The keeper of dreams
KID keeper Shane Supple is still coming to terms with being Ipswich's current number one.The 18-year-old Republic of Ireland youth international returns to Southampton tomorrow with fond memories of his only previous outing at St Mary's Stadium.
By Mel Henderson
KID keeper Shane Supple is still coming to terms with being Ipswich's current number one.
The 18-year-old Republic of Ireland youth international returns to Southampton tomorrow with fond memories of his only previous outing at St Mary's Stadium.
Supple said: “I can't believe how quickly the time has flown since we were down there for the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final last April.
“It seems like it was only yesterday. We got a 2-2 draw and it was a big night for us all, with the game being live on television.
“At that time I wasn't thinking 'I'll be back next season with the first team' or anything like that.
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“The only thing on my mind then was doing well in that game and finishing the job in the return, which we managed to do.
“I was third choice behind Kelvin (Davis) and Lewis (Price) then, so a lot has happened in a short space of time.”
Dublin-born Supple will be making only his eighth senior start tomorrow, but despite his lack of experience he has had no problems coping with the physically demanding Championship.
He laughed: “I suppose I'm a bit baby-faced. I still get shouts from the fans behind the goal - things like 'You'll be back to school on Monday'. I just let it go over my head.
“I'm still growing, maybe not upwards but in terms of filling out, and I've still got a lot to learn. But I think I've shown I'm no pushover and I can feel I'm improving all the time.”
Ipswich fans will concur with that view, even if Supple still can't quite believe the rapid strides he has made in the past three and a half years.
He added: “I was only 15 when I came here and I spent the first year training. I couldn't play because I wasn't 16 and the club couldn't get international clearance.
“Andy Marshall was here then and I also remember Matteo Sereni. I also had a few training sessions with George Burley before he was sacked.
“George was always very good with me and gave me a lot of encouragement. The goalkeeping coach, Malcolm Webster, also helped me enormously.
“Malcolm played a big part in my progress and now I am benefiting from the help that Andy Rhodes is giving me. I'm lucky I have been working with two such good coaches.”
Supple hopes to push his way into contention for the Republic's under-21 squad in the coming months and, looking even further ahead, he longs for the day when he will be a senior international colleague of current first choice Shay Given.
Not that he regards himself as the finished article just yet. “I don't think it matters how young or old you are, there are always areas of your game you want to improve,” he said.
“I will get bigger and stronger. Kicking is such a big part of being a goalkeeper and I work a lot on that, while I'm getting better when it comes to communicating with the back four, another important area of a keeper's game.”
Supple certainly has no regrets about putting Ipswich ahead of boyhood favourites Aston Villa and added: “When they wanted me I was keen to sign. Peter Schmeichel was my hero and he was there at the time.
“They invited me over with my family to have a look round and I was all for joining them, but that all changed when Ipswich came in for me.
“I came over here and was convinced this was the club for me. I definitely made the right decision.”