noon as he saw ways he could improve on me. I think he thrives on that.
Throughout his coaching career, Roberts has been praised for his work with goalkeepers (pictured with Neil Etheridge at Charlton Athletic)
‘We used a tennis racket and a tennis ball to save reactions. It was the first time I’d ever seen that. I don’t know where he got the idea, but I immediately took it in.
“ We started with close range things with the tennis ball and hand-eye coordination and towards the end of the session I made saves from 18, 20 meters where he literally hit them with the forearm, like Roger Federer.
It may sound crazy or a little fun, but it’s all little ways to improve hand-eye coordination and the attention to detail to think of something different from what I’ve had.
‘He was the first coach I worked under who brought deflection into play.
‘Now there are a lot of different methods and a lot of equipment. We used to put two mannequins and still a ball under each of the mannequins to lift them up and use that on a wet day as a way to deflect the ball and work on a sharp response. ‘
Roberts’ attention to detail is another important pillar of his approach. “He’s so thorough in looking for the tightest margins,” said another source.
One of Roberts’ innovative training methods is firing tennis forehand shots like Roger Federer (above) to improve hand-to-eye coordination.
Ben will spend hours scrolling through games and finding clips of things like how attackers more often than not end up to give to his keepers before a match. Those little things that can make that one difference in a game.
“ That save in the game where everyone is going ‘wow’, but if you look back on it, the keeper will say, ‘Ben told me he’s going that way, so I took half a gamble and headed that way early. ‘
Krul said, “You were always prepared for whoever you played on Saturday. He will set up sessions there. So you played against Arsenal, it would be more one on one, because of the line situations [in training] but if you had another team, like Everton, who liked to shoot remotely with Gylfi Sigurdsson, he has 25, 30 meters more. It was very detailed. ‘
Looking back on Roberts’ decision to support Pope as emphatically as he does, as a confirmation of his ability to identify talent, Phillips said, “ The proof is in the pudding. ‘
The same can be said of Roberts’ “methods.”
Phillips added, “In fact, I’d say he’s one of the best in the country. I haven’t worked with every coach, but I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really good goalkeeper coaches – don’t think I’ve had another bad one – but Ben deserves all the credit he gets for being fine. ‘