Nathan Trott has just returned from England Under-21 duty, but his career could have taken a completely different path as he was still an outfield player at Valencia until he was 15!
Now a highly-rated keeper at Premier League club West Ham and at the start of his loan spell with AFC Wimbledon, Nathan has his sights firmly set on following Aaron Ramsdale’s path into the Premier League.
In case you missed our extensive interview with Nathan in the match day programme for Wycombe Wanderers, it’s published in full below.
The 20-year-old goalkeeper, here with the Dons on a season-long loan from West Ham United, told us that Wimbledon’s reputation for developing young keepers was the deciding factor in him choosing to come here, rather than following other options. And he didn’t have far to turn for advice about Wimbledon, as Aaron – or “Rambo”, as he became known here – has been a team-mate of his in England youth squads.
“I asked Rambo about Wimbledon before I came here. He only had positive things to say about the club, so I thought it was a no-brainer. I had options to go to other clubs, but I’d heard about how the goalkeepers who’ve been here previously had progressed. The club puts its trust in young keepers, and they’ve all done really well. That gave me the ambition to come here and try to do the same.
“I’d been in England squads with Aaron at youth level, starting with the U18s, then in the U19s and U20s. Hopefully I can join him in the U21s. He did really well here last season, and now he’s playing in the Premier League. I don’t want to say that I’m aiming to replicate what he did, but I want to have an impact. That’s what I want to do, but to see him do well in the Premier League is definitely encouraging for me. Hopefully, I can do that as well.
“Since I’ve been at Wimbledon, people have told me about the keepers that have been here in the past. It seems like a real tradition for the club to have successful keepers, so it’s a really high standard.
“I feel that I’ve made a positive impact. The results don’t help, but I feel that I’m proving myself, and I just want to continue my good form.”
Nathan added that goalkeeper coach Ashley Bayes has created the right training environment for him to be successful, and he’s far from daunted by playing in front of big crowds – an experience that’s new for him this season.
“I’ve settled in pretty quickly, and it’s good to get games under my belt. I had a pre-season injury, which was frustrating, but I’ve had a run of games now and I believe the results will come for us. Playing in front of so many fans is an experience I’m not used to. I’ve been on the bench for Premier League games, but actually playing in front of so many supporters at Ipswich and Sunderland was a new experience for me. I try not to think about it too much during the game, but afterwards I reflect that they’ve been really good experiences that can only help in my career.
“I want to improve my knowledge of the game, including tactics and stuff like that. The more games I play, the more I’ll improve in different areas of my game. I think I’ll improve pretty quickly. It’s high-intensity training here – Bayzo wants us all to keep working hard and at a high standard. He puts on very good training sessions because he wants to keep you in top form all the time, so that you’re always ready to go on a match day. Nik Tzanev is pushing me every day – he’s a goalkeeper of really good quality. He’s an international and he’s seen the standard that’s required when he was in goal for us. He’s set the tone for how I need to play as well. Nik has helped me a lot.
“I want to play as many games as I can. It’s a different experience for me playing first-team football after playing for West Ham’s U23s last season. I’m trying to give my all to show everyone what I’m capable of as a goalkeeper. It’s different when people are talking about you and hyping you up. You have to show what you’re about on the pitch. I have something to prove, as I need to show that I can play at this level. Hopefully, I can do that.”
England international Declan Rice has been among those to declare his support for Nathan, the West Ham midfielder posting his approval of his saves on social media. “Me and Declan are good friends. I played with him for West Ham’s U23s, and he’s really supportive of me. He’s always encouraging me, and seeing his posts about me on social media is definitely a boost.”
Rated as a potential future Premier League goalkeeper by West Ham after being capped at England youth level, it’s all a far cry from Nathan’s teenage years, when he planned to make it as an outfield player at Valencia. Until he was in his mid-teens, Nathan was still playing as outfielder, having tried several positions during his childhood in Bermuda.
“Valencia held a football camp in Bermuda every summer and I was eventually invited over there at the age of 12, when I was an outfield player. I stayed there until I was 15. It was different because I didn’t know that much Spanish when I first moved there, and I had to get used to the culture. It was quite hard to adjust as I was a long way from home at a young age. There was the language barrier, but it made me grow up a lot quicker. I had to take Spanish lessons, and I became quite fluent, so it’s a language that I can speak now – which may prove to be useful!”
Goalkeeping did not become a serious option for Nathan until a coach in Bermuda asked him to go between the sticks during a trip back to his homeland. “I was 14 when I started to take goalkeeping seriously. One of the keepers got injured, so the coach put me in goal because he’d seen me play in goal before. This was playing for Bermuda’s national youth team in the summer. After playing well in that tournament I stayed in goal.
“I’d started playing football at the age of six, just playing games with my friends. I played in youth teams back in Bermuda in different positions – centre-back, winger, striker, but my best outfield position was left-back. I first played for The Academy, a team on the island of Bermuda. It was in the west of the island, but we lived in the east, so it was quite some distance for my dad to take me there all the time!
“My dad is probably the biggest influence on my career as he was a goalkeeper as well. I watched him play in games, and he’s taken my career really seriously, taking me to training and matches. He’s played a big part in me being here. He only played local football in Bermuda, but he was really good. A lot of people back home thought he was good.
“When I was younger, the sporting focus in Bermuda was more on cricket. There was a really good national team for cricket, and we still have that now. The two main sports everyone played were football and cricket, but I preferred football. I played cricket for the school team, but I didn’t take it too seriously.”
After leaving Valencia to finish his studies, Nathan decided to pursue a career over here, and he felt that West Ham was the best option to progress as a footballer. “I went back to Bermuda for a year to finish school, and then I came over to England. First I had trials at Crystal Palace and Reading. Then I went to West Ham for two and a half weeks, and they picked me up from there.
“My cousin, Brandon Phillips, used to play for Millwall, so I used his agent to help me when I first came to England. He helped me get the trial at West Ham as he knew their goalkeeping coach. It all progressed from there.
“West Ham told me and my parents that I was different from other keepers they’d seen. They took a risk on me and invited me in to see if I could develop. It’s been pretty good so far. I think I’ve definitely improved different areas of my game. Before I came to West Ham I was just a good keeper athletically, and I was powerful, but I’ve learned more now from top-quality coaches. They’ve helped me to improve my overall game.”
Judging by his start here, Nathan is certainly continuing to progress, and all at AFC Wimbledon will be delighted if he adds to our growing reputation for developing young goalkeepers.