Wembley heartbreak, promotion at Griffin Park and a Sky Bet Championship Play-Off campaign, Simon Royce has seen it all since his arrival from Gillingham in the summer of 2010.
A well-known figure on the Football League circuit, Simon represented ten clubs during a 22-year career, beginning his journey with Non-League Heybridge Swifts before going on to feature for the likes of Southend United, Leicester City, Queens Park Rangers and Gillingham.
We sat down with the Brentford Goalkeeper Coach at the Club’s Jersey Road training ground.
Game in professional football
My debut for Southend United came as a 19-year-old against Grimsby Town in March 1992, we won 3-1 at Roots Hall. I had a decent game. I remember one shot coming off the post, hitting me and then rolling narrowly wide which was fortunate. I’d come out of Non-League – I was a painter and decorator by trade – so I hadn’t been involved in the professional game for long. I’d only had one full season of senior football at Heybridge Swifts so the transition into professional football was a quick one.
Mistake you made
I remember going to the Baseball Ground to face Derby County early on in my career. I came out for a cross and the ball spun off the top of my wrist, bounced down and Marco Gabbiadini slid the ball home. That one sticks in my mind, particularly as we lost the game one-nil. I had a very good second half and made some good saves; mistakes didn’t affect me too badly. If you go into your shell following a mistake it’ll consume you.
I was still registered to play when Andy Scott introduced me to the group on the first day of pre-season. We did some 1,000-meter runs in the morning and then I took my first session in the afternoon. Throughout my career I’d worked with lots of different coaches including some former England goalkeepers, so I took inspiration from them. I never looked at online at coaching sessions; during a playing career of over 20 years you pick up bits from everyone. The first session was about getting to know the players’ background and then building a relationship from there.
It meant a lot when Daniel Bentley was named Goalkeeper of the Year at the London Football Awards. I found out two weeks prior to him getting the award that he’d won it, so it was difficult to keep that to myself! It’s reward for all the hard work that Daniel puts in, but also for the work that I put in, striking 5,000 balls a year at him and this, that and the other. It gives me a buzz to see how well he’s doing – when he makes a save I’m up on the sideline cheering. I took great pride in seeing him collect that award – he deserves it.
With regards to my playing career, keeping a clean sheet in the League Two Play-Off Final for Gillingham at the age of 38 is up there. I was ever-present that season and topped it off with a promotion at Wembley. Making my Premier League debut was another highlight, as was playing at White Hart Lane as Tottenham Hotspur are my club.
Thing about being a goalkeeper
Every club I’ve been involved with – and there’s been a few – not once has there been any animosity between the keepers; as team-mates you’re there to help each other. Obviously everyone is vying for the number one shirt and no keeper will tell you any different, but if the team is doing well then everybody benefits. It’s a keeper’s mentality that you don’t throw your toys out the pram and sulk. If you’re out of the team then you train harder because you never know when the opportunity is coming. If you don’t maintain high standards in training it’ll show on the pitch.
Keeper you’ve worked with
Daniel by far, that’s an absolute no-brainer. All the permanent keepers I’ve worked with at Brentford have been top trainers with a real willingness to learn, but Daniel is in another stratosphere. He lives, eats, sleeps and breathes football, and I think that shows in his performances. I like to leave post-match analysis to the next day to give myself a chance to sleep on things and watch some footage, but as soon as Daniel is out the shower after a match he wants his feedback. If there’s anything to discuss in greater detail then we’ll do that during the week, but once the game is done he wants to take everything on board, put things to bed and move on. He doesn’t always agree with me but that’s healthy; you don’t want him to just stand and nod if there’s something he feels needs questioning.
Piece of advice
To play with a smile on your face; I want the keepers to come in and be excited to work with me. I work them hard, but I work them fair. Sometimes the keepers will put the session on themselves – I’ll do the serving, but I give them the freedom to set the routine. It keeps things fresh. There’s some things that you have to do every day but it’s important to mix things up and make sure they’re enjoying themselves.
Feeling on a football pitch
I was attacked on the pitch during a game at Stoke City. I was playing for Queens Park Rangers and we’d won the game 2-1. I always kept a towel and a water bottle by my left-hand post, so I bent down to pick them up and felt someone jump on my back. At first I assumed it was a team-mate because we’d won the game, but then I looked down and saw a pair of trainers and felt a blow to the back of my head. It was a Stoke supporter who’d run on to the pitch, shouting “I’m going to do you, Roycey!” I had my hand on the post so managed to pick him up and throw him in the net. After that the stewards rushed on and we had more supporters on the pitch – it was complete mayhem. The fan in question was sentenced to four months in prison for assault and some of my team-mates were cautioned because there were other fights on the pitch.
Thing about your job
The travelling - it’s a 150-mile round trip from my place near Southend. I leave at five in the morning, sleep in the car for an hour then head into the office for eight o’clock. I’ve been doing that for eight years. It’s a lot of effort, but it’s worth it because when I get to Jersey Road it’s the best job in the world.
Decision given against you
I was playing for QPR at Port Vale and the linesman claimed that I’d handled the ball outside the box, which resulted in a red card during the first half. I think we still managed to hold on for a goalless draw. I was not outside the box - I’d knocked the ball from just inside the area and then cleared upfield. I’d say that one, but thankfully I’ve not been on the end of many incorrect decisions.