Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Interview with New Town Eagles goalkeeper Michael Soszynski

Photos (Top to Bottom): Michael Soszynski, New Town Eagles' goalkeeper, keeps hydrated; Nathan Pitchford...injured; Andrew Savage...injured; Michael Soszynski on guard

How old are you?


Which clubs have you played for in Tasmania, Australia and overseas?

In Tasmania: Newtown Eagles 1999 and 2008, Taroona 2000, Hobart Olympic 2001, South Hobart 2002, Beachside 2005 and 2007/08.

Interstate: Adelaide Polonia 2006 SA Premier League.

England: Leigh RMI 2004/05, Altrincham FC 2005, Droylsden FC 2005 – All English Conference League. Train-on keeper with Chester City in 2004 (League 2), Bury in 2004/05 (League 2) and Stockport County, 2005 (League 1).

Trialed with Legia Warszawa (2003) and Crakovia (2003) (Polish Ekstraklasa)

What is the toughest part of being a keeper?

Patience. The technical side is something that you've got naturally or you can build on quickly. It's the club politics and career positioning that's the hardest to get right, especially as a young man without an appropriate club mentor. It’s a position where you can quickly find yourself on the outer. You’re loved when things are going well, and not when things aren’t. This is not something that necessarily reflects your performances, either. Every club, without fail, should have a dedicated goalkeeping coach whose role should not only be directed at ensuring the goalkeepers are technically assured, but that they also have the appropriate support in terms of their role and appraisal of their performances.

Part of being a train-on keeper with league clubs in England was so that I actually received goalkeeper training sessions as my club at the time, Leigh, did not provide a dedicated keeper coach. So, even when playing at professional level, the other keeper at the club and myself had to go elsewhere to complete technical sessions. It would not be fathomable that a club would send a striker or midfielder out to another club to complete a training session, but it’s actually all too common that it does occur with goalkeepers.

Why did you join Eagles?

I was genuinely disappointed for Andrew given his injury, and given the man he is, and felt that it was the right time to come back and support a few people such as himself. It was initially only going to be for a period of six to eight weeks, but it has since been determined that Nathan is now going to have to sit out the remainder of the season. It’s going to make things interesting, what with family, work and study, that I will have the time to continue on, but it’s something that between the club and myself we are managing.

What representative honours have you had?

Nothing soccer related.

Which has been your most memorable game?

2001 Hobart Olympic versus. South Hobart (3-2 Win). Saved a 2nd-half penalty off Harbo (Ben Harbnison), along with several one-on-one saves. I made what I regard as my favourite career save against Harbo in the first half, twisting inside-out to tip over a bullet of a volley from about 8 yards out. That loss effectively cost South the title. Almost equally so, I enjoyed most games the following season, helping over-turn my efforts the previous year helping win South the club’s first title for about 50 odd years.

Have you always been a keeper? How did you become a keeper?

I was almost 18 when I took up football, having previously played Australian Rules football through North Hobart and the Tassie Mariners youth system. My body was pretty much shot at the time through over-training, and my uncle Frank [Bansel] (previously a president of NTE SC) playfully suggested that being a big lad with big hands and big feet I take up goalkeeping.

Why do you always answer George Krambousanos’s calls for help?

George gave me the assurance and guidance needed (as mentioned above) to take the number one spot at South Hobart. I was ready at the time, and George unlocked what had been missing from my game up to that point. As a footballer at North Hobart and the Mariners, you always had experienced people prepared to give you their time and belief. For goalkeepers, that support is unfortunately thin on the ground. You never just go through the motions with George either. Training is always enjoyable, even when you’re working hard.

What will you do next year?

Focus on family, have second child on the way. Continue with work and studies.

What did you think of the loss to Knights recently?

We gave the ball away in dangerous positions, and the Knights players were able to take advantage of this. I’ve made some good saves. The defence has done well also, but with the amount of supply their strikers had we were lucky to limit it to 3-1. Their second goal was a great finish – the kid’s feet were at least two feet off the ground and he’s flicked it in to the far corner of the net. He deserves a lot of credit for the way in which he took the goal. The Knights MAY have also unearthed a talent in Tatnell. It will be interesting to see how he continues. I’ve invited him to be Alex Cisak’s training partner while Alex is back in Australia next month, which will give him a great opportunity to work alongside an international goalkeeper and see first-hand in training what it takes to make it at the top.

How is the team going in your opinion?

We’ve been there or thereabouts in most matches and scored in every match to date. We’re really missing a box-to-box midfield presence at the moment, but having said that, only South Hobart and Zebras have that type of player at present. The grouping of teams between 3rd and 7th miss the consistency this type of player brings. If we’re looking to push forward in terms of the league we need that aspect addressed. This will provide a challenge for our midfielder group, and it will be interesting to see which players amongst the group are able to take it on.

There’s genuinely a good feeling around the club that runs through most of the ages, which does help.

What can Eagles achieve this year?

There are a few teams including ourselves running from 3rd to 7th in the league that are running hot and cold. It’s midfield consistency that’s going to determine where we finish amongst that pack. It’s a challenge for us, both as individuals and as a collective unit, to come together and sort this out.

Who are your most difficult opponents, both individually and team?

The best Tasmanian based player I’ve encountered has without doubt been Bernie Klasen. Given a set of functional knees, Bernie would have played the game full-time. He was a great captain, unrelenting in what he expected of you on the pitch. He drove us at South to the title in 2002, and gave young guys such as Bart Beecroft, David Cooper and Dean Wilcox the freedom to relax and play their natural game.

As a keeper you’re always keeping an eye on the player who can create something out of nothing. I don’t see too many players other than Ben Crosswell, and maybe Jono Ladic, in the south who are capable of doing this on a consistent basis. He has touch, vision and finish in abundance. Prior to Ben you had Bernie and at the same time Colin Shepherd. I’ve personally always enjoyed playing against Josh Thorpe (Zebras) and John Demir who are/were players with great touch and finishing ability.

What do you do (for a living, education )?

Currently work at Betfair Australia (Proud sponsors of Newtown Eagles). Currently studying Carpentry and Joinery at Polytech.

What do you hope to achieve in the game?

I've already achieved the aim of playing professionally, albeit a short stint. In that, I’ve satisfied a need and have worked with some great individuals, including Artur Boruc, Lukasz Zaluszka, Jerzy Engel and Joe Corrigan to name a few. I will continue on with goalkeeper coaching, and am looking to progress back to it at an elite level. The perfect avenue would be a Tasmanian A-League Youth team goalkeeping coaching role, but that’s obviously a project that’s a few years down the track, so we will have to wait and see.

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