Monday 25 September 2017

Logan's run of form keeps him on trail of Donegal's poster boys

Time is on goalkeeper Conrad Logan's side as he continues to make a name for himself in English football, writes Seán Ryan

F IRST impressions when you meet Conrad Logan are that he would make a fine centre-half. He's 6' 2", broad-shouldered, quick on his feet -- he's made for the job, except that he has no interest in it. And it's all Packie Bonner's fault.

"I was four in 1990 and Packie saving that penalty made a big impression on me," he says. "I remember getting a poster of it and I would get my dad and my uncle to roll up socks and throw them, and nearly breaking my arm in the living-room diving after them."

Dad Joe was a free-scoring midfielder for Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps in the 1970s, but Conrad had no interest in playing outfield. "All through school, at St Mary's Ramelton, and St Eunan's Letterkenny, I was a goalie, and I also played a bit of Gaelic."

At 24, he is still young for a goalkeeper, and, in his ninth season with Leicester City, he has been acquiring some valuable experience. So far, he has experienced promotion, a Wembley final, and two relegation dog-fights, the second of which engages him at present. Most of this valuable experience has come while out on loan, and he is currently helping Bristol Rovers shore up what was the leakiest defence in League One until he arrived.

In the 10 games before Logan's arrival, Bristol had conceded 27 goals. In his first seven games, they conceded five -- two of them coming when they were reduced to 10 men. "When I got the call from Bristol at Leicester's training ground, I looked at the team and reckoned there was enough quality there to be a top-half team. I couldn't understand why they were struggling, but losing can become a habit."

Logan's loan has been extended to the end of the season with the Pirates. "It's a good challenge and hopefully we'll stay up. I knew I'd be busy, so it's a chance to impress people."

The person he most wants to impress is Leicester and former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson. "He's one of the nicest people I've met in football. He always has a word for me, shakes my hand, encourages me to go out and play games, and says that things will look after themselves after that. In that respect, I have one year left on my contract, so next year is the big one for me."

In the past, Logan's problem has been building a relationship with his manager. How could he, when it's been like a revolving door, with 13 managers or caretaker managers in his time at the club.

"Martin Allen came in for '07-'08 and bought something like 14 players, including a goalkeeper, and I went to Stockport on a season-long loan, so I never met Gary Megson, who was there for six games, or Gerry Taggart and Frank Burrows who took over from Megson, and then Ian Holloway came in, and I met him once because I went to Leicester to train one day. Leicester were relegated on the last day of the season at Stoke and Ian got the sack."

Meanwhile, his season at Stockport ended with a promotion from League Two via a play-off final win over Rochdale at Wembley. "It's a bit weird. We won 3-2, but the day seemed to be gone in a flash. Normally, if you're winning, you think the clock has stopped, but not there. It was unbelievable to walk up the steps and lift the trophy in front of all my family."

While on loan to Luton Town the following season, Logan had the distinction of winning two penalty shoot-outs, and last year playing for Leicester in the last game of the season against Middlesbrough, he saved a penalty in a 2-0 win. He has maintained this streak, with two penalty saves so far for Bristol Rovers. What has contributed to this success?

"As a goalie you have nothing to lose, so you try and put pressure on the kicker," he explained. "I always go out to the spot, and delay the kick by checking that the ball is placed properly even when

I know it is. The more delay, the more likely the kicker is to change his mind or become confused. Also I try and read the kicker from his run-up. It doesn't always work, but the percentages are improving."

Finally, there's the question of following Donegal men Bonner and Given into the Irish team. After being capped all the way to under 19, Logan was ignored at under 21 even when he was a regular in Leicester's first team -- "I seem to have slipped under the radar, but I want to play for my country and the only way is to get games and have people come and watch me."

Struggling Bristol Rovers might not appeal to Giovanni Trapattoni's scouts, but it's on Logan's run at the moment, providing valuable experience for whenever the call comes.

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