Oldham v Chesterfield had the look of an end of season game. The Latics were safe and the Spireites had all but secured their play-off place in League One. It was my second visit to the second highest league ground in the country in a matter of weeks. It was also the second time I was privileged to see a young player who is destined for the top, Joel Coleman.
The first time was in March when I saw the start of what I, and many others, believe will be a stellar career. The 19 year old goalkeeper was thrown into a league début as a second half substitute, after Oldham’s regular custodian Jake Kean was inured. The fact that Kean was having a ‘mare’ at home to MK Dons proved neither here nor there. Coleman couldn’t prevent a 3-1 defeat, but he retained his place between the sticks from there on in. Indeed you could term the start to his career at Oldham as Lewis Hamilton-like. He was voted Player of the Month for March after two clean sheets in the three games in March following his début.
Bolton born Joel Coleman didn’t have much to do when he saw 30 minutes of action against MK Dons, but he was much busier in the games that followed. His reflex saves were excellent but, unlike many a decent ‘shot-stopper’, his proficiency at the peripheral aspects of keeping goal are what makes him a stand-out prospect for the future, not to mention his more than passing resemblance to another goalkeeper who began in the lower reaches of the football pyramid, Joe Hart. The England man is two inches taller at six feet five, but there are quite remarkable similarities even without their physical attributes.
Like Hart, Joel Coleman is developing the art of decision making very quickly. He also has that essential attribute, good feet. He is very mobile and quick on his pins, so on the rare occasions he makes an incorrect decision, he is fast enough on his feet to readjust.
Joel Coleman starred against promotion hopefuls Chesterfield but it was Tommy Lee who was the busier in the first half, making two excellent saves to keep the visitors in the game. At the other end Coleman, showing maturity beyond his years, demonstrated what appears to be a lost art amongst modern goalkeepers, catching the ball. His handling against Chesterfield was peerless and – something which is always a good sign – as he took a high ball, he was already looking to distribute the instant he landed – unlike many a goalie who stands posing with the ball held closely to the chest in a kind of ‘look, it’s my ball’ kind of stance.
Chesterfield threw veteran defender Ian Evatt forward as a late emergency centre forward as they sought the extra two points and he saw not one, but two goal bound attempts thwarted by Coleman, the first one a full length reflex save, turning the ball away for a corner that had this particular observer thinking he was watching Joe Hart in action. From the flag kick Coleman again broke Evatt’s heart with a cracking save, before making another outstanding save to deny Sam Clucas – who hit a pile driver, on target, only for Joel to produce the kind of reflex save that Joe Hart would be proud of.
What is refreshing about this young goalkeeper is the fact that he has come through the ranks at Oldham. He signed a two year scholarship back in 2012 and in 2014 he penned his first professional contract, a two year deal. It’s almost certain with a host of top clubs hovering round Joel that his current deal will be renegotiated well ahead of expiration of the current deal.
It is also a certainty that both Joel and his current club may have to decide very soon whether to continue his development at Oldham, or take the opportunity to move to a bigger club where his progress towards the top can accelerate.
At 19, Joel Coleman – all things being equal – can look forward to a couple of decades as a top flight goalkeeper.