Carly Telford column: “How are you meant to develop if you’re only being coached a couple of times every week?”

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Carly Telford talks about Chelsea’s mixed WSL season, the importance of consistent goalkeeper coaching, and preparation for the SheBelieves Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

New year. New contract.

I’ve had a really good couple of years at Chelsea now and I’ve said in a few interviews I’ve done that I’m in both a really good environment and a really good team. I know there’s been a lot of questions and a lot of tweets I’ve been tagged in about our goalkeeping unit but it’s a fantastic group to be in.

I knew when I first came to the club I’d be fighting for my position and nothing’s changed. If you’re at a club like Chelsea, Arsenal or Man City, it’s important you can rely on more players. You see in the men’s game the top clubs rotate their goalkeepers in different competitions and that’s starting to happen in the women’s game now too.

But what people don’t see behind the scenes, and perhaps it’s a downfall of the women’s game, is that I could go elsewhere and play more games but I don’t think there are many teams in this league who have the quality goalkeeper coaching we get at Chelsea and I think that’s what people sometimes forget.

Going and playing every week is brilliant and it looks good on your CV, but in the past few years I’ve become a better goalkeeper than I probably ever would have been if I’d stayed at Notts County, played week in week out but got no coaching.

At Notts County, I wasn’t coached as a goalkeeper. I trained with the outfielders or had Rick [Passmoor] kick a few balls at me. I tried to train with the boys at the academy but it didn’t make a good goalkeeper. I played every week but I didn’t get better as a goalkeeper, it didn’t progress me where England was concerned.

I loved my time there and it was brought to an abrupt halt but when it came to this deal you’re always wondering what they want to do, do they still want you?

But when they said they wanted to extend my contract I thought ‘why not?’ They brought in Ann-Katrin [Berger] and I already work with one of the best in the world in Hedvig [Lindahl] and it’s not an opportunity to shy away from.

I know playing is important, I’m always pushing myself but at the same time I have a way of working and I just work my backside off to make sure if I’m called upon with Chelsea or England that I’m ready.

It’s different as a goalkeeper. You can go anywhere in this league now and get good coaching. You’ve got Emma [Hayes] who is one of the best in the world, Nick Cushing, Joe [Montemurro] at Arsenal. You look at the attention Marc Skinner got at Birmingham, you’ve got Tanya [Oxtoby] winning manager of the month, but for a goalkeeper, you don’t always work with those coaches.

At some clubs, goalkeepers get coached twice a week and at others, they get coached every day, how are you meant to develop if you’re only being coached a couple of times every week? Don’t get me wrong, I think clubs are investing in it but there has to be consistency throughout all clubs of full-time goalkeeper coaches because right now there isn’t.

I don’t like sitting on the bench or in the stand but it’s give and take when you play for a top club. Mark Mason, the England goalkeeper coach, travels to clubs to see what we’re doing and I know in two years I’ve developed more as a goalkeeper than in four or five years at Notts County.

An up and down domestic campaign

We knew we put ourselves in a very difficult position at the beginning of the season. Teams were already six points ahead of us and that’s very hard to claw back in this league. We’ve always been chasing, we weren’t scoring enough so it’s been a very mixed season.

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We’ve been so good in some games and it’s been a bit like a rollercoaster this season. We’ve had a good 20 minutes, then a poor 20 minutes and for us it’s been about finding consistency and we probably found that when we beat Arsenal 3-0.

In other games we’ve allowed ourselves to be more exposed at the back and not taken the chances we’ve created going forward and that’s unlike us. We probably haven’t been able to put our finger on it yet but we have a fantastic team, fantastic staff, fantastic fans and we still have the FA Cup and the Champions League to play for.

There would have to be a massive downfall at Arsenal or Manchester City for us to get back in the top two but we have to keep fighting. The priority right now is the FA Cup and going as far as we can in the Champions League and seeing what happens.

We just haven’t been able to find the net as regularly as we did last season and it’s hard to know why. Emma knows we’ve got to make sure our forwards are confident but it’s part of football and the girls were so good last year, achieving that again was going to be hard.

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Fran Kirby had an injury heading into the winter and it’s hard to come back firing on all cylinders and you have that expectation people put on you. Erin Cuthbert has been brilliant and I think she’ll get better and Beth England has been good for us, but we’re missing that clinical side that Arsenal and Man City have shown.

It’s hard to go back-to-back in this league, only Liverpool have done it but we’ve just got to keep it up and stick with the other three around us. Birmingham sometimes gets forgotten but we’re competing with them too.

Back on international duty

Qatar was brilliant for us because it just wasn’t La Manga! It was somewhere different and the weather could be so up and down in La Manga, it wasn’t always what it said on the tin given it was a warm weather camp.

Phil [Neville] told us about a bad experience he had out there as a player so wasn’t keen to go back and Doha was amazing, the people couldn’t have been nicer, we’d trained on some pitches outside the main stadium but the next day they had us in the main stadium, they wanted us to have the best of the best.

The amount of construction work going on there is ridiculous and I can only imagine it will look like in 2022.

I think it was our first camp with Phil where we haven’t had a game so for the team, it was a learning week both on and off the pitch. We were learning about our plans, how we face different teams, all the what ifs, there were so many things we were able to address and start working on.

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We have four very good friendlies after SheBelieves and the tournament itself is like a rehearsal for the World Cup with three tough games in quick succession and three very different teams. Some of the stuff we’ve been working on in Qatar will hopefully come to fruition but we’re still learning.

It took Mark [Sampson] two or three years to get his team looking everything like he wanted and Phil is only a year in. He’s still looking at different players, different formations, how he wants us to play and while he’s still working all that out I’m certain he’s close to knowing what his team and his squad are going to start looking like.

The next seven games will really help him and us understand where we’re going to go. We’d love to win SheBelieves and win every friendly but we know there will be tough moments and we know we’ll have to address situations that will come up in a World Cup.

It’s a good chance to answer some questions and also bring up some more questions heading into the World Cup because we know we’re not the finished product, we’re not the champions of anything. We’ve got to go there, be competitive but when we struggle or lose we can ask why and figure out solutions so we have those answers in June.

Qatar was one of our best camps under Phil. It was competitive and it was coming off the back of a defeat so there were questions to answer, what went wrong etc etc. The team were able to address that but Phil and his team are very good and without us knowing he willingly put us on a path to come out of that camp feeling good with the way he structured it.

We started some processes which will hopefully set us on a good journey with more ups and downs and lead us to success in July.

Follow Carly on Twitter @carlytelford1

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