Interview with Marlon Beresford

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Marlon Beresford is an ex Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, Middlesbrough, York, Barnsley, Bradford and Luton goalkeeper who also played on loan at many other clubs. He was part of the Burnley team that won the play offs in 1993/94 and the Luton team that won League 1 in 2004/05. However he was also with the Hatters for some of their slide down the divisions and eventually into the Conference.

How did you get into football as a youngster?

Pretty much how most other kids did. I played football with my friends on the street but it was down to my brother really as he would often play with his bigger friends and I wanted to join in and inevitably being the youngest I’d have to go into goal.

Did you always play as a goalkeeper?

Mostly yeah. I did have spells in secondary school where I played outfield because we had another good goalkeeper at the time but when things started to get a little bit serious I always went in goal.

When you were younger did you have a football idol?

Probably not just one idol because I would watch all the goalkeepers, their traits and techniques, and also there were a lot of good goalkeepers at the time (Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence, Pat Jennings and Joe Corrigan) so it wasn’t one in particular.

During your early career you went on loan a few times, was it hard to deal with that because you had to adapt to new teammates and a new manager?

No it wasn’t hard back then because that was the process you went through to learn your trade via the loan route. It worked for me and it’s something I think needs to be utilised more during a young professionals career.

During your time at Burnley you developed a knack of saving penalties. How did you prepare yourself before facing a spot kick?

I never really prepared myself as such, it was more of a mental thing. Once I had saved a couple the belief was there and I had the confidence, so when I faced a penalty I always believed I would save it. We didn’t have the same technology goalkeepers have now, so it was a case of me having confidence in myself and believing I would save it.

At the end of the 1993/94 season when you were with Burnley, you played in the play-off final. Was it nerve-wracking to play at Wembley?

Yes it was. It’s always nerve-wracking to play in any big game, nerves are a good thing and I’ve always believed they help you play better. Once the game started it was fine and they (Stockport County) went down to ten men early on so that certainly helped. In the end it was an enjoyable day, I had little to do, we won and gained promotion.

In your first spell at Luton in 2003/04 they were in Administration. Did you have any idea about what was going on behind the scenes?

We did, probably me more than anyone because I came to the club and couldn’t sign on a permanently basis due to the Administration. Mike Newell always made it clear he wanted to sign me but with the insecurity of administration at that time I had to leave and signed a two-year deal with Barnsley.

When you rejoined Luton in the following season after they had come out of administration, you were part of the team that won League 1. Was the atmosphere in the dressing room any different from other years at Luton and other clubs?

There was a real togetherness about that group, possibly due to what administration does to a club, it can tend to galvanise, pull everyone together in difficult circumstances. Then once the club was out of administration the team just flourished, given the quality of the squad at that time, so yes, it was a special time to be at Luton.

After a successful first season in the Championship, the next season saw the club in 5th position before on an away trip to Ipswich Sol Davis had a stroke on the bus. You lost 5-0 that day and went on a losing streak but how much did that moment affect the players.

It’s always hard to say whether it was that moment that affected us and most players will say ‘we just got on with our jobs’ but the results tell you different and it may have had a knock on effect, plus the fact we were losing quality players as well for big money so in hindsight it’s clear a couple of factors lead to the downturn in emotions and performances.

In the 3 seasons after that (2006-09) Luton were relegated 3 times. How hard was it to keep going while losing key players all the time and there were difficulties elsewhere at the club?

It is hard to keep going because a group of players and the club can only take so much. The points deductions were very tough on everyone. When you go into administration it can galvanise you but when it keeps happening it’s inevitable that it will eventually have a negative effect on a club. Despite the fact I had left the club and retired in 2008 it was still tough to watch even at a distance.

Many people say that goalkeeper is the hardest position in football. After a career between the sticks do you agree with that?

Of course! (laughs). It is because it’s a specialised position and the art is evolving all the time as we see these days with the goalkeeper now having to be equally as good as an outfield player with the higher percentage of goalkeeping activity being with the feet. It is interesting (well actually disappointing) to see what’s happening at Man City and Joe Hart. He’s England’s Number 1 keeper but not good enough for Pep’s regime. However, there will be forwards who say putting the ball in the net is the hardest thing in football but I’ll be biased and say it’s the goalkeeper.

Is it hard to get a job outside of football after a career on the pitch?

Yes. It is really tough. I was lucky because a business opportunity presented itself just as I was about to retire that I stepped into, along with continuing to coach the keepers at Barnet and Northern Ireland on a part-time basis. I still don’t think enough players prepare themselves for the end of their playing careers and can’t see anything outside of the football bubble. Players do need to take more responsibility and prepare better for the end of their career.

What’s your best memory from your career?

Obviously all the promotions and play off wins are great memories but what does standout is the day I signed my first pro contract for Sheffield Wednesday. My Mum and Dad were with me and I saw how much pride they had because they had given me all the support from a young boy to a young man signing my first football contract. When I look back I think ‘Wow, that was a special moment’.
And finally, the really serious question, where do you think Luton will finish this season?

I think they have a really good squad with the additions that have been made during the summer and the quality is certainly there. Nathan Jones is a good young coach who is learning all the time, I do expect them to be challenging this season and would be surprised if they don’t make the top 3.

Thank you to Marlon for agreeing to do the interview and providing great answers and information for my blog. 

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