If David Rouse has learnt one big thing as a goalkeeper then goalkeeping coach in a career that has taken him around the world, it’s that mistakes are inevitable.
So you need a thick skin – and a willingness to learn, all the time.
“The thing with goalkeepers is that mistakes are part of your job,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with Radio Stoke’s Phil Bowers.
“The way I explain it to people is if you go past an oil refinery, there’s always a sign up which says it’s been so many days since the last serious incident. They have that sign up because they know there is going to be something and they pride themselves in the time between those accidents.
“With goalkeepers it’s similar with mistakes. You know they are going to happen and you have to pride yourself in keeping that distance between mistakes. When they do come you have to quickly brush them off and move on.
“When you work with goalkeepers it might be that they make a technical error, it might be a tactical or positional error and as a goalkeeping coach you have to take the emotional sting out of it and look at the cold, hard facts.
“You say, ‘You were moving when the shot was hit,’ or, ‘Your positioning wasn’t good there.’ Then you look at how you can improve that.
“I worked with Rob Green at QPR a few years after his mistake for England against the US and the way he had to deal with that was very difficult but you have to take the emotion out of it.”
Rouse is now working with Angus Gunn, a deadline day arrival at Stoke to compete with and cover for Adam Davies… who subsequently suffered a painful knee injury.
Gunn made his first appearance since February when he came off the bench at Swansea three weeks ago but he has since kept two clean sheets in his first three starts.
Rouse said: “I think he’s come in and done very well. It’s difficult because he hadn’t played a lot of games prior to coming in.
“But I’d watched a lot of him for Norwich in the year he’d had in the Championship. When I joined Man City it was literally just as he was leaving for Southampton and I heard so many good things about him.
“I followed his career as a young English goalkeeper quite closely and the opportunity to bring him in seemed like a no brainer.
“The qualities that he’s got and the way he plays fit in very well with the style we play and I knew he was ready for a fresh challenge. That was the positive energy we needed coming into the squad.”
The goalkeeping department has almost completely changed in the near-12 months since Rouse replaced Andy Quy.
In November 2019, O’Neill restored Jack Butland to first choice, Adam Federici was on his way out and Davies was promoted to number two.
Davies eventually usurped Butland, who has gone on to join Crystal Palace while Federici went to Australia at the end of his contract.
In came Gunn from Southampton on a long-term loan while teenager Blondy Nna Noukeu has been training with the seniors – and now England youth keeper Nathan Broome too, while Joe Bursik is out on loan with Doncaster and set to make his England under-21s debut.
It’s been what Rouse described as ‘an interesting journey’ for himself, too, to get to this point.
He said: “I started coaching at 17, 18 really, when I was still trying to play. I had some bad injuries, a bit of misfortune at the wrong time and realised that I was probably a better coach than a goalkeeper.
“That started off my path. I spent eight years in the Academy at Manchester United, which was a really good schooling for goalkeeping and from there I decided to go into first team football.
“I had a couple of years freelance working in the lower divisions with Macclesfield and Rochdale and then ended up in the Championship with QPR for seven years before going abroad for stints in the Far East and Middle East. That took me back to Stoke, really.”
There is one appearance as a professional footballer on his CV too.
He said: “I thought that ship had sailed and, if truth be told, I was trying to talk manager Paul Ince out of playing me at that stage. We had a young goalkeeper on loan from Birmingham, Adam Legzdins, and I didn’t want to be blocking his route to play.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, Ince decided to go with me that day. It was nice for me to make your debut but it was one game and that was it! We lost 1-0 and the goal wasn’t my fault but I think at one point the commentator said I’d gone for a walkabout outside the area in the second half and completely missed the ball.
“I think with my coaching I think it’s more do what I say rather than do what I do!”
That CV is looking very busy these days after such a long and varied road to the Potteries.
He said: “After seven years at QPR I’d kind of fallen out of love with English football, I’d moved from the first team to the under-21s and was then head hunted to go out to the UAE. At the time, I had a young family and it was a great opportunity.
“I’ll be honest and I’d done very little research before I went out there and all I could see was that the club I was going to was the best club in the UAE.
“We won the league once, got to the Asian Champions League final, when we lost to the Korean champions in the end. It was all over Asia, all over the Middle East, it was a rollercoaster three years.
“I was enjoying working abroad – and did seven or eight months with the Taiwanese national team – but I was looking to get back to England.
“I ended up coming back to Manchester City and taking up as head of scouting for goalkeepers but I had itchy feet to get back on the grass.
“Colleagues at mine at Manchester City had gone into work with Michael O’Neill at Northern Ireland and there were a couple of opportunities I had there go and work with the goalkeepers, to see how they were working.
“That never really materialised but when Michael took the job at Stoke, he gave me a call and within two or three days I joined him.”