Steps Up: Jamal Blackman
feature Thu 1 Dec 2016
Jamal Blackman has been in excellent form for Wycombe Wanderers recently and we caught up with the goalkeeper developing out on loan in League Two.
The 23-year-old moved to Adams Park in August for the first half of the season and has been an influential figure as they have risen to sixth in the table despite possessing one of the division’s smaller budgets.
He has already kept eight clean sheets this term, including three in his past four appearances, so it’s little wonder he’s clearly enjoying his time in Buckinghamshire…
First of all, Jamal, what goalkeeping attributes have you had to call upon in League Two?
It’s a demanding league, you have a lot of balls getting put into the box and a lot of battles going on so it’s good to be really physical and to handle the men’s game. I’m obviously a big guy so it helps being able to come for crosses and to be physical in the box.
When you first go to a team you need to show what you can do, have confidence in your team and make sure they have confidence in you. When I came to Wycombe everyone was really welcoming. The manager had a lot of faith in me and told me just to play my game and said I had come for a reason.
We’re doing really well at the moment, we’re on a good run, and everyone’s in a very good place.
How has the relationship with your defence developed over the past few months?
It’s got really strong. We are able to rely on each other and we have got used to playing with each other. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it’s great being able to trust the two in front of me and the full-backs as well. It’s important everyone is on the same wavelength.
Have you had a standout moment so far?
We’ve had ups and downs. At the beginning of the season we weren’t on the best run, we had a lot of injuries, but the team strengthened again which was really important.
We hadn’t been winning too many games away and then we won at Cambridge a couple of weeks ago which was a hard game. We were leading 1-0, then it went to 1-1 late on and I had quite a few saves to make in that game. To then win 2-1 in the last minute was one of the best feelings after so much hard work and battling. That was one of my standout moments so far.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth seems like quite a character from afar – what’s it been like working with him?
I have really enjoyed it. Him and Barry Richardson and Dobbo (Richard Dobson) are really good coaches. They were very welcoming; they all have great ideas for the team to go forward.
The manager loves the game so much and he loves Wycombe, and that helps when you have someone so passionate about the club and football. It makes you want to achieve as much as possible for them.
Ainsworth has constructed a squad that blends youth with experience…
The dynamic of the group is good. We have great players like Adebayo Akinfenwa, Paul Hayes and Matt Bloomfield who have played the game for so long and can pass on that experience. Then we have us younger boys who are coming up like Anthony Stewart and Aaron Pierre.
It helps having that mix and it makes everyone feel confident to put out their ideas. You don’t have to be quiet, you can be yourself and say what you think, and you’ll be heard. That’s a great feeling.
Earlier this year you spent time on loan at Ostersunds in the Swedish top-flight (pictured above). What was that like?
I really enjoyed it there under Graham Potter [their English head coach]. It was a different type of football out there which was good for my development, to mix it up. The style of play was a lot slower and more tactical. It was like chess – you had to pick the right moves in advance.
Then there were the elements of the weather and the travelling which is something you don’t get so much in England [Ostersunds is the most northerly team in the Allsvenskan].
The club has a reputation for the excellent community and charity work it does…
When I first got there they were getting ready for a concert they were doing to raise money for the local community. It was an X-Factor type of thing. I had to do the singing and the choir practices, but no solos luckily!