Big Interview: Morecambe goalkeeping coach Barry Roche
After more than 11 years as player and captain at Morecambe, Barry Roche tells Gavin Browne about making the transition from shot-stopping to coaching the Shrimps’ keepers
Speak to those footballers who make the move from playing to coaching and chances are they’ll say the thing they miss the most is the dressing room.
Morecambe’s goalkeeper coach Barry Roche is no exception as he comes to terms with leaving the daily mickey-taking behind.
Having joined the Shrimps in 2008, the 38-year-old had been the club’s longest-serving player and club captain up until Jim Bentley’s departure as manager last October.
After a couple of games as joint caretaker boss alongside Kevin Ellison, Roche was handed the goalkeeper coaching role under Bentley’s successor, Derek Adams.
That new role, however, came with two caveats; the effective end of his playing career and having to leave his team-mates behind.
He said: “I’m on the outside now, I’ve crossed the line.
“It’s gone from a situation of being one of the lads to one where I’ve got to leave.
“There are lads there who know me as a player and as a friend but there are new players in now who only see me as a coach.
“I’ve had to leave the dressing room which was something I found difficult after so long but I was always going to go into the coaching side of it.
“However, it was difficult because I’d got a lot of good friends in the dressing room; a lot of the lads had been there for the last few years.
“Until I became a coach, I socialised with them but that stopped - and it had to stop - if I wanted to do things properly.
“I did it immediately, there was no point in dragging it out, but it was still like ripping a plaster off - I found it difficult and I still find it difficult.
“There’s the likes of Kev and Alex (Kenyon) who have been here a long time and a few others who have been here for five or six years.
“A lot of them have commented on how they find it very strange but I needed to do it and I needed to do it right.”
Roche had been one of the Shrimps’ busier players in the first part of the 2019/20 season, playing all 16 of their League Two games to that point with Mark Halstead on Carabao Cup and EFL Trophy duty.
Unless something extraordinary happens, it seems that Bentley’s final game as Morecambe boss - the 1-0 loss at Stevenage - was also Roche’s last outing as a professional player.
That’s something else he’s coming to terms with but his new role in developing Halstead, Blackpool loanee Christoffer Mafoumbi and the club’s younger keepers is something he’s enjoying.
“I’m loving it and there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t miss being on the training pitch,” he said.
“That was always going to be the case. Some people, when they finish, can step away.
“I knew I’d miss it but, for the first five or six weeks, you don’t have that stress, that build-up, on a Saturday morning.
“Then, after five weeks or so, I remember being in the dressing room at Bradford City on New Year’s Day and thinking ‘I miss this so much.’
“Don’t get me wrong, I knew this time was going to come but it’s probably happened six months earlier than I anticipated.
“The Academy keepers come down and work with us, we’ve had Andre Da Silva Mendes with us more or less every day and he’s been on the bench for the first team.
“Mark and Chris have formed a really good bond and they work together really well.
“The younger guys are all really good kids as well and they want to learn from Mark and Chris.
“They have a lot of experience and they help them out as well which is great to see, experienced lads helping out younger players.”
As well as a pathway into the coaching side of football, Roche’s move upstairs also enables him to put what he’s learned into practice.
A career with Nottingham Forest, Chesterfield and the Shrimps has seen him work with a number of coaches.
Unsurprisingly, much of his inspiration comes from the man with whom he worked closely at Morecambe up until last year.
Roche said: “I’ve been unbelievably lucky, Lee Jones was the perfect goalkeeper coach for me.
“He brought the best out of me and I use a lot of what he did in the way I work with the other keepers now.
“I’ve quickly realised that not every keeper needs the same work; they’re all different, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses – and I have to identify those very quickly.
“Jonesy’s day-to-day work was always different, you’d work on some fundamentals but he mixed up the sessions so it keeps the enjoyment going. He’d say ‘if you need to work on
something let me know and we’ll do that, we’ll devise a session.’
“His variety was exceptional and he was approachable which, for me, is very important and beneficial in the relationship between keeper and coach.
“I think, in the 11-and-a-half years with Jonesy, we had one argument and that was sorted out in an hour or so; he’s played a huge part in the career I’ve had.”
While three points and helping Morecambe retain EFL status are the priorities in every game, Roche also derives added satisfaction if his keepers take something from the training ground into a match.
He explained: “Every match is different and the gaffer (Derek Adams) may come to you and ask to work on a certain aspect ahead of a game.
“We were playing someone earlier in the season and we were told that the opposition lump the ball in the box so we’d need to deal with high balls and crosses.
“We did that in training, putting extra bodies in and around Chris (Mafoumbi) – and in the game I remember he came for three or four really good balls.”