Jamal Blackman feels lucky with his career so far, the places he’s been and the home he’s found in Exeter City.
Looking back at a career that saw him move to 12 different clubs at the age of 29, it’s easy to think the 6’6″ goalkeeper must be frustrated. For the road that led him to St. James Park.
Since joining the club in the summer, Blackman has played a key role in City’s solid start as a League One club following promotion last season under longtime manager Matt Taylor. bottom.
Working under Gary Caldwell after Taylor moved to Rotherham United in the Championship, they are now up to No. It is at the heart of its mission to fight against
His eight clean sheets in 27 league games put Exeter’s defensive record among the top 10 in the league, along with Bolton Wanderers’ James Trafford (on loan from Manchester City at the age of 20), with 15 leading the Golden Glove standings in shutouts.
“It was nice to be able to come to a club where I was really welcomed, and all the fans and staff really helped me calm down. athletic.
“The team is also very close and it shows in our games. Obviously, I signed Matty[Taylor]and he told me what he wanted from his team’s keeper. I said I want to play from
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“In all my loans, I’ve seen some administrative changes where new faces come in and say they want to change their style of play and they have new ideas.”
After playing for Middlesbrough, Estersands, Wycombe Wanderers, Sheffield United, Leeds United, Vitesse, Bristol Rovers and Rotherham, Devon is Blackman’s new springboard before making a permanent move to Los Angeles FC in September 2021.
The well-traveled keeper enjoyed five months of MLS’ vast range of challenges across the United States before returning to England to join Huddersfield Town in time for the play-off final last May.
“The process behind it[moving to LA]was to find a new home and try something different,” he says. “I always wanted to go to MLS at some stage.
“It was perfect timing. It was great to be there and to be around the MLS set-up and how the structure is different to the European leagues and how they are there with some of the players. Who was at Arsenal before. I was very lucky to play with Carlos Vera, I didn’t get to play with Gareth Bale, but I was at Wembley so that balance[with Huddersfield].
“The atmosphere at MLS is really like a concert. Everyone is singing and there to have fun and support the team. In LA, we had a big Latino and South American presence and had a big meeting with all the fans before the game. The song they sang at the stadium and the sense of unity with the players was amazing. I loved traveling. I played in San Jose, which is still in California, but it was a 2-3 hour flight. It’s a little crazy. Our local rival was the LA Galaxy and it was really crazy. It was interesting to travel to teams in different states with completely different climates. ”
His brief stint in the United States came to an end after his contract expired at the end of the season in January 2022. LA was Blackman’s third overseas club after his second loan spell away from Chelsea at Sweden’s Östersands under Graham Potter. Loan rehab period in Vitesse, Holland. In his 15 years as a Chelsea player, he never made it to the top, but despite being sent out on loan regularly, he doesn’t regret staying at the club. .
“Being in the academy was the biggest thing I did as a kid, playing teams I saw on TV,” says Blackman. “I was very lucky to be around a first team when I was 16 or 17 and to go see a Champions League game. , was a big boost to build his career on loan to show Chelsea he was ready to play first-team football.
“I would never say it was a bad thing. Everywhere I played, I learned from different people and about myself. When I was going somewhere with a rental, you had a label that said you were from Chelsea, so you should always be a finished product, but you are never. It’s a young player out there.
“Coming from a big club can be good or bad. Learning to get over the perception of coming from a big club that creates big expectations. But as a player, he’s a young man just starting his career, thrown into men’s football and into an environment where three points means a lot to a lot of people, it’s a big change from the academy environment. It really matters.”
After moving to Middlesbrough on a first loan at the age of 20, Blackman worked with Potter, now Chelsea’s head coach, at Ester Sands.Even in that short amount of time, he had the potential to become a top manager. ”
Blackman cites Petr Čech as another key figure at Stamford Bridge, critical to his development as the man who set the standard for preparation “the video analysis, the stretching, the mindset he acquires.” played a role.
Coming back from a tibia fracture during his loan spell at Leeds was the biggest challenge of Blackman’s career and required, in his own words, a lengthy spell on “the longest crutch in the world”.
“It was a big process. I had to finish my loan spell at Leeds before returning to Chelsea for rehab,” he said. “Probably the hardest part was having to walk the dog first, but I was lucky to have friends and family by my side.
“It was a bit disappointing that I had a meniscus in my other leg during rehab. I was able to start and come back in a first team environment again.It took me about 14 months to come back and it was my first real long term injury.There are some things I should probably do a little differently But today I’m still in a good place and I’m feeling strong and confident.”
Aside from a brief absence due to a recent hip injury, Blackman has established himself as one of League One’s strongest keepers, recovering quickly from a recent lethal error in the 2-0 loss to Portsmouth. rice field.Become a stable Ligue 1 club with championship ambitions While still a focus for Exeter, a push to the second tier could happen sooner if they continue in their current form.
“Everyone makes mistakes, but how you learn from them and how you react afterwards defines you,” says Blackman.
“That’s the biggest part of football, that’s what life is all about. The coach gave me confidence and I’ll do my best to put in a good performance. I walk into the training ground and see the stadium. , you can see that it is a League 1 team.
“They’re focused on the fans, they want to push to do the best they can and they want to keep it as a family-oriented team, so it’s a great environment to be in. Being in the world of football. is great.”
(Photo above: Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)