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Joe Lewis | Red Matchday Feature

January 5, 2019 11:00 am Author: Malcolm Panton (Red Matchday Editor)

 

Joe last month spoke to the red matchday editor.

These are changing times at Pittodrie, of that there’s little doubt, as the first team evolves, to bring in new faces as old favourites move on. Bringing a new side together is never easy and rarely happens overnight unless you can throw a fortune at it. But a little bit of patience can work wonders and, ultimately, a better side still can emerge from the ashes.

In that transition period, teams often simply have to dig in and work their way through it until they become used to one another, their new surroundings and demands. According to Joe Lewis, that’s very much what the Dons are going through at present.

“This is my third season at Aberdeen now. Previously we have had the likes of Jonny Hayes, James Maddison, Ryan Christie, Greg Stewart; lots of flair in the side. We still have flair, but we seem to have more grit and aggression and character about us as a squad now.

“You’ve got to stay in games, you’re not always going to be dominating games. You want to, you’d like to, and that’s what we’re striving to do and working hard to improve on. But you’re not always going to be able to do that and when you’re not dominating games, or when teams are having possession, you need to be solid, organised and difficult to break down.

“We have got a bit of steel in us this season. A lot of our performances haven’t necessarily been free flowing attractive stuff but I think we have got that steel in us this season where we won’t get bullied or out muscled in games. We will stand up to whatever comes at us. If a team is going to battle and play a direct style and try and beat us up, we have got players who will stand up to that. If we are playing against teams who want to go toe to toe in terms of ability, we have got players who can do that as well. I think we are a well rounded squad this season.

“The midfield area typifies that. Lewis Ferguson has come into the side and given us a lot of that. Playing alongside Shinnie, you have two players who had that real drive and determination – as much as any players in this league. There is real tenacity in midfield. Both lead by example in the middle of the park and the other players, particularly the youngsters coming into the side, they see that. Dom has also come in and done very well for us in my opinion. He showed at the back end of last season how big a player he can be.

“Then behind them you have Scott who runs through brick walls for us. He will take a whack in the face but the next ball he will go up and dominate again. I have to take a little bit of credit for his progress. It was my bad game that got him in the team! I had a terrible game against Motherwell in the cup and we lost 3-0. The gaffer shuffled it around a bit the following Sunday when we were at Fir Park and brought Scott into the side. He played really well in that game and has gone from strength to strength.

“Then Andy gives you performance after performance without any fuss. That central area in any team is so important. We have a lot of strength and tenacity in there.

“This season I have not had a lot of shots to save. We have defended well in the majority of the games and have a good number of clean sheets. The defence have been really strong and it feels like I have not had a lot to saves to make – I’m not sure if the stats back that up or not or it is just how it feels.

“As a goalkeeper there is no better feeling than playing your part and when you win 1-0, it feels that extra bit special.

“December was a very busy period but I don’t get as tired physically because I am not running a round as much as the others. The more games the better for me! Not necessarily because it reduces the amount of training we have to do, honest! I just love getting into the routine of playing games. Earlier in the season we had three international breaks inside three months. It is a little bit stop start so it is nice now to get your teeth into some games now.

“One of the reasons I came to play at Aberdeen, was knowing that I was coming to a team who would be competing at the right end of the league and competing for silverware, playing in big games, whether it would be here in front of 20,000 at Pittodrie or away from home when we always take a great crowd.

“Playing in front of a decent atmosphere is something all players thrive on. That is why you play football. It was something that attracted me to Aberdeen and it is something which will attract players in the future and keep players here.

“We are definitely building something here, not just on the pitch but you can see the club is going in the right direction. Having been at a number of other clubs, you don’t always get that feel that everyone is trying to pull in the same direction and trying to improve as a club. As a player you absolutely get that feel here.

“The young lads have really made a difference this season too. They are really pushing and it has strengthened the squad. I remember when the transfer window was closing, people were worried about the squad but we have got a good squad because we have Bruce Anderson, Dean Campbell, Frank Ross, Scott Wright, Connor McLennan as well as Lewis Ferguson – young lads who are coming through and they are all really good players.

“Month on month they are getting stronger. They are a great additional to the first team squad and that is credit to what Paul Sheerin is doing. We seem to have a good blend of young and experienced players, and young players with a good mentality as well. Not just having the ability but having the right mentality to be able to step up to first team football and make an impact when they get a chance. It is a credit to what the club are doing.

“Obviously there is an expectation and a demand from supporters for a level of play and I completely understand that because they are paying good money to come and be entertained. In an ideal world, we would play free flowing attacking football and win games that way. That is not always possible given conditions and surfaces we play sometimes in Scotland, especially during the winter months. You have to find ways of winning games and that is what successful teams do. Maybe Manchester City can win most games by playing unbelievable and beautiful stuff, but they are also getting paid £250,000 a week! You would expect that from them. I am only on about half that!”

If the HMRC are reading, Joe’s joking…

What isn’t a joke is the fact that goalkeepers share a close bond, both inside their own clubs and across the game. They all know they’re in the hardest job in the game, the most exposed position on the pitch. They can all feel each other’s pain when it goes wrong.

“In the tunnel before a game, every player is standing there looking straight ahead, but the goalies always shake hands and wish each other well. You have that understanding. Your job is just different to everybody else’s. If an opposing goalie makes a mistake, I’ll always make a point afterwards of mentioning a great save he might have made.

“If we score through a big goalie error, as much as I’m happy, I’ll never really celebrate it. I’m delighted we’ve scored, but I wouldn’t go overboard at seeing another goalie’s misery, because you know exactly how they feel. You’ve been there, you’ve probably made that exact mistake and maybe will again. You understand their position”.

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