A serious career threatening injury is one of the worst fears for any footballer but at the age of just 19, one young goalkeeper is making the most out of adversity after taking over as goalkeeping coach at Paget Rangers.
Ryan Pratt was recently diagnosed with a ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) after first noticing the problem in his knee when playing for Stafford Town last season. After receiving treatment for what was thought to be a sprain, he attempted to continue his season but later twisted his knee again in a game at Darlaston.
After initially being on crutches and a course of pain killers, an eventual ultrasound scan revealed the extent of the injury, which even with an operation, is likely to mean at least nine months to a year out of action and a long rehabilitation programme.
The youngster stepped up to senior footballl at the age of just 15 and has over 175 senior games under his belt, numbering Dudley Sports and Cadbury Athletic amongst his other clubs. He has also coached at Sports Tipton Town and Kewford Eagles but this will be his first specific goalkeeping trainer role.
It came about when Steve Walker took over as first team manager at Paget in May. Ryan had worked with Walker at Stratford, acting as cover for the first team goalkeeper whilst getting match experience in the Midland Football League. He also provided cover at Redditch United where he worked with fellow goalkeeper Kieran Boucher.
Walker set about recruiting players for the 2021-22 season but also turned to his former charge to help coach the goalkeepers at the club, a move which could open a whole new career path for the teenager, who has trained with the likes of Steve Ogrizovic at Coventry and Ronnie Sinclair at Aston Villa.
Ryan said: "This is a new role for me, all I have known is mainly playing football since an early age but unfortunately that's not possible at the moment due to the injury so I was delighted when Steve asked me to help out at Paget.
"We worked well together at Stratford and the coaching I received there, along with that at professional clubs I have been at, makes me realise how important it is for goalkeepers to receive that.
"I wouldn't say in any way I have given up on playing again, but it is a long road back from the injury with a lot of rehab work and this role will give me something to focus on whilst that takes place.
"I will be going into Paget three times a week and doing dedicated sessions on fitness and ball work, positioning, distribution, crosses, all the elements that a goalkeeper will come across during the average game and needs to be up on.
"Although I am young to be a coach, I have been involved in the game since I was four, and specifically as a goalkeeper, plus I have been in at professional and semi-professional clubs where I received invaluable coaching which I can hopefully pass on to the Paget 'keepers.
"Steve is a real professional and it was a coup for Paget to get him as first team coach, he is ambitious, the club is and so am I and I just can't wait to get started in what will hopefully be an un-interrupted season this time around."
Above: Ryan Pratt in action
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