Published: 06:00, 04 October 2019
Gillingham goalkeeper Jack Bonham believes they have a potential star on their hands.
His teenage understudy Joe Walsh may have had a disappointing first team debut but insists that can only make him stronger.
Walsh was in goal as the Gills were beaten 3-2 at home to Colchester in the EFL Trophy last month.
But Bonham said: “He is miles ahead of where I was at that age, so I am sure he will have a very big future ahead of him. He needs to just keep his head down and work like he does.
“I said to him, if he uses (that first game) positively and looks at what went wrong and why, he can move forward from there.
“As a goalkeeper you are going to make mistakes and it could be on your first game, your 100th, your 150th, Players like Loris Karius, David de Gea and Dean Henderson, they all make mistakes. You see the way they come out the next game, it is like water under a bridge, it’s gone.”
Bonham had a nightmare first game himself and took some time to get over it. He came on as a substitute for Watford and was deemed to be at fault for both goals in a 2-1 defeat to Leeds, which cost them a chance of automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Bonham said: “It was a nightmare of a debut and I let it affect me in the wrong way but ultimately, three or four years down the line, it has really helped me.
“It has made me mentally stronger and I don’t think anything can ever be as bad as that in the future for my career. I think that is the lowest it is going to get for me.”
Walsh is only 17 and, if he recovers from an ankle injury, is likely to play against Ipswich in Gills’ second EFL Trophy match next week.
Bonham thinks the keeper will be destined for bigger and better things.
He said: “He is probably one of the best, if not the best, 17-year-old that I have seen, for his age. He has a great attitude as well. He is a very humble kid and he is a pleasure to work with.
“All eyes are on you when you make a mistake as a keeper and you have to have rhino skin, which is the way one of my former coaches said it.
“You can’t let anything affect you, just take it on the chin, learn from it as much as you can and move on.
“Once it has gone you can’t do anything about it. I have just said to Joe, use it positively and it will help him.
“He can use both feet, he is probably better than me on his left foot and I hold my hands up to that. He is very comfortable on that left foot, he just has everything.
“Technically you can see some keepers are a bit all over the place at that age and they need a lot of work but he has everything there.”
‘The way he spreads for one on ones is very good’
Bonham admits he’s even been able to take a bit from his young team-mate’s game.
“The way he spreads for one on ones is very good,” he said. “I look and would try to implement that into my game as well.”
On the other end of the age spectrum the pair are being coached by 48-year-old Simon Royce, who was named on the bench last weekend following Walsh’s injury.
Bonham feels he’s in great hands.
“He still looks sharp to be fair to him,” said the Gills keeper.
“I think he would be able to do a decent enough job if he was called upon but I am fit and healthy so I don’t think there are any worries there.
“I had Roycey at Brentford for the four years I was there, he is very easy going and it’s a good ratio of work to how he is as a person.”
The Gills were on the hunt for a new goalkeeper coach and in the summer and Royce had just left Brentford.
“I came here first and I actually recommended him to the gaffer,” said Bonham.
“I said he should have a look at Roycey, I knew he was out of work and I knew that he had worked with some great goalkeepers before, Simon Moore went onto Cardiff City and is now at Sheffield United, he had David Button, who went onto Fulham and is now at Brighton, and Dan Bentley who is at Bristol City. You can see how the goalkeepers he has coached have progressed and hopefully I can follow in their footsteps.
“He has definitely improved me. I can see the progression there.”