Academy Feature – Our Future Shot Stoppers


Our Lead Academy Goalkeeping coach Darran Lovell spoke with this week, giving us an insight into his role at the Academy and our future goalkeeping prospects.

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“This is my sixth season at the club,” Darran began. “I worked previously at Norwich City for ten years and then I spent some time in the middle-east working with the Bahrain national team. There was a vacancy at the club and I got a call to see if I’d be interested in it. Eventually I was offered the job at the club and accepted it. I couldn’t wait to come up and get started. I’ve really enjoyed my six years so far and hopefully long may it continue.”

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Darran went on to talk about the influence of first-team goalkeeping coach Andy Dibble, and how his relationship with the former City keeper has influenced the development of the Academy Goalkeepers.

“Andy Dibble provides a wealth of experience for me and the younger lads. Andy’s played at the highest level as well, and he’s been around in terms of coaching for a long time. You can see the progress that Neil Etheridge made last season. A lot of that is down to what Andy has done with him on the training ground.

“I’ve seen that first-hand and it’s a great example of how someone can improve a goalkeeper. I’m trying to do that with the U18 and U23 teams on a daily basis, but me and Andy have a very close relationship. We work very well together, and we speak almost daily on the phone trying to enhance the overall programme, right from first-team down to the academy programme.

“The two goalkeepers in the U23 set-up, Warren Burwood and Matthew Hall will train with Andy and the first-team goalkeepers for part of the week, and the rest of their time will be spent with me. Andy and I will do very similar things in training, so once they go from me to him, they know exactly what the structure is likely to be within the session."

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Goalkeeper Warren Burwood was offered a professional deal by the club following the expiry of his two-year apprenticeship, with Lovell full of praise for the young keeper.

“Warren getting his pro contract was massive. He’d didn’t have the best first-year with us but he worked hard and got more consistent as the year went on.

“He did really well to sign a pro contract, and it’s always pleasing to see the progress of goalkeepers that you’re working with on a daily basis.”

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George Ratcliffe has enjoyed a brilliant start to the 18/19 PDL2 South season for Craig Bellamy’s U18 side, conceding just once in four competitive matches.

“The other thing that pleased me was George Ratcliffe’s progress. He was excellent against Hull in the opening game of last season and from then it was just a case of him gaining consistency. The way he finished the season was excellent, especially his performance against Swansea in the FAW Youth Cup final. I thought he was very good on the night and was unfortunate to be on the losing side. It was nice to see the progress that he made in just over a season.

“His performances through pre-season and the start of this season have been really, really good. There are areas we need to work on obviously, but his mentality and physical attributes have really kicked on over the summer, and his contribution so far this season has been key.

“He’s currently Wales’ U19 No.1 goalkeeper and I’m sure that when he goes away in a few weeks’ time, he will be looking to make sure that he hangs on to that shirt. George is a really good prospect for Wales and Cardiff City.

“We’re really pleased with the four goalkeepers in the U18 and U23 squads: George Ratcliffe, Jordan Duffey, Matthew Hall and Warren Burwood. They are all very good keepers and they’ll certainly match any goalkeepers playing for Category Two sides.”

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