YORK City’s new goalkeeping coach and assistant manager Fred Barber is putting Michael Ingham through the same training regime that transformed Jussi Jaaskelainen from unknown Scandinavian into his country’s top goalkeeper.
Jaaskelainen, who won 56 caps for Finland prior to his international retirement in 2010, has also racked up more than 500 Premier League appearances since his talent was first nurtured by Barber at Bolton, whom he left for West Ham last summer.
The likes of Ali Al-Habsi and Adam Bogdan, meanwhile, went on to represent Oman and Hungary respectively after first being spotted by Barber and then subjected to the former Darlington, Peterborough and Walsall shot-stopper’s training regime at the Reebok Stadium.
Barber’s 16-year attachment with Bolton ended last summer but, following a brief spell with Bury on a freelance basis, it is the Minstermen who are now set to benefit from his net-minding nous.
On his hopes for latest pupil Ingham, the Durham-born 49-year-old said: “Even though he’s 32, he’s still young for a ’keeper and wants to learn.
“I always work my ’keepers hard at match tempo – it’s not just a case of hitting a few volleys and that’s it. I’ve told Inghy that Jussi Jaaskelainen used to carry on doing my training drills when he went on international duty and still does at West Ham so I must be doing something right.
Barber worked with Nigel Worthington on a part-time basis during the new City chief’s first managerial post at Blackpool in the late 1990s.
He went on to turn down an opportunity to join Worthington at Norwich for geographical reasons but later accepted the offer to be part of the former Sheffield Wednesday left-back’s Northern Ireland coaching team.
It was no surprise, therefore, that Worthington came calling again after landing the job at Bootham Crescent.
Barber had been working at Bury on a freelance basis under another former goalkeeper Kevin Blackwell, the ex-Scarborough net-minder and Leeds United boss.
And, while some might doubt a shot-stopper’s ability to carry out assistant managerial duties, Barber has revealed that the promotion of Steve Torpey from City under-18s coach to working with the first team, mirrors what Worthington put in place on the international stage.
“When Nige offered me the assistant manager and goalkeeping coach role, I told him I’d have a go at it and jumped at the chance,” Barber admitted.
“Northern Ireland are not the richest footballing nation in the world and there was only me and Glynn Snodin on the coaching staff so we would bounce ideas off Nige.
“With Steve Torpey coming in, it is a similar sort of situation and Nige is a great person to work with. He lets you have a bit of input and I’ve been working on a bit of defensive stuff and attacking free-kicks already.
“You try to offer something different and he says ‘why not try and do it’, so I enjoy that. I’ve worked with some really good managers.
“I started off with Sam Allardyce and he concentrated a lot on sports science. I’ve also learned a lot from the likes of Gary Megson, Nige and Kevin Blackwell, who is a good coach working under difficult circumstances at Bury.
“If you put them all together and have a pick and mix approach, you decide what you want to take in from all of them.”
Having once worked for six clubs – Bolton, Blackpool, Burnley, Bradford, Sunderland and Stockport – at the same time when he was starting out as a goalkeeper coach, Barber’s contacts in the game are unsurprisingly extensive.
That was demonstrated when a phone call to Sheffield Wednesday boss David Jones led to Arron Jameson swiftly arriving as Ingham’s new understudy following the departure of Paul Musselwhite.
On reaping the rewards from his exhaustive schedule two decades ago, Barber added: “When I was freelancing, I was doing 80 hours a week and 80,000 miles a year because I also run evening soccer schools.
“I was doing morning and afternoon sessions every day and then my soccer schools every night, which were in places like Shrewsbury and Stoke.
“My car was screaming at me by the end of the season but it had to be done and it’s put me in good stead now.
“It was a lot of man-hours learning my trade but I gradually cut that down to two Premier League clubs – Bolton and West Brom – before going full-time for six years at Bolton.”
Former Wanderers chief Allardyce still trusts his former coach’s judgement, having paid 150,000 Euros last summer on current West Ham reserve ’keeper Raphael Spiegel – an unknown 19-year-old who attended soccer schools run by Barber in Switzerland.
Barber also holds a pre-season camp at the end of June in Switzerland every year for out-of-contract ’keepers without a club, or shot-stoppers wanting to get a lead on rivals prior to their clubs’ return to work after the summer break.
The students are trained three times a day for a week with Bogdan, Al-Habsi and current Poland international Tomasz Kuszczak all first coming to Barber’s attention at his camp.
“It’s a good week and you find the odd gem,” Barber explained. “Tomasz Kuszczak came on the course and then got fixed up at West Brom before signing for Manchester United so he’s not a bad one to have on your CV.
“I get calls all the time and have placed four or five at clubs over the years.”
It also seems that amid the grave task of fighting a relegation battle, Worthington can count on his number two to provide welcome moments of levity in coming weeks.
Look up Fred Barber in an online search engine and it will not be long before you come across pictures of him walking out at Wembley for Peterborough with an old man’s mask on – the consequence of a dare set by former team-mate David Kelly.
“It’s good to see a bit of humour in football instead of it always being serious,” Barber reasoned.
“We played Stockport at Wembley in the play-off final and I remember standing at the end of the line during the handshakes with the dignitaries looking down the line and thinking ‘why have they got a 70-year-old ’keeper?’ “It was only when they came up to me that they realised it was a mask.”