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Joe Lewis Interview

January 3, 2018 6:26 pm Author: Malcolm Panton

Joe Lewis

The Dons number one spoke recently to RedMatchday Magazine.

If you had to pick a Dons player of 2017, our goalkeeper would be near the top of many people’s lists. As well as his consistency, Joe has had some stunning saves and some memorable performances.

In the early part of December the Dons’ goal scorers were basking in the praise of the recent wins over St Johnstone and Hibs but it’s gone largely unnoticed that in the trio of wins, that included the victory at Dens Park, Aberdeen shipped just a single goal in 270 minutes of football. But that Scroogelike miserliness was the foundation of those wins, goalkeeper Joe Lewis at the centre of it all.

His save from John McGinn in the final minute of the first half against Hibs was as good as anything you win will see all season.

Two further cleansheets followed in the final two home games of the month.

No wonder he’s pleased with that recent run.

“It was nice to get a couple of clean sheets on the bounce because they were long overdue. Since all the uncertainty around the manager got dealt with, team performances recently have been much better and we seem pretty solid at the back.

“Defensively the clean sheets were a sign that things have been better. Throughout the team, we have put in some better performances and that certainly helps because if we can make the opposition worry about us rather than the other way round, it makes life easier.

“I was pleased to get the clean sheets because compared with last season, I don’t think I have been quite so consistent this time around.

“I have had a couple of bad games. Motherwell was a poor game and we got knocked out of the cup. None of the other mistakes have thankfully cost us any points, so that’s a relief.

“Sometimes you make mistakes and your team digs you out of trouble and that’s great. But I tell them all the time that I dig them out of trouble all the time, so they owe me! It’s nice that they can do that for me from time to time and return the favour!

“All of us who do this job know that’s the life of a goalkeeper.

“If you make mistakes, it generally costs a goal. You have to deal with it. You have to get on with life and I am pleased with the way I have reacted, especially recently. With the bit more experience I have now, you learn to deal with mistakes better.

“Gordon Marshall has also been a big help. We go through my games together and go through my clips. Talking about it with another goalkeeper helps, because outfielders don’t really understand – and never will fully understand the goalkeeping mindset! So it’s nice to talk to with another goalkeeper.

“Maybe my form last season was as consistent as it has ever been in my career. I set my standard high and if I now fall below that, people will start to ask questions and maybe doubt me, that’s how it is, you expect that. But I’m happy with the way I am playing again now. I’m confident in myself.

“Sometimes when you are younger and you make mistakes, you try and avoid the ball a little bit and try and not make any more mistakes. You don’t come for the crosses you should come for, you don’t make the right decisions. I think you have to keep backing yourself and backing your ability. You have to be brave and keep making the right decisions and being confident.

“The last thing the defenders want to see is a goalkeeper glued to his line and being indecisive. They don’t want you to suddenly stop coming for crosses when you would before and they want you to still make the right decisions. Whether you are confident or not, you have to pretend you are!

“That’s not an easy thing to do but I feel good at the moment. I’m training well. Clean sheets don’t always tally up with your good performances but recently, I feel I have been playing well again and the clean sheets help that perception.

“I was really pleased with my season last season, but having set that high bar, I need to keep up to that level. Anyone one who thinks that I’m going to go through a season or a couple of seasons and not make mistakes doesn’t watch much football. All goalkeepers make mistakes and that costs goals. You have to forget about it and get on with it.

“When you have good games you can’t get too carried away. You know that round the corner, a kick in the teeth is waiting, so you always have to keep a level head”.

Just as outfielders work on free-kicks, starting positions, heading and passing drills and the like, so a goalkeeper must work diligently at his game in training. Joe is as conscientious as they come on that level.

“I had been working on a few things with Gordon, technical issues, because sometimes you do get into bad habits. I felt my feet were getting a bit wide and I was not quite in the right position to make saves. Little technical things I am always thinking about in the back of my mind and working on in training. That gives me something to think about.

“If you just expect your form to come back and expect to not make any mistakes because you haven’t done previously, you soon find it does not work like that. You have to analyse your performances, even if you play well. That is when Gordon Marshall comes in and he spots the little technical problems.”

The relationship between a goalkeeper and his central defenders is key and in recent months, a new one has had to be built between Joe and Scott McKenna after he came into the side and took the first team by storm. Lewis is a fan of the youngster.

“I cannot speak highly enough of him. You would never believe that he has only just turned 21. The size of him, he is as strong as an ox. No striker of any age is going to bully him. Physically, he can hold his own and on the ball he is coming on leaps and bounds. He is growing in confidence.

“Centre-halves are similar to goalkeepers. You can make the odd mistake here and there or a misjudgement that will get highlighted more than in other positions, but he has been fantastic and it is a joy to watch someone like that in front of you, watching them develop . He is a top player and will go a long way in the game”.

As well as helping the young centre-halves with their game, Joe takes a real interest in the younger keepers at Pittodrie. Both Archie Mair and David Craddock are showing real promise between the sticks.

“I had a chat with Archie last season when he had a few options. We spoke about a few things and the pros and cons. If you get an offer to go down to England, it’s attractive. There were some very big clubs looking at him, but after the conversations he had with me and various other people such as the manager, Gordon Marshall, his parents, he made a decision to stay and I am sure the club are very pleased with that.

“He has so much potential. With the ball at his feet, he is incredible. He is very, very good. I think he has a bright future in the game. He just needs to keep his head down, work hard and not get carried away. He is a sensible lad so I don’t see that happening.

“David has come on massively this season. I think goalkeepers these days are given a bit more time to develop. You career can go on until you are forty years old. Goalkeeper and centre-halves do tend to break into sides later. Managers normally want players with experience in those positions.

“David has a good temperament. His appears very laid back. I know I have appeared that way in the past and some managers have wanted to give me a shake, but I think it is an asset really. Nothing much will faze David. If he makes a mistake, it probably looks worse because he looks like he is not trying or does not care, but he very much does. That is just his nature. Archie has a similar temperament as well. They are both very promising goalkeepers.

“Gordon Marshall was a big reason for Archie signing and you can see in David’s work how good a goalkeeping coach he is. A lot of goalkeeping coaches I have seen or heard of just go in and do a job and as long as the first team goalkeeper is doing well, they are happy. But Gordon will spend most of his evenings at the club coaching the youth keepers. He really cares about their development and I think the lads can see that. Marshy deserves a lot of credit.

“I’m sure Danny Rogers will be frustrated because if you are not playing as a goalkeeper it’s hard, but I think he understands that this is the situation right now but it could change next week. He needs to be ready.

“Danny is a great goalkeeper and we saw that when he went down to Falkirk. They thought very highly of him and were desperate to get him back for a second season. Internationally, he got recognised by Ireland at U21 and senior level so you can see what people think of him. He has a massive future in the game as well”.

Heading into the winter break and the halfway mark for the season, the Dons are in a familiar position in the league but there is a sense around Pittodrie that they have only scratched the surface of their potential thus far this term. Joe agrees with that sentiment.

“I’ve always thought that we have a stronger squad than last season, certainly in terms of depth. We haven’t shown the consistency of performance that we would have liked, but results have not been terrible. We have still been picking up points during the first half of the season and that it a sign of good side – a team that has not clicked but can still win games. We are showing signs of clicking now and I am confident of the ability in the dressing room.

“Training sometimes is a joy to watch. As long as the ball is not going past me! Some of the quality we have is incredible. We need to build the confidence.

“That will come as we put in good team performances. Good team performances include keeping our defensive organisation. That is very important. When we do that it breeds confidence and hopefully we can take that forward.

“I think it is a stronger league this season. Hibs have brought more quality into it. Motherwell are certainly a stronger team this season. Kilmarnock, since they have changed their manager, are showing real signs of progressing as well. Hearts have done really well in recent weeks. It is a strong league. We need to make sure we are developing and moving forward.

“I get asked a lot of questions about whether we can get nearer Celtic or can we stay ahead of Rangers, but it is important that we just focus on ourselves and keep developing and improving week by week. Every transfer window we are getting better players in all the time so the squad is getting stronger.

“The set up at the club is brilliant and if we can get that training ground and stadium, then it would be the icing on the cake. On the pitch, we just need to keep stretching ourselves and that was probably what was important about keeping the manager.

“As a player, I feel like he is constantly pushing everyone at the club. He is pushing the players, he is pushing the board and the Chairman, he is pushing all the staff to get everything out of every single person at the club. That is why it was important to keep him because we feel he is a big driving force at the club. I am not saying that people would not do it without him pushing, but sometimes you need someone to drag every ounce out of everyone. That’s his biggest asset”.

 

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