WAYNE Brown has hailed the hard work put in by Ryan Clarke after the goalkeeper picked up the two major end-of-season awards at Oxford United.
The club’s No 1 was not in a position to pick anything up 12 months ago, as he recovered from double shoulder surgery.
There were concerns over whether Clarke would be able to return to top form after such major operations, but they were short-lived.
The former Bristol Rovers trainee, who turned 32 on Wednesday, has not missed a minute of competitive action this season.
The form was recognised last weekend, when both United fans and the squad members selected Clarke as their player of the season.
Brown, United’s goalkeeping coach, thinks it is richly deserved after seeing how much graft has gone into the recovery.
He said: “It was incredible what he did to get back.
“Literally he’s like a new man.
“We got him in a week before the other players last summer and we did three sessions a day for the first week.
“It’s just carried on and snowballed.”
Clarke has been kept honest by Max Crocombe, United’s No 2 goalkeeper.
The New Zealander is highly rated by Brown.
“Max is good enough to play in any League Two team,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate for him but fortunate for the club.
“A lot of kids his age don’t want to do the work, but he’s got all the right attributes.
“If Clarkey wasn’t playing very well I would expect Max to be knocking on the manager’s door, but he hasn’t given him a sniff.”
Like the majority of United’s players, Brown’s future is uncertain as his contract expires this summer.
The 37-year-old is keen to stay and has visions of turning the club into one renowned for producing good goalkeepers.
Away from the U’s, he has also set up goalkeeper academies across the south.
On Monday, his newest venture begins in Oxford with the launch of a goalkeeping academy for girls aged from nine to 17.
Held on Oxford City’s 3G pitch from 5pm, the first session is free. Anyone interested can book a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.