NEIL Cutler has set himself a major challenge as he gets to grips with his new role as Albion’s goalkeeping coach.
“Simple - I’m going to challenge myself to help Ben Foster become an even better keeper and challenge him to become a better keeper,” says Neil, who has joined the Club from neighbours Walsall.
Taking on Foster and his equally well-established understudy Boaz Myhill gives Cutler the first chance to work with senior goalkeepers of international pedigree, but he insists it is never too late to get even better.
“From the age of 25, 26, I knew I wanted to be a coach,” explains Neil. “I’m really a scholar for all things goalkeeping. I like to work on detail with energy, drive, enthusiasm. I like everything to be right.
“I have known Ben since I first went to Stoke and he had just arrived from Rugby Town and we spent quite a bit of time together. He was really talented, very quick, explosive.
“He has gone on to prove what a great keeper he is but he has still got more to give. Definitely. I’ve got my philosophy and I think I can add details to him. I think I can make him even better and that’s my challenge - not just to myself but to Ben as well.
“And the same for Boaz. He’s a different kind of character but it’s different for me too. I’m not working with 23 to 26-year-olds any more. These guys are 34, 35 and at the top of their game. They might not immediately buy into what I do but they will pick things up and will improve speed, agility, power and athleticism.
“Speed, agility, power - it’s all about how quick you get about the goal, your starting positions, how quickly you read it and how quickly you respond.”
Cutler’s goalkeeping career reads like a nationwide tour of English clubs at all levels but his arrival at the Baggies is very much a return home to the team he supported with his dad as a youngster.
He actually signed for the Club he supports at the very dawn of his own goalkeeping career before the frustrations of opportunity which accompany his speciality sent him off in search of first team appearances.
His own experience hasn’t stopped him bringing another important target to the job.
“I’m a big believer in bringing our own keepers through the system and that’s another big challenge for me,” says Neil.
Citing Alex Palmer, Jasko Keranovic, Ben Pierce, Ethan Ross and Brad House as the immediate source of attention he added: “I think ‘Nayls’ (Mark Naylor) has done a terrific job over the years here and there’s now a good group to focus on. We need to show them how we like our keepers to be.”