It might not please the technocrats but Simon Moore has got an idea.
“I think every young player coming through the system should be made to spend time working or with a non-league club. Because it would make them appreciate, if they don’t already, exactly what they’ve got.”
Moore, the Sheffield United goalkeeper, knows all about life outside of football. Before signing professional terms with Brentford in 2009, he performed a variety of different jobs, including fruit picking and bank telling, on his native Isle of Wight. But it was a spell as teaching assistant, working with special needs children, which made him realise just how lucky he is. And, perhaps even subconsciously, better equipped to cope with the inevitable set-backs life between the posts brings.
“I was a support teacher back home for a while, at a school for kids who needed a bit of extra support, and it was a great grounding for me,” Moore, speaking at the Steelphalt Academy earlier this week, said. “It was really fulfilling work. Don’t get me wrong, there were days when you felt as if you were banging your head against a brick wall. But there were others, the best ones, when you saw the kids smile and realised that you’d made a difference to somebody’s life. And that’s a great feeling to have.”
Moore is now busy affecting people’s lives in altogether different ways after cementing a starting position at Bramall Lane. The 26-year-old, who joined United from Cardiff City earlier this season, is expected to make his 16th appearance for Chris Wilder’s side against Shrewsbury Town tomorrow as the South Yorkshire club, which enters the match third in the table, attempts to stretch its unbeaten League One run to 13 matches.
“The lads have got to perform week in, week out, if they want to keep a shirt,” he said. “You can’t take your foot off the gas. That’s the sort of competitive environment that you want, coming into training every day, I love it. “You want everyone pulling in the same direction and I really feel that’s something we’ve got here at the moment. But, like the manager says, you are only as good as your last training session or game.”
Moore’s performances have been a driving force behind United’s climb into the play-off positions after losing four of their first five outings this term. Wilder, despite praising his ability to make “saves when it matters”, recently highlighted Moore’s organisational skills as crucial to the squad’s new-found defensive strength.
Although his arrival has proven costly for George Long - the former England youth international has played just once since August’s Checkatrade Trophy tie with Leicester City under-21’s - Moore said: “Longy is still really influential. Because he’s a really talented ‘keeper, he drives me and Aaron Ramsdale on. It’s difficult for us because, unlike outfield players, often the only chance we get to impress is in training. We can’t come on for 15 minutes here and there. It’s unusual for managers to put their faith in goalkeepers who are 19 or 20, that’s why we develop later, but Longy has played an extraordinary amount of game and that tells you a lot about him.”
“I’m loving working with Wardy (Darren Ward) too,” Moore added. “He’s a first class goalkeeping coach and I’m already better after a few months under him.”
Moore, by his own admission, took an “unusual” route into the game. Admitting he was “crushed, absolutely crestfallen” after being released by Southampton as a youngster, he resurrected his career with Brading Town of the Wessex League. A brief spell with Farnborough followed before Brentford offered him the chance to become Wojciech Szczesny’s deputy.
“He was on loan from Arsenal when I first went there,” Moore said. “He’s gone on to do unbelievable things in the game. But the best goalie I’ve ever worked with is David Marshall at Cardiff. I’m really fortunate in that I’ve been able to work with some great people. You aspire to reach the same levels as them in training and it lifts your own levels up.”
Moore, a member of the Brentford squad which reached the League One play-offs in 2013, headed to the Welsh capital later that summer following City’s promotion from the Championship. Having embarked upon the next phase of his career with United, he is now an established professional. But the Isle of Wight, and games against the likes of Lock Heath and Liss Athletic, is never far from Moore’s mind.
“I didn’t turn pro’ until I was 19 but, do you know what? I wouldn’t change anything for the world,” he said. “Being in non-league gave me a great education, sharing jokes with the boys on the back of the bus and meeting some brilliant people along the way. I remember when I had to ask mum and dad to buy me a pair of £50 gloves that would last four or five months. Now we get them when you want them, the facilities are amazing and we train on grass every single day. I’m appreciative of everything I’ve got.”