Young Keeper Waiting In The Wings
Mark Halstead is looking forward to another season of personal progress, as he continues to combine his place on the Blackpool substitutes' bench with a starting berth for the club’s development side.
Manager Ian Holloway and goalkeeping coach George Wood have praised the 21-year-old in recent months, with both convinced that the young ‘keeper has what it takes to come into the first-team should anything happen to Matt Gilks.
“It’s nice to be involved in the first-team games. I’m pleased that the manager has shown faith in me and not brought anyone else in,” Halstead said.
“It’s given me great confidence. The manager spoke to me at the start of the season and I had a good chat with him. He told me what he thought of me, what I could be doing and how well I’d started pre-season.
“George I can't speak highly enough of. The amount he’s brought me on in the last couple of years with his training, and as a person as well he’s a top man and I can’t thank him enough.
“It’s up to me now to keep working hard and keep pushing Matt. I’ve got enough confidence in my ability that if anything does happen to him I’ll be able to step in.”
Having come through the youth ranks at Bloomfield Road, Halstead is currently a regular for Keith Millen’s new development side. The former Burscough, Hyde and Barrow loanee says the games compare favourably to the old reserve team fixtures.
“When I first started playing reserve games we were playing a mixture of old pros who weren’t really too interested and young lads who were trying to force their way through. Now with the development games, everyone is at a similar level.
“It’s a good test. Last week we played Man Utd and Burnley and this week we've got Crewe and Wigan. We have to treat them as our first team games because we never know when we’re going to be called upon.”
Halstead spent a difficult time last season on loan at Blue Square Premier side Stockport County, playing in four defeats for the Edgeley Park club. However the Blackpool-born stopper believes that that experience will ultimately prove to be a positive one as he continues his career with the Tangerines.
"Stockport was a bit of a disaster, but I’ve moved on from that. I think it’s made me a stronger person having to deal with being slated in the press. It’s shown me who’s there for me – the gaffer, George and everyone at the club who’s supported me through that.
"I think everything that surrounded it will benefit me as a person and will stand me in good stead for the future.”