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Alan Mannus: St Johnstone and Scotland under-21 star Ross Sinclair ‘has all the qualities’ a top goalie needs

Alan Mannus rates Ross Sinclair highly.
Alan Mannus rates Ross Sinclair highly.

Alan Mannus was a huge part of the St Johnstone goalkeeping line of succession that has been the bedrock of a golden era for the Perth club.

And, with Ross Sinclair expected to be the long-term heir to the Northern Irishman and Zander Clark, the McDiarmid Park school of excellence is in safe hands.

Sinclair starred for Scotland’s under-21s against Belgium recently and again in Denmark on Friday evening, which came as no surprise to Mannus, who is still going strong himself at 40 with Shamrock Rovers.

“Ross was working with us in my last year at Saints,” said the 2014 Scottish Cup winner. “Maybe even a bit longer.

“It was Paul Mathers, myself, Zander, Mark Hurst and him.

“We all knew he had something and I definitely had high hopes he would kick on as his career progressed.

“He had a lot of the qualities you’d want to see in a top goalkeeper.

“First and foremost how he is as a person – down to earth, hard-working, good to be around, great attitude, would take advice and want to be better.

“As a goalie, he had the attributes you’d want to see as well.

“We message now and then it’s good to see him improving – I’ve always thought he would go on to big things at some point.”

Ball at his feet

Mannus, now dipping his toe into the coaching waters, believes Sinclair’s comfort with a ball at his feet will be crucial to his career rise.

“Paul would work a lot with us on playing the ball out,” he said

“It’s a really important quality for goalkeepers – more so now than ever.

“For some teams, it’s the first thing people will look at.

“I know that was the case with our goalkeeper, Gavin Bazanu, who went to Manchester City a couple of years ago.

“He’s third choice there and has played for Ireland. How he was with the ball at his feet played a big part in getting that move.

“In my time it was always can he make saves, can he take crosses and can he kick long?

“It will be an important attribute of Ross’s game.”

Following Peter Enckelman

Mannus is honoured to be put at the heart of the Saints goalkeeping story – as a high-class performer in his own right and then a mentor to Clark.

But he was keen to stress the good times didn’t start with his emergence into Derek McInnes’s first team.

“Peter Enckelman was an excellent goalkeeper,” said Mannus.

“When I joined the club I knew I’d be learning off him. He was brilliant – as a person and a player.

“He’s one of the best people I’ve met in football and couldn’t have treated me any better than he did.

“I’d never seen anyone as good as him in training or in games.

“Gordon Marshall was our coach then. Alan Combe came in, Tommy was in the position for a while and it was Steve Banks and Paul after that.

“We’ve had excellent coaches to learn off.

“They’ve all had a big input into my career and Zander’s. And in Ross’s case, it’s Paul who has put a lot into his development.

“Now that I’m starting coaching, I appreciate even more how good they all were at St Johnstone.

“For a goalkeeper, there couldn’t be a better place to learn.

“It’s a great set-up and pathway.

“The goal with any player in an academy is to get them into the first team – either for a long time or to sell and make money from. Goalkeeper is no different.

“I’m very proud to have been at St Johnstone for so long and I’ve been delighted to see Zander do so well over a period of time too.

“It would be great if Ross could do that as well.

“To be mentioned as part of a succession of St Johnstone goalkeepers is a privilege.”

Loan benefits

With Saints in the market to replace Clark should the Scotland squad man depart as expected, and Elliott Parish having signed a new deal as number two, the obvious next step for Sinclair is a season spent on loan.

“I can’t speak about what would be best for Ross and the club,” said Mannus.

“But I always felt that loans were really beneficial for me at a young age.

“I can remember telling Zander how much it had helped me before he went to Queen of the South.

“You’re playing in stadiums, with supporters shouting at you. You make your mistakes in front of crowds which is an important process to go through.

“The games mean more – whether that’s with a club challenging for promotion or trying to avoid relegation.

“You learn more when something is at stake.

“There’s a lot of benefits to having a full season on loan.”

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