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Posted on 21 January 2002  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

A new series placing the spotlight on those seeking to make their big breakthrough at the Lane - first up, Under-19 goalkeeper Shwan Jalal.

UNDER-19 COACH Pat Holland is currently alternating his goalkeepers in a similar manner to the way his former West Ham boss Ron Greenwood used to switch his keepers - ex-Spur Ray Clemence and his big rival Peter Shilton - during his days as England manager.

Football fans of a certain age will remember Greenwood's dilemma - he couldn't seperate them so they took it turns. It said much for the health of England's then goalkeeping stock, as it also does now for the senior side of our Academy.

Mention England's then joint No.1's to Shwan Jalal, one half of coach Pat's goalkeeping option along with Rob Burch, and it is not a memory he shares. But then he is only 18!

He looked up to only one keeper during his schooldays, when he first discovered the joys the art of shot-stopping brings.

"Schmeichel," said Shwan without a moments hesitation, before revealing that he shares a certain quality with the Danish former Manchester United and now Aston Villa Keeper.

"I am a noisy keeper, I've been told that I'm noisy and it's a good thing for me. If you go quiet then people know that something's wrong.

"I like to make my opinions heard, it's part of playing football, isn't it?"

Shwan joined the club during the summer months after a successful trial following an impressive spell keeping goal for Dr Marten's Eastern Division side Hastings Town.

The non-leagues are a tough breeding ground for any keeper, but for one so young makes it all the more impressive - Shwan made his first senior start for Hastings at the age of 16.

"I played for the feeder club Elphinstone Flyers and when I was 15 I went into the under-16s at Hastings Town and progressed through there," recalled Shwan.

"They had a goalkeeping problem and I made my debut for the first team at 16."

But then our now 6ft 3" young keeper is a big lad now and says he always has been - and not just upwards!

"Yes I've always been big. I used to be a lot fatter, but as you grow you sort of thin out a bit.

"I used to play out on the pitch when I was younger, but there came a time when they didn't have a keeper so I said I'd have a go. I liked it then because I wasn't the most enthusiastic person about running and I'm still not."

Not that Shwan feels keepers should get to avoid doing the hard slog of running on the training ground.

"I think goalkeepers need to have a base fitness because you need to be quick and have a good stamina. It's a different kind of fitness you need. I don't mind doing the running but I believe goalkeepers need a different programme to say midfielders."

Shwan played over 40 first team games for Hastings and credits the then manager Dean White for his belief in giving young players a chance to shine. Shine he did and was soon catching the attention of the scouts - including our own.

"I didn't know about Spurs until the week before I went for my trial. It was a surprise because I didn't expect it as it was coming towards the end of the season.

"I came along, I remember it was the week before the Manchester United game, I really enjoyed it.

"I went on trial to other places and felt most comfortable here really. I went to Southampton, Crystal Palace and Wimbledon, but I also felt I played my best here."

Shwan feels that making such an early breakthrough at Hastings assisted him in ironing out any flaws in his game at an early age and not letting any errors affect his confidence.

"I had a couple there, every goalkeeper has them, but the good thing is to do it at a young age so you can get it out of your game. The younger you are you get into more of a habit and routine.

"That's part of being a keeper, it's very mental, if you make a mistake you need to get it out of your head because the next shot is a totally different story.

"It is what is being put into your head. If I'm training here and I drop a cross, we won't carry on - Hans or Perry will say 'we're going to put it right'. I think it's more about being professional as well because you go back and correct your mistakes in training."

Considering he was joining the club to enter into our under-19 squad, Shwan's arrival at Spurs attracted a fair bit of press attention - and not all of it welcome.

One newspaper, picking up on the fact that Shwan was born in Iraq, led with a line suggesting he wanted to play for England and beat his native country in the World Cup.

"With the family situation you don't like to see that," he reflected. "You don't realise it, but it is hard on the family because other people read that.

"I'm not ashamed of my nationality at all, I just want to be treated normally with the lads."

Shwan picked up his trade early in life and the reaction to his signing offered an early warning of the perils footballers can potentially face from the press.

"Exactly. One Sunday paper took it the furthest and that was annoying. I just try and get on with my football."

At the moment his football involves sharing team duties with fellow under-19 keeper Rob Burch - a situation he feels is a positive one both individually and for the team.

"It's going well because I think me and Rob bring out the best in each other. I think Perry (Academy goalkeeping coach, Suckling) likes it like that, he'll say 'come on Shwan, Rob's done that perfectly'. It's good, me and Burchy have a good laugh and work hard.

"It's going well for us and the team because we're both confident and Pat's given us both a chance.

"At the start of the season I wasn't too fit so Burchy started in the first three games of the season and did very well. I think he deserved it too.

"Now we're coming up to equal games and both doing well, which is good for the team and good for us individually."

By Richard Hubbard