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Interviews

A safe pair of hands for six years and counting

Bayzo on his long-serving role at AFC Wimbledon

5 January 2020

As a 'father-figure' responsible for guiding goalkeeping talents onto better things, Bayzo has certainly succeeded at Wimbledon.

However, in an interview for the Southend programme, Bayzo talked about one burning ambition that he still has in his role as Goalkeeper Coach with The Dons.

For those supporters that missed it, the full interview with Bayzo is published below.

In his six and a half seasons with the Dons, he has helped keepers to progress to Premier League football and win England youth honours, but Ashley Bayes has one big target – and it certainly fits in with Wimbledon’s fine goalkeeping traditions. Though rightly proud of the work he has done in helping several keepers to advance their careers, and the club to achieve promotion and consolidate in League One, Bayzo still feels there’s something missing.

“The biggest challenge for me is that I want to get my own keeper through the system and into the first team,” he told us. “We had Will Mannion and Joe Bursik as young keepers, and I was confident that one of them could make it. But when they got involved in the England set-up, the bigger clubs came in for them – those clubs cherry-pick the best talent. So that’s my big challenge: to bring a keeper through the system and into our first team.

“I love working with all goalkeepers. Here at Wimbledon we have a good, hard-working group with a good philosophy, and there’s an effective way of working. I love everything about goalkeeping: the training and the match days, and helping keepers to deal with the pressure. I eat, sleep and drink it. It’s been an eventful time for me at the club so far, with plenty of highs and a few lows. What you see is what you get with me, and my enthusiasm for goalkeeping is exactly the same as when I started here.

“Getting promoted by winning the play-off final at Wembley was a fantastic achievement. If you’re going to get promoted, that’s the best way to do it, and that’s been the highlight of my time here. And it was great last season when we stayed up, because our chances of doing that had been written off. Considering how far behind we were, to pull that off in the end was testament to everyone at the football club.”

Lincoln-born Bayzo got the call to join Wimbledon back in 2013. He already knew about club president Dickie Guy’s goalkeeping achievements, and the man who famously saved Peter Lorimer’s penalty to deny then League Champions Leeds United back in 1975 is a source of advice that Bayzo values.

“Dickie is a goalkeeping legend – everyone here knows him. We get on very well, and he gives me his thoughts on goalkeeping. He’s always given me his honest opinion on all the keepers we’ve had. If he thinks a keeper has done something good in a Saturday game, he’ll send me a message on Sunday morning, and we’ll have a text conversation.

“I know all about the club’s history with keepers, going back to Dickie, Dave Beasant, and through to Seb Brown. When we get a new keeper in, I explain to him what being a goalkeeper at Wimbledon is all about. I tell him to endear himself to the crowd: clap the fans before, during and after the game. Throw your gloves into the crowd, get them on your side, and they’ll love you.”

That advice was very apparent in Aaron Ramsdale’s hugely successful spell at Wimbledon last season. The man who became known as Rambo is still revered by Dons supporters, who recently voted him keeper of the decade in a club poll. Bayzo still talks to the AFC Bournemouth keeper regularly and keeps in touch with all the keepers he has worked with at Wimbledon.

“I spoke to Rambo after their recent game against Chelsea, about a certain situation with goalkeeping. I spoke to Kelle Roos recently as he’d just come out of the Derby team, and I still speak to Sheasy. I must have left an impression on them, and the fact that they all still talk to me makes me proud. Even Ross Worner is still in touch with me. I’m proud of the work I’ve done with all the goalkeepers at Wimbledon. We must have done something right in the goalkeeping department! Loan keepers are quality – they are from Premier League or Championship clubs. I would like my ‘own’ goalkeeper though.

“I’ve worked with some very good goalkeepers since I’ve been here. I started off with Ross and Seb Brown, then we had James Shea and Joe McDonnell. We also brought in George Long and Rambo, plus Nik Tzanev. Now we’ve got Nathan Trott. Nathan is young so he’s going to make mistakes. He’s still learning, and he’s improving all the time. He’s great on the training ground, and off it too – he’s always keen to do his analysis work, which we go through on Mondays. He has unbelievable ability – there’s no doubt about that – and he’s highly thought of at West Ham. I’m also enjoying working with our U18 keepers, Bert White and Matt Cox, as they work to progress their careers.”

The bond Bayzo has with his keepers is something he compares to a family dynamic, with him as the father! “Every goalkeeper is different, they’ve all got different personalities and characteristics. The bond you develop with each of them and the way you work with them is important. I am the way I am, but sometimes you have to put an arm around them – it’s like being a father-figure. A lot of work goes on with them off the training pitch. There’s a lot of planning and preparation, including mentoring and looking after them whether they are high or low. They may need help with something other than goalkeeping, maybe something in their personal lives. It’s about them putting their trust in you and vice versa. They all know I’ve got their backs and I want to help them to develop as goalkeepers. I’ve taken great satisfaction from helping all the goalkeepers I’ve worked with.”

There’s absolutely no chance of Bayzo resting on his laurels. His pursuit of goalkeeping excellence is relentless, as is clear from Rob Cornell’s regular training-ground updates that can be viewed on the club’s YouTube channel. Bayzo has introduced new goalkeeping equipment and methods in his attempts to give his keepers an extra edge. The day starts very early for him, and a lot of careful planning goes into his coaching routine.

“Every day is a half-five start to get the 6.00 am train in. I live a fair distance away from the club, and I get in at about 7.30 to 8. There’s a lot of preparation to do for the day ahead. Each week is planned around what I’m going to work on with the goalkeepers, and also on how to integrate their training with the rest of the squad, based on what the manager and the other coaches want. I’m always very keen to get the keepers involved with the squad as much as possible. It’s a big thing for their personalities, but also for their role in the team.

“I normally get the keepers out onto the training pitch 45 minutes before the other players. I get them motivated and ready for my session, and then integrate them into the team and what they are doing. The early part of the week will be based purely on goalkeeping, but on Thursday it’s all geared to the way we’re going to be playing on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more to it than just being out on the training pitch. Our two video analysts, Fred and Michael, do a lot of work behind the scenes. Michael will do the goalkeeping stuff with me and I tell him what I want, including what video clips I want. I’ve even got used to clipping my own stuff now! I’m big on footage of games and training. We normally do the analysis on Mondays after Saturday games, and on Wednesdays after Tuesday games, and then focus on the opposition on Thursdays.

“A lot of the equipment is my own stuff that I’ve brought in, but I’ve had a lot of help from the Blue & Yellow Club. They helped to bring in the big inflatable mannequins, and also the deflection equipment. The mannequins are great for crossing drills, as they replicate having physical contact with other players around you. Rob often comes along to film the sessions. It’s good for supporters to see what goes on, but sometimes I act a bit reserved as I don’t always like giving my ideas away!”

Recently, Bazyo was approached to host an Academy Goalkeeper Day, and it was a tremendous success. “I always like to know what’s going on with the younger keepers coming through. Once they get their scholarships onwards they come and train with me, but they also continue to work with the Academy. That’s the position now with Matt Cox and Bert White. The Academy approached me about doing a Goalkeeper Day for the younger ones. A lot of planning went into it. On the day, Jordan Knight [the Academy’s Head of Goalkeeping] brought along all the keepers aged from 11 to 16. In the morning they watched the first-team keepers train. There was a Q&A session at lunchtime, and in the afternoon we did a session with the young keepers, with the first-team keepers helping with the training.

“Stanley was the youngest one, and he was a character! The questions that the young keepers asked the senior keepers included how they prepare on a match day, what they eat and what gloves they wear. It gave them an insight into the mentality required, plus the standards that are expected. We also had a chat with the parents about it all. It was a great day – it brought everything together.”

In his own teenage years, Bayzo moved south, choosing joining Brentford over easier options that were closer to his home in Lincoln, and he made his first-team debut for the Bees at the age of 17. “I was a schoolboy player at Lincoln City, but it was around the time they went out of the league, and they scrapped their youth set-up. I played for Lincolnshire’s county team and I had numerous trials, including at Brentford, Newcastle and Nottingham Forest. I was at Forest for six months, and then the opportunity came up to join Brentford. I spoke to the coaches at Lincolnshire’s county set-up and I ended up signing for Brentford on a two-year YTS.”

A long playing career followed, with spells at Torquay United, Exeter City, Leyton Orient, Bohemians, Woking, Grays Athletic, Hornchurch, Crawley, Stevenage, and Basingstoke. When Bayzo joined Wimbledon as a coach in 2013 he was initially still registered as a player, and in fact played in a couple of pre-season friendlies. But he says it was the right time to call time on his playing career.

“I was goalkeeping coach at Aldershot and still playing when the role here came up. Paul Priddy was leaving, and Neal Ardley got in touch with me. It was to be player-coach initially. I was 40 at the time, and I was coming to the end of my playing days, though in my head I thought I could still do it! The idea was for me to coach the keepers, but also to be emergency back-up. I played a couple of times to keep myself ticking over, but your body starts telling you that it’s time to stop. I joined in a game recently and I couldn’t move for a week!

“I had six very good years under Ards, Coxy, and Bass, which was nice. I’ve worked with Wally, and now I’m working with Hodgey. They all have different strengths, different ways they want to play with their teams, and different ways of doing things. I feel I’m adaptable, and in the last year or so I think I’ve evolved a fair bit.”

Bayzo certainly feels at home here at Wimbledon, and his special rapport with supporters is clear on every match day when he comes out for the pre-match warm-up about an hour before kick-off and salutes a group of Dons fans in the Chemflow terrace.

“I have to let the players go out first now! If I can have a rapport with the fans and get them going, it means a lot. I did it when I was a player – I always made an effort to interact with the supporters. What you see is what you get with me. Some people will like it, some won’t. I’m an honest, hard-working person. I’m enthusiastic and I want to have an impact on this club and my goalkeepers.

“First and foremost, I work at Wimbledon and I want to help take this club forward, but at the same time I’m very ambitious. I’d like to think that by time I get to the age of 50 I’ll have had the chance to work at the highest level I can. And if that’s with Wimbledon, that will be even better!”


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