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Cherries: Thomas start leaves Jalal fearing for his place
Published : 27 May 2010 07:00:00
Cherries' star stopper Shwan Jalal is bracing himself for a serious challenge to his crown from emerging talent Dan Thomas. Jalal was a mainstay of Cherries' promotion and played his part as Eddie Howe's men ended the season with one of the meanest defences in the country. He made 44 league starts and kept no fewer than 19 clean sheets, with a series of impressive displays between the sticks seeing him concede only 39 goals. But having already lost his place once under Howe, Jalal knows there will be no room for complacency when the battle for the number one berth resumes next season. Teenager Thomas, who made four appearances last season, will be Jalal's sparring partner after successfully graduating from the club's youth ranks. Jalal told the Daily Echo: It was a whirlwind season for Dan. I don't think he would mind admitting that he took a bit of time to find his feet and he must have found it a little intimidating to start with. Eventually though, it clicked that it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I've always said to him that I would have killed for this when I was his age. I was a third-year scholar at Spurs and was nowhere near the first team. For his age, he is an outstanding keeper and, if you look at a lot of other keepers of his age, I don't think they can touch him. I think he's got a lot of potential and to have someone like him behind you is all the motivation you need to push yourself on. Thomas, who turned 18 in September, was catapulted into the first-team squad following the departure of back-up goalkeeper Ryan Pryce. The former Portchester School pupil played his youth football for Redhill Rangers and has flourished under the tutelage of Cherries goalkeeper coach Neil Moss and Jalal. If you're good enough, you're old enough, said Jalal. I would never take my place for granted and I know Dan is breathing down my neck. Every place is up for grabs and, if you don't perform, somebody else will be given a chance. Every time Dan had his chance last season, he performed exceptionally well. Eddie left me out of the side when he first came in and it did me the world of good. It gave me a chance to step back and re-evaluate things. These things are thrown up to challenge you and you can either sink or swim. A lot of keepers would give everything to swap places with Dan. I am expecting him to come back for pre-season and be challenging me for the shirt.