Matt Taylor believes he’s in a good position to judge the progress of a bright young prospect like Carl Rushworth when he arrives on loan.
The former Portsmouth and West Ham midfielder is in charge of League 2 Walsall, where Rushworth gets good reviews.
His previous job allowed him to supervise young players at Tottenham, a role he retained until the end of last season.
He knows how much he would love to see a player like the 20-year-old keeper return to his home club after a season of absence.
To that end, Albion should be happy with what they see when Rushworth joins them at the end of the current campaign.
Taylor is happy to be able to take good care of one of their most talked about prospects.
The Saddlers boss told The Argus: âCarl has been nothing short of a man since entering the building.
âIt’s great from the point of view that he agrees 100% with what we ask him.
âHe’s going to get better – and he’s getting better.
âHe’s getting more confident and he’s competing for that No.1 jersey – and he has it right now.
âOver the past two years, I’ve worked with players his age who have been loaned out.
âWhat you want to see are the players, when they come back to their home club, have grown and they have learned and they have been exposed to situations that they had not been before.
âFor me, he has to keep doing what he’s doing.
âHe’s doing a really good job right now.
âHe is being pushed constantly and on a daily basis.
âHe’s probably working harder on the pitch and in the gym than he did because he’s now, with all due respect, competing against men every day.
âIt’s difficult in an environment under 23 to replicate that.
âI say this only because I attended and saw it very recently.
“We are very happy as a football club as Carl is doing his job.”
Taylor jokes that all he asks of Rushworth is to keep the ball out of the net.
Then he adds: âOf course there is more to it.
âThere is a huge amount of detail that goes into his position.
âI want him to be confident when he plays.
âI want him to come and get crosses.
“You want him to stop the ball from going into the net.”
Rushworth is certainly confident passing the ball from behind.
He had the chance to work there on his first loan when he joined the leaders of the Isthmian Worthing League on their 4G pitch two years ago.
“We’re playing from behind and he’s good with his feet,” said former Albion defender and youth coach Adam Hinshelwood, now manager of Worthing.
âSome of the saves he made for us were way above our level. You could see that extra quality.
Such was the clamor, Rushworth was mentioned as a Barcelona target when a clip of one of his knockdowns at Woodside Road went viral.
He laughs about it now and doesn’t know where it all came from.
Graham Potter also laughed when asked about it at one of his press conferences at the time.
But Rushworth is already building another reel of highlights this season.
It features three nice saves at Newport last Saturday, one of them following a Matty Dolan penalty after Worthing boy Mickey Demetriou put the hosts in the lead.
He also shone when Walsall, playing ten for more than half the game, drew 1-1 in a frenetic atmosphere at Bradford this month.
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This kind of challenge was in his street.
He told The Argus: âIt has been really good. It’s the experience of playing in front of supporters in men’s football.
âIt means a lot more to the players as 23s is like building.
âAt Walsall, people are fighting for all three points and that means a lot more. It’s huge.
âI loved having the confidence of the manager and the players to play the way I play.
âI think the main thing I had to get used to were the fans.
âGoing from 23s – especially with Covid when there were no fans at all – to Bradford, where there were 16,000, was a big step.
âI love playing in front of them, even when they give me a stick. I really thrive on it.
He admitted, âWorthing has helped me tremendously.
âI was younger and I experienced it earlier.
âObviously now the level is better here, but it’s still the same football game.
âWorthing was a good loan for my age and it helped me develop. ”
Often times, a loan can be an opportunity for a young player to get used to moving for the first time.
This is not the case for Rushworth, who was spotted by Albion playing for his home club, Halifax.
He said, “Walsall is doing fine – I’ve had my fair share of taking care of myself!”
âIt’s closer to home here. It’s halfway between Brighton and the house so it’s really ideal.
The people of the Black Country came to Rushworth.
It’s obvious to ask around Banks’s Stadium.
His goalkeeper coach is former Northern Ireland international Maik Taylor, but Albion staff, especially Casper Ankergren, remain in touch.
Rushworth, whose team is hosting Bristol Rovers today, said: âWe talk pretty much every week, especially with Casper.
âI talk to him every week about analysis. It will pick up stuff from the game.
âWhen they can, they will also come and watch my games and, if they cannot be there, they will watch my clips and also watch the game (online).
“It’s good that they have access to that so that I can get their opinion with that of Maik Taylor and the gaffer here.”
âI listen to as many opinions as I can and it will help me grow overall.
âThe ambition for me personally is to play as many games as possible and have a consistent race.
“I want to play consistently and then as a team we have the quality to be promoted.
âI think that’s everyone’s main goal.
“Blunder him and, I think. the fans want it so that will be the main goal as a team.
“But for me it’s getting the experience of playing 40, 50 games in a season.”