FRANK Fielding admits he hasn’t “had it easy in his career” – and believes he is in “the right place” to continue improving.
Fielding may be 31 but he still has something to prove after not being a regular last season before he was released by Bristol City boss Lee Johnson.
A hand injury played a part in that, but he recovered and when he met Neil Harris during the summer he said the Millwall manager was “most keen” out of those he spoke to.
But he had plenty to weigh up before committing to the move.
“It wasn’t a decision I took lightly,” Fielding said. “The most important thing was probably the family aspect of it. I’m going to be away from them quite a bit. That’s why it took so long.
“It’s the first summer I’ve been out of contract. It was a nightmare last year with injuries. It was quite a busy summer in terms of not knowing what was going on. But I’m here now so brilliant.
“I ended up having hand surgery end of February, beginning of March and I pretty much knew there wasn’t going to be anything at Bristol City after talking to the gaffer there.
“So I needed to get my hand sorted or I wouldn’t be able to sign for anyone in the summer. I’d been there a long time and I think it was probably time for a fresh start for everyone.
“I enjoyed it at Bristol. Fans there appreciated I gave everything for the shirt and I’ll do the same here. I wear my heart on my sleeve and give it everything.
“[Harris] was the most keen of everyone I spoke to and that’s why I’m here.
“I’m a good team player. I’ve got bags of experience and I think that’s what the manager wanted this summer.
You’ve got to have the right kind of characters in your dressing room to have a good team.
“I want to play football. I’m coming into my peak years. I train every day like I’m going to play even if I don’t play. I’ll give it everything I’ve got on the training pitch and hopefully that’s enough.”
Part of that experience includes twice being called into England senior squads by Fabio Capello.
Fielding explained: “The first time I played art Ashton Gate on a Monday for the 21s and then there were a couple of injuries in the seniors so I got the shout after the game from Stuart Pearce. It was probably a natural progression at the time, the quickest option for them. I was delighted.
“The second time Nigel Clough was at Derby and he took us to Marbella for a training camp. I got a phone call just after arriving at Marbella so had to fly straight out.
“The first time was a bit surreal and the press went mad because I’d never played above League One. The second time I was doing quite well at Derby.
“Capello was alright. He was different to anyone I’d come across before. The language barrier was a bit difficult. His staff did a lot of it.
“It was a great experience and one I still use today.”
Fielding has played more than 300 senior games in his career, but it’s the first time in six years he is in pre-season at a different training ground.
“The boys have helped me settle in,” he continued, “we’ve got a good set of lads and if we carry on signing people like Matt Smith then it will only lead to good things.
"I’ve played with Matt. He’s a great lad. He might have scored against me but that’s as good as he’s going to get for the next two years now!”
Fielding could make his competitive Lions debut at home to Preston on August 3, though he will have competition from another goalkeeper. He watched Millwall on TV last season and has played at The Den.
“I didn’t get too much abuse,” he joked. “It’s a tough place to come as an opposition player. We’ve got to use that to our advantage now.
“I remember watching the [Everton] game on TV and saw the stadium bouncing and though that was brilliant. It will be good to get that again next season.”
Fielding watched the next game against Brighton when David Martin’s last minute error cost Millwall.
He wouldn’t comment on Martin’s mistake. “We’re in a goalkeepers’ union. It’s only us that can relate to that when we do make a mistake. We’ve got our own pact.
“I was quite lucky as a young goalkeeper. I had Brad Friedel when I left school. He was an unbelievable goalkeeper. I had Paul Robinson and Peter Enckelman, they offered loads of advice. They are goalkeepers that played in World Cups. I was quite lucky in that respect.
“If Ryan [Sandford] needs any help I’m sure he’ll ask. You’ve got to be a sponge at that age and absorb as much as you can.
“No goalkeeper’s had it easy. You’re in and out of the team, you’ve just got to train hard and keep doing the things you do every day.
“I’m always trying to get better and I think this is the place for me to do that.”
Image: Millwall FC