LIKE many young footballers, Joe Lumley has returned to his family home for lockdown. In the next instalment of our Isolation Interview series, he is explains how he is getting a daily reminder of his route into football.
When you were growing up, did you have a poster of your footballing hero on your bedroom wall?
Whether football, film or music was your thing, we all had something or someone who took pride of place on our wall - be it a dedicated pull-out from a matchday programme or a cut-out from a magazine or newspaper,
For Rangers fans, the likes of Stan Bowles, Rodney Marsh, Les Ferdinand and Adel Taarabt will all have occupied their fair amount of wall space over the last few decades.
R’s stopper Joe Lumley was no different when it came to posters and, at the moment, he is getting a daily reminder of the goalkeeper who he used to adore watching.
Shortly before the British Government introduced lockdown measures at the end of March, the 25-year-old returned to his family home in Loughton, Essex.
When he creaked open his old bedroom door a few weeks back, the man who was first blue-tacked to his wall almost 15 years ago was still there.
For Lumley, that hero was Shay Given. The former Republic of Ireland international made more than 600 appearances in senior club football, with 354 of those coming in the Premier League for Newcastle United.
It was those days at Newcastle that sparked a young Joe Lumley’s adoration for him; he and his older brother Billy would spend hours in their back garden imitating Given’s saves.
“He just stood out from everyone else for me,” Lumley remembers. “I never supported Newcastle but there was just something about Shay Given that made me want to be like him.
“It was probably the way he moved around the goal and made the spectacular saves that he did. Me and my brother used to smash footballs at each other as hard as we could and try to copy what he did.”
Now back where football began for him, at his family home, Lumley has used the lockdown period to take stock of his career to date and, in particular, the last two seasons.
Football started for him as soon as he could walk. That sounds very cliché but according to his mother Jackie it’s completely true.
Joe explained: “My mum has always said that when I took my very first steps I took two and then kicked a little ball. I don’t know if she is telling porkies or not but she’s always said that. My nan backs her up too, so I suppose I’ve got to believe her.”
By age six, he was playing for a local Sunday league team called Buckhurst Hill – on pitch as well as in goal – and by 10 he had settled between the sticks and followed in the footsteps of older brother Billy in being scouted as a goalkeeper by Tottenham Hotspur.
He remained with the north London club until being released at 16, having not been offered a full-time scholarship, and he still cites that disappointment as a big moment in his life.
“They rang my dad and told him that I was going to be released. I got in from school and he told me in our front room. It was hard but I learned a lot from that, although I didn’t know it at the time.
“It taught me how to bounce back from a set-back. Some people can go into their shell after something like that but it really motivated me to improve.”
Young or old, you need to have the minerals to deal with setbacks if you are going to make it in professional football.
Lumley enjoyed an impressive 2018/19 – keeping 16 clean sheets in 46 matches – having worked his way up to become the Rangers’ number one goalkeeper.
This term has been more of a challenge, though. Twenty-two appearances have yielded just the two shut-outs and, although there have been some good moments, there – by his own admission – have been a few that he’s been disappointed with.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster and I’d be the first to say that I don’t think I’ve been good enough this season. It’s been tough for me but I can’t change my mistakes now, I can only try to improve.
“I know I have probably cost us games this season and that’s been hard to take. I’m still a young goalkeeper and I’m trying to not necessarily see all of my setbacks from this season as bad things. Instead, I hope they are things that I can learn from to make me a better player for QPR in the future.”
Lumley’s determination to improve himself is obvious and he is using this time back in his old bedroom to study his performances from the last two seasons.
As well as that, loans spells in his younger years at AFC Hayes, Accrington Stanley, Morecambe, Bristol Rovers, Stevenage and Blackpool further highlight his mentality of always wanting to better himself and improve.
“I’m trying to work on the mental side of my game while I’m at home. I’ve learned a lot about the mental side of it this season and I would say that goalkeeping is probably 75 per cent mental and 25 per cent technical and tactical.
“I’m looking back at all of my clips from the past two seasons – good and bad – and I’m looking at my body language, seeing how I reacted to different situations.
“I’m doing anything that I think might help me improve and I’ve done a lot of reading too. I’ve finished books called ‘Bounce’, ‘Legacy’ and ‘Talent is Overrated’, which are all about the mental side of sport.”
In terms of physical training, Lumley’s regime has understandably had to be adjusted recently. He may be back at home but isn’t able to re-play those childhood games as his brother Billy now lives in Australia and runs his own goalkeeper academy.
“There’s no-one here who can smash footballs at me! We’ve got a programme from the sports scientists and I’ve been doing my own footwork drills, which are good for goalkeeping.
“Football wise, I’ve been doing a lot of ball familiarisation; hand-eye co-ordination and keeping that up to speed. That’s all you can do and also a lot of running to keep fit.”
The days of having footballs smashed at him again are ones that he is looking forward to and one person who Lumley pinpoints as having had a huge influence on him is QPR’s goalkeeping coach Gavin Ward.
“He’s a person who, if he hadn’t been at the club, I don’t think I would have progressed anywhere near as much.
“I’ve trained with him week in, week out for four or five years and he has been massive for me and all of the goalkeepers he has worked with at QPR.
“I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me in the time he’s been at QPR. He is definitely like a father figure and all of his goalkeepers are like his children. He loves us all and we love him too.”
For now, Lumley's only goalkeeping companion is Shay Given on his bedroom wall but hopefully he’ll be reunited with Rangers’ other stoppers in the not too distant future.