Sheffield United: Why Jamal Blackman was happy to put himself on the spot at Middlesbrough

Jamal Blackman impressed on his Sheffield United debut: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Jamal Blackman impressed on his Sheffield United debut: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

The thought of a goalkeeper taking a penalty is enough to send a shiver down the spines of most Sheffield United supporters.

But unlike his predecessor Steve Simonsen, whose calamitous spot-kick condemned the club to defeat in 2012’s League One play-off final, Jamal Blackman backs himself to score from 12 yards.

It was three years ago, during a spell on loan at tomorrow’s opponents Middlesbrough, when the youngster enjoyed an opportunity to showcase his prowess. Aitor Karanka’s team had just drawn with Liverpool in the Capital One Cup and, as the deciding shoot-out went deep into sudden-death, he was forced to confront Simon Mignolet.

“I hadn’t done my homework on him,” Blackman, picking-up the story, admits. “But at Chelsea we were always practising them against Thibaut Courtois and so you learn little traits. I suppose those help in both situations; trying to save them and also taking one.”

Despite finishing on the losing side at Anfield - Albert Adomah slicing the ball into The Kop to send Brendan Rodgers’ men through - the experience still proved invaluable for Blackman. Signed on a season long agreement from the Premier League champions, he coped well with the febrile atmosphere after making his United debut against Brentford six days ago.

“I’ve been fortunate growing-up because I’ve been able to learn from some of the best ‘keepers in the business,” Blackman, a graduate of Chelsea’s youth programme, says. “Petr Cech was probably the best for me. Coming from the academy, I was with him for such a long time so he was the main one. But there are so many other great ones, like Courtois and Hilario, who have all been a huge help as well.

Jamal Blackman receives good advice from Sheffield United and Chelsea: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Jamal Blackman receives good advice from Sheffield United and Chelsea: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“The best advice those three have given me is just to be in control of my box and take every game, every situation as it comes,” he continues. “If you make a mistake as a striker, it’s a little bit different. For us, we’ve got to just draw a line and move on. You’ve got to be mentally strong in that regard.”

Blackman, aged 23, is expected to make his second United appearance when Chris Wilder’s squad travels to the North-East for its televised encounter with Garry Monk’s side.

“I’m not going to be short of information,” he continues. “The analysts at Chelsea send their stuff out to you and obviously there are great people I’m going to be working with here as well. The goalkeeping coach at Chelsea will also come up and watch games. Sheffield United will go through my games and Chelsea will too. The lads here have been great and I know I’m going to pick up so much from them as well.”

Blackman is one of 25 players Chelsea have loaned-out this summer and the Londoners receive detailed reports on his progress.

Former Chelsea midfielder Eddie Newton helps monitor his progress for the Premier League champions

Former Chelsea midfielder Eddie Newton helps monitor his progress for the Premier League champions

“Eddie Newton and Paulo Ferreira take care of the loans,” Blackman explains. “And we’ve still got the Whats App group going so it’s all good. We can all talk to each other, let each other know how it’s going and how we feel. Obviously Eddie and Paulo are really experienced and they know the game inside out. They know the emotions involved and that football is a roller coaster. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down so it’s good to have people like that behind you.”

So does Champions League and Europa League winner Paulo Ferreira

So does Champions League and Europa League winner Paulo Ferreira