Editors Blog: Lee Nicholls Coming of Age

Chris Brunskill

The 21 year old goalkeeper is a name which many of us Wigan fans have heard about for a long time. Glowing reports of a mature young lad who will go far in the world of football. For most of that time, to see Lee you have either had to follow the reserves or Northampton Town.

When it was announced at the end of last season that Ali Al Habsi would have to under-take major surgery over the summer to correct a shoulder problem; there was a rather large gap to fill. With Joel Robles joining up with departing Wigan manager Roberto Martinez at Everton, Wigan needed a new goalkeeper.

The two we had were at either end of the football career spectrum. First off we had the ever faithful figure of Mike Pollitt, the veteran goalkeeper who is now taking a coaching role at the club is part of the furniture here and would be more than capable player at this level. Question marks over whether or not he could play twice a week.

The other keeper in our squad was the young Lee Nicholls. The great prospect had just completed a fantastic season loan spell at promotion pushing Northampton Town in League Two. Aidy Boothroyd said the goalkeeper was a credit to young professionals and they would love to try and keep him at the club.

As it was Owen Coyle wanted to step up Lee's position at the club to the understudy. Understudy to who was the question and the signing of Scott Carson for half a million was well accepted in Wigan. The former England international added real experience to the team and quality, not one of the most rounded goalkeepers in the world yet a player who can perform with the best on his day.

It did mean that Lee would still not see game time for Wigan, however being on the bench waiting for his chance and being part of the set up is a huge thing at the age of 21 for a goalkeeper.

Yet the role of understudy has now changed for Lee. Three games under his belt in the League, and goalkeeper has showed some real signs of quality. Two clean sheets and only one goal conceded (nothing he could have done about that yesterday) Nicholls's confidence must be through the roof.

So it should be as well. For a keeper of 21 he shows a lot of maturity in the way he plays, and guess what he catches the ball! For me that has been the biggest thing that lets Scot Carson down, and why I think Lee could keep the number one spot, Carson can't catch any crosses.

When a goalkeeper is prepared to come out and get the ball and put his name on it, the defenders in front of him become so much more relaxed. They know their keeper is coming and getting this ball and all they have to do is move out the way and watch the opposition. A goalkeeper who is decisive makes decisions and follows them through is a massive boost for any team, and Lee gives us that.

Shot stopping and distribution are all well and good as a goalkeeper. Yes you need a certain level of reactions and agility but the basic techniques can be taught and trained to anybody in the world, what is harder to teach is the confidence and the decision making to come for crosses and to be a presence in your six yard box.

The future does look bright for our goalkeeper.

If one thing the last twelve months has shown about Wigan Athletic though is we are starting to create our own talent more and more now. The money being poured into the youth step up could be starting to pay dividends.

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