Lee Harrison Masterclass


Lee Harrison is the Southend United goalkeeper coach, having played in goal himself throughout a long professional playing career with Leyton Orient, Barnet and Southend. He has also coached goalkeepers in the Academies of Leyton Orient and West Ham and the first teams of Orient and Wycombe Wanderers.

Lee introduced the session by stating that the modern goalkeeper has far more touches of the ball with his feet than did his predecessors. It is therefore important that they are integrated into the training sessions with their outfield colleagues right from the beginning. They need good skill performance in possession of the ball and tactical understanding with the rest of the team.

Lee introduced a warm up practice for the three goalkeepers he was working with and he went in himself to make four keepers which he required for the practice. Five mannequins were placed in the ground in a diamond shape and each keeper stood a few yards beyond each point. A ball had to be passed through and around the mannequins with their first touch and the keepers had to be constantly making angles for each other so that they could be easily found by anyone receiving a pass.

Lee explained that the practice replicated situations where the keeper is constantly supporting the play. The mannequins represented players, both colleagues and opponents, who obscure the goalkeeper's view so being alert and lively on his feet, is paramount for the keeper.

Lee then brought in eight outfield players and made a pitch  with a goal at each end. A 4 v 4 game plus goalkeepers was introduced. Each keeper had to play out from the back when he had possession.

Lee constantly emphasised to the keepers that good, clear communication was vital. He introduced a  condition that when the keeper received a pass from a team mate, he could not return the ball to the same player but must find a  different one. So the keepers were being coached to see the next pass, with a similar level of vision as that expected of midfield players. The keepers were also encouraged to play first time passes whenever possible to ensure that  they had 'pictures'; i.e. that they knew where to pass the ball before receiving it because their eyes were up and they were scanning the pitch constantly.

Lee then went on to instruct the keepers to leave their penalty area zone whenever possible in order to increase the pace of the game and initiate a quick counter attack. He wanted the keepers to make decisions for themselves on when to leave their area and make their own judgements on when it was safe to do so. All the time Lee was getting the keepers to make more and more decisions.

Next he shortened the pitch a little. He now made it 5 v 3 plus a keeper in each goal. The team with five players were playing keep ball and could use both goalkeepers to assist in keeping possession: they were not shooting or attacking either goal. The team with three players had to press relentlessly to win the ball and when they won it they could score in either goal. When the ball went out of play then Lee passed another one in immediately to the three players trying to score and they had to attack and shoot at either goal as quickly as possible.

As the players became adjusted and familiar with what was required in the game then an increasingly fast pace was built up. The keepers were being developed in all facets of their position. Shot stopping, agility and anticipation when the team of three had the ball and then 'outfield skills' when they were in a  possession situation when the team of five had the ball.

Lee then extended the pitch back to its original length and reintroduced the two equal teams of 4 v 4 plus the goalkeepers. It was back to a directional game again but if the ball was passed to the keeper he could not be challenged in his zone. Lee wanted the keepers to join in with the play and after they had passed the ball they had to support their pass. Then, the final condition that Lee introduced, was that whenever an outfield player won the ball then it had to go back to his keeper. So the keepers were constantly in action, always having to concentrate on the game and having to be aware where their pass would go when the ball came back to them.

To round off the session  Lee put on a shooting practice which was of equal benefit for both the strikers and the keepers. The keeper went in goal and three mannequins were placed a few yards in front of him. The players came forward in turn to receive a low pass from the right. A defender went to challenge the striker as the ball came to him and he had to receive the ball with his first touch and shoot with his second. The first touch played the ball across the front of the defender into space and he had to shoot through a gap in the mannequins. After a number of shooting attempts a variation was introduced when the strikers' first touch beat the defender on his other side with a shot on his second touch to follow.

The exercise was then repeated with balls coming in form the left side and so the strikers were working both feet. The exercise was good for the keepers because there were bodies (mannequins) in the way and they have to make different decisions.

Different types of serves were also introduced , with the ball being thrown in at various heights. Lee explained that he much preferred this practice for shooting than when the ball is rolled in for shooting at goal,  with only the keeper in the way, which is of limited value for both the forwards and the goalkeeper.

Lee explained in his debrief of the session, that goalkeepers' training has evolved considerably in recent years. He recalled that when the back pass rule was changed some years ago, then at first it was carnage, but it has resulted in the goalkeeper becoming a better player.

The work that  Lee had done in his session was of enormous benefit to all the coaches present  at whatever level they work and he was given a warm and deserved ovation at the end.



Report by Steve Haslam