THEY say you have to have the cojones to play for Millwall – but it’s smaller balls that are helping Jordan Archer this season.
Goalkeeper coach Lee Turner has introduced a number of new training methods since his arrival at the club, and Archer admitted the workouts have been “a lot sharper” with the former Charlton man in charge.
One of the new innovations is the use of size 3 footballs in the sessions with the goalkeepers.
Archer explained that those footballs, two sizes down from the regular training and match-day ones, move in a much more unpredictable way, thereby helping to sharpen a goalkeeper’s reactions.
Former Tottenham keeper Archer produced two magnificent saves in a 1-1 draw against Bolton, just eight minutes into his first start in three months.
That was after a lot of hard work at Calmont Road. Turner – who replaced Kevin Pressman last summer – and goalkeepers Archer, Ben Amos and David Martin train with the main group, but also do their separate practices and are usually first out on the training pitches on Calmont Road.
“It’s a different type of training, it’s a lot sharper,” Archer told the NewsAtDen. “We’ve got small balls now and we do sessions with them. They move a lot. I don’t think people see it but if you watch goals and shots back the ball moves a hell of a lot. Using small balls improves your hand-eye coordination. Small things like that make a big difference.
“When you then go back to the size 5 balls it does make it a bit easier. Lee strikes the ball as well as any striker, to be fair to him.
“There’s a massive step-up between League One and the Championship, it’s a lot more clinical. There’s a lot more quality so it does take adjusting to.
“It’s a massive help when you can make a save early in a game, it gives you a boost. I’ve always been a confident lad. No matter how many games I was out of the team I was always going to come back confident.
“I back myself. Mistakes happen and when they do you just have to dust yourself off and get on with the game. It has never really affected me. You have to be confident because if you’re not and you’re playing in front of 20,000 fans they’ll see that, so you have to take things in your stride.”
Archer was dropped from the side in August – his first time being dropped in three years with the Lions and something he prefers not to revisit in the press – and was publicly criticised by manager Neil Harris.
But there was never any chance the goalkeeper wasn’t going to find the right response.
He said: “It’s always difficult not playing. Some keepers out there are happy to sit on the bench, but I always want to put on a Millwall shirt.
“It was difficult, but at the same time I can’t show that. I had to get my head down and work hard and support the boys.
“Ben came in and did fantastically well, he made a lot of saves and several penalty saves. When I got my chance I had to make sure I put in a big performance to give the gaffer something to think about.
“And it’s not just Ben, respect to David Martin as well, he’s always pushing hard in training. This season we’ve got a very hard-working group and that’s credit to Lee Turner, too.
“No matter who’s playing the three if us will always work hard.
“We’ve got a great bunch of lads and everyone has their input. There are some quiet lads, some vocal lads, but we all bounce off each other. We’ve got good chemistry and that’s one of our strengths. During tough periods like this we always back ourselves.
“We have one of the smallest squads in the league. Other clubs have massive budgets but what they can’t buy is the chemistry that we have. The gaffer brings in players that have to have strength of character. That shows at times like this when we are being stripped to the bare minimum with injuries.
“I thought the boys did well last season and we’ll equip ourselves well again. We’ve shown that we can match any team in this division. But in a game of football sometimes things don’t go your way. That’s what we’ve found has happened this season.
“But we’re not going to dwell too much on that. There have only been a couple of games – Sheffield United and Birmingham at home – that teams have come and dominated us. We’ve been very, very unlucky, we’ve conceded a lot of late goals and we’ve got injuries on top of that.
“But we’ve got more than enough quality in this squad going into the second half of the season. This Christmas period coming up is crucial.”
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