Rhys Honoured To Be Honoured

Interview by Andrew Warshaw

It’s understandable that Towners fans weren’t too sure what expect when Rhys Forster took over in goal this season from Nathan McDonald who had carved out something of a legendary status having been at the club for a total of seven years covering two spells.

Yet within just a few weeks of the new campaign Rhys has not only won over the supporters but picked up the very first individual award of his career. And a pretty prestigious one at that.

Like any goalkeeper, Rhys is susceptible to the odd howler and holds his hands up for being culpable for at least one of the goals in our 3-0 defeat to Carshalton on Saturday.

But winning the Pitching In Golden Gloves Award for August, sponsored by Uhlsport and presented monthly to the best keeper in each of the Isthmian League divisions, is testament to a player who was suddenly surplus to requirements at Step 2 Slough Town towards the back end of last season but who more than proved his worth when dropping down three levels with Ascot Town.

Whilst helping Ascot go on to lift the FA Vase is understandably the highlight of his career so far, being recognised as one of best goalkeepers at Step 3 comes a close second.

“I can’t take all the credit because the boys in front of me have been immense in terms of protecting me but I’m especially proud to receive the award with a new club so early on in the season,” said Rhys, man-of-the-match for a string of saves away at Haringey Borough at the end of August. “Even though it’s just a month’s worth of work, it’s helped me set targets.”

Such as? “I want the Golden Glove award at the end of the season. As a goalkeeping unit, me, Adi (Connolly) and (goalkeeping coach) Dean (Hurlow) want 20 clean sheets in all competitions. If we get 10 by Christmas, we’re on course.”

Rhys picked up the award after conceding just two goals in his first five league games. He is nothing if not a confident character, a bit of a cheeky chappy at times even. He admits he is sometimes guilty of the odd rush of blood to the head when between the sticks – the Carshalton fixture being a case in point — but his commanding presence and intelligent distribution have already endeared him to the fans and his teammates alike.

“I’m the first one to admit that you learn from your mistakes but Deano knows what I’m like and keeps me on my toes. At all my previous clubs, I had four or five saves to make in every game. It’s very different coming in to a club where I may not have a big save to make until the 89th minute but I’m learning about that and how important it is to keep my concentration.

“I knew everyone had praise for Nathan so they were pretty big boots to fill. If I’m honest we are totally different keepers with very different styles. Sometimes that benefits me, sometimes it doesn’t but the main thing is that I love it here and the fact that the club is owned by the fans which is such a big thing. You don’t play well unless you are enjoying yourself.”

Rhys admits there was a part of him that wanted to show Slough what they were missing when they let him go. “The level of opposition at Ascot obviously wasn’t the same but I wanted to prove a point.”

He certainly did that and, still only 24,continues to thrive having been re-united with Dean and manager Gavin Macpherson.

“I was very privileged to have played for Met Police under the gaffer for two seasons especially since I only started as a goalkeeper when I was 17 at a Step 5 club called CB Hounslow United.”

If you’re wondering why he started so late, tennis was his main sport as a teenager. He even got to play on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon at an inter-club tournament as a teenager.

“I used to watch football of course growing up as a kid but when I got to about 12, tennis became my thing. It wasn’t until I got to about 17, as I say, that I started playing football properly.”

Now it’s all about repaying the faith shown in him by the management team. “When Gav called me it was hard to say no. I can’t speak highly enough about him and Deano. I need someone who knows my weaknesses and makes me work on them. Deano knows me inside out.”

One thing not a lot of people know about Rhys, which hopefully will stand us in good stead throughout the season, is his ability to save penalties, even though he couldn’t stop one going in at Haringey. “In my two years at Met Police I faced 11 penalties and saved eight of them. Of course I have my techniques.”

It’s a remarkable statistic and I’m not about to disclose Rhys’ methodology in case any of our rivals might read this! But suffice to say Rhys has something of a reputation when it comes to spotkicks, even if it means occasionally being the victim of his own success.

“The gaffer even told me I should have saved the one at Haringey!”

Nice one, Rhys.