Friday, September 10, 2021

Interview with Nathan Pitchford on the eve of his retirement

Photo:  Goalkeeper Nathan Pitchford retires tomorrow after an illustrious career. [PlessPix] 

Devonport Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Pitchford will retire after Saturday’s NPL Tasmania title-deciding game against Kingborough Lions United.

If Devonport win the title, it will be Pitchford’s fourth NPL Tasmania title.

I asked Nathan about his career as a goalkeeper.

1. Which clubs have you played for in Tasmania and which clubs interstate?

a. Started juniors and youth at Metro Claremont, then moved to Hobart Zebras; where I made my senior debut in 2004 under Franco Previdi (interestingly enough, in a League game against Metro).  I then moved to New Town Eagles from 2005 - 2013 where I solidified my senior playing career.  I then played one season at Hobart Zebras in 2014, before spending 2015-2017 in Melbourne for work. I have been at Devonport Strikers since 2018.

1. Why did you become a goalkeeper?

a. I have no definitive answer or reason.  My favourite player was Peter Schmeichel, as I support Manchester United, and I just loved watching them and him play during my childhood and youth.

2. Have you played in the outfield?

a. Yes, a lot actually. I mixed playing in goals and on-field until I was about 15-16 years old, but was predominantly in goals from the age of 10-11 years. I even played on-field for Tasmania at the U16 National Championships as a striker in one match, and I even played on-field at senior level. The senior match was a result of a range of injuries that occurred against a South Australian representative team. I had played the previous match and Frank Mainella was in goals. We had so many injuries that I had to come in on the left wing. I spent all of 2013 playing on-field in the Southern Premier League with New Town Eagles as I was unable to commit fully to the season due to work commitments, playing predominantly in defence.

Photo:  Nathan Pitchford at State training. [PlessPix] 

3. What are the requisites for a good goalkeeper?

a. One of my mentors Neil Connell had an acronym for a QUALITY Goalkeeper that I always remembered. It was Quick - Upstanding - Agile - Learn from mistakes - Instinctive - Technique - Yell to organise. Overall, a good keeper in the current game needs to be brave, not only in physical contests, but in their approach to playing with the ball at their feet with both short, mid and long range passing. Being shorter, I always worked very hard on my speed/agility and my technique, as good technique will show through in key moments when fatigue sets in or things are going against you.

4. Is it punishing on the body, and is that more so on artificial pitches?

a. Yes and Yes. I had an on-field playing friend tell me the other day that they stood in goals for a couple of shots the other night at a training session and he said he couldn't believe how sore he was the next day after diving around on grass. Keeping is high-impact and repetitive and, being short, I've been nailed a few times under high-balls especially when I was younger. Synthetic pitches are a lot less-forgiving, especially on shoulders, and even soft-tissue conditioning when running for out-field players takes time to develop when spending a lot of time on synthetic.

5. Have you had any bad injuries?

a. A few. Various AC-joint sprains in both shoulders have been annoying and repetitive calf strains more recently. But the main ones:

                     i.     2009 - I suffered a hyperextension of my right knee during a pre-season game (playing up-front haha) and ended up with a very similar injury to what Miles Barnard is recovering from at the moment. I had surgery and missed the 2009 season.

                   ii.     2012 - broken left hand in the final game of the season against Kingborough. I had surgery and now have a plate and a few screws in that hand.

                 iii.     2018 - A collision/tackle midway through the season at Valley Road left me with a torn muscle, ruptured retinaculum, torn ligament, cartilage damage and a small fracture in my right ankle. I missed 1-match and played in nasty pain for the remainder of the season, including our FFA Cup matches.

                   iv.     2019 - I dislocated and fractured a finger on my left hand in the weeks leading in to the Lakoseljac Cup Final. I was able to strap and manage without missing a match.

6. Why have you called it a day?

a. So many reasons. Some linked to physical reasons and some more personal in nature. Overall, I have had an amazing career being able to represent Tasmania on numerous occasions and having the success with Devonport recently. I am also at a point in my career where time is starting to become a precious commodity. It's also time I repay some time to my family and my partner Kira. She has been an unwavering support and always wants me to play, but I am looking forward to some more down-time and freedom to do more with my family and friends.

7. How many league titles and cups have you won at senior level?

a. Three NPL titles and two Lakoseljac Cups, all with Devonport Strikers.

8. Tell me about your Tasmanian representative career.

a. I take great pride in having played for Tasmania, especially being lucky enough to have played with some of (who I consider) the greats of my era in Tasmanian football. I have represented Tasmania at U15, U16, two years in the U19's (Captain), U23 Tasmania Youth A-League matches (x4), Senior Level multiple times from 2007 to 2019. We also used to have North vs South matches between 2005 - 2010 where I represented Southern Tasmania on a few occasions.

9. Can you win your fourth NPL Tasmania title on Saturday?

a. I believe we definitely can.  Yes!! It's a tough match-up, but a game we definitely have the quality to win.

10.         Is it disappointing not to compete in the FFA Cup yet again?

a. Yes, more so because we thought we would be and it's been taken away. It is an amazing competition and something I hope FFA continue with moving forward.

11.         You have a very demanding profession.  Will you do anything in football after your retirement as a player?

a. Work is very time-consuming and one that does require some out-of-hours work, especially the research component. I definitely intend on seeing where some coaching will take me in the future, but not in 2022.

12.         Who is the best striker you've played against?

a. There is no single one. I have played against Brendan Lakoseljac, Brayden Mann, Matthew Sanders, Tom Huigsloot and Adam McKeown to name a few. Matthew Sanders was probably my favourite, as he was strong, good in the air and had a lethal left-foot, which meant he was always dangerous. He was also pretty quick and an intelligent player, so he could bring others in to the game as well; creating goals for others.

13.         Do you know how many clean sheets you've kept?

a. At Devonport we have kept 33 clean sheets, which is a 42% clean sheet rate. No idea with New Town Eagles, but it wouldn't have been as good a percentage.




View from the stands said...

Great player and person!

Unknown said...

Hi! Im from Brazil and i see Devonport last matchs. Congrats to Nathan. U was a big GK, man! Really. Good luck in your life, bro. Im Vasco da Gama ( Rio de Janeiro ) in Brazil and Devonport in Tasmania. Ps: Vasco 3x1 Manchester 2000 XD