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Tribute To Eric Steele

Eric Steele began his playing career as a goalkeeper at Newcastle United in 1972. His next club was Peterborough United where he established himself as first-choice keeper and set a record for most consecutive league appearances (124) that still stands today. Within the next 12 years he moved from club to Brighton & Hove Albion, then Watford, and finally Derby County. He won five promotions in his time with these clubs.

Steele then retired to run a pub in 1988 before establishing Eric Steele Coaching Services, which provided goalkeeping coaching to Manchester City, Leeds United, Derby County, and Barnsley, as well as working overseas in Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Germany and the United States.

He took on a permanent position at Derby County for four years, starting 1997, before being appointed goalkeeping coach at Aston Villa in 2001. He even had a stint as the manager before Martin O’Neil was appointed. In 2007, he became the new Manchester City goalkeeping coach, following the departure of Tim Flowers to Coventry City as assistant to Iain Dowie.

When Mark Hughes was given the Manchester City job he opted to bring in his own backroom staff and deemed Steele surplus to requirements. He was snapped up by Paul Ince just weeks after he was made manager at Blackburn.

However, our goalkeeping coach, Tony Coton, was then forced in to retirement through injury and recommended that we went for Steele. Steele had been Coton’s coach when he played for City and he thought very highly of him.

“We have approached someone for the job and we’re waiting for clearance to employ him,” Ferguson said at the time. We were given clearance and Steele became our goalkeeping coach, with the suggestion that we loaned Danny Simpson to Blackburn to sweeten the deal.

“Eric Steele was my goal keeping coach when I was a player at Manchester City, and it soon became evident that after just a couple of training sessions that Eric was a unique and talented coach,” Coton said. “Eric was different due to his innovative teaching style. Every session was a challenging and interesting, and his breadth and depth of knowledge was second to none. Because of this I decided to call Eric “The Guru”, a name that he is now known by throughout the Premier League.”

It was just a few months after joining the club that Steele was making the headlines after playing a crucial role in our 2009 League Cup final win. Despite Edwin Van der Sar still being at the club, Ben Foster played in the final after being our keeper in that competition in the previous rounds. A 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur meant we went to a penalty shoot out, with Foster saving one and Spurs missing the target with another.

“We have done a lot of research into the way each player is going to put their penalty,” Foster said after the game. “We went into the shootout as well prepared as possible. We have had things to look at over the last couple of days and before the shootout you can see me looking at an iPod with Eric Steele. It had actual video on it and showed where players put things. It is a new innovation for us. Eric brought it when he came to the club. I have never seen anything like it. It is a fantastic tool for us. But when it comes to penalties, goalkeepers cannot lose. We are not expected to save them. If we do, it is a bonus.”

Foster’s comments on Steele’s help were all over the papers, much to our coach’s embarrassment.

“I am finding all the fuss a little embarrassing,” said Steele. “I even had calls from Italy this week asking if we would be using the iPod against Inter Milan in the Champions League if the game goes to a penalty shoot-out. But it is just part of the research you would expect from a club of Manchester United’s stature.”

Steele’s more recent success is the development of David de Gea, who joined the club with bags of potential but who understandably needed time to adjust to the Premier League. He was given an awful time in the press, with every mistake magnified and every not performance not given the praise it deserved. At the end of his second season, De Gea has been voted by the PFA as the best keeper in the league, and Steele has to take some credit for that.

To help De Gea’s development, Steele showed his dedication to the cause by learning to speak Spanish. Following a superb performance from our keeper at the Bernabeu earlier this season, Steele spoke about how De Gea had dealt with all the criticism in the past.

“In Spanish we call it cresta cabeza,” he said. It means, literally, quiff-head. “Any criticism goes off that quiff. That is the great thing about him. He’s able to say: ‘Right, fine.’ He might have dark moments but he keeps them away from the training ground. If he is ever hurt, he doesn’t show it.”

Whilst Steele had been going to Spanish lessons, De Gea has been going to English lessons twice a week with team mate Shinji Kagawa. In the press conference for the Real Madrid game, De Gea was the player Sir Alex Ferguson took with him. “He was disappointed he got only two questions,” said Steele. “He was ready to answer some in English!”

The difference in our keeper between when he first joined and now is massive. My only fear is that he will leave before his peak, but we’ve at least got a few years ahead of us with one of the brightest goalkeeping talents in European football and we are indebted to Steele for that, who watched him play at Atletico Madrid and who has been De Gea’s biggest cheerleader since he first signed.

“You bring a boy into the Premier League at 20,” Steele said. “It’s not easy. He’s learning in the toughest environment in the world. But the one thing he has is fantastic inner strength. We teach him that the calmest man on the field has to be the goalkeeper. And one of his great strengths is his calmness. There have been dark moments but he has his family close to him. He doesn’t read the press. All the other mediums are there, which he knows about. But everything that has been going on around him for the last four or five months … trust me, he’s very mature for his age. He’s had to be because you’re not just replacing a goalkeeper in Edwin, you’re replacing a legend. It’s not just about the shot-stopping. There’s more to it. Put it this way, if you think about what David has been through, he has to have inner strength. He has dealt with it. And he’s such a likeable lad. He hasn’t come in swearing and squeaking. He’s just got on with his job. We bring in a lot of young players here. The manager has always done that and, if you’re bringing in young players, you have to have confidence in them and let them build and thrive. We just put the shield up. You’re there to be shot at but that’s fine, you deal with it. And David will be fine. He has always been a goalkeeper. He believes he was born to be a goalkeeper.”

The club has today confirmed that Steele is not part of David Moyes plans as he looks to bring in staff he’s worked with at Everton.

Thanks for everything, Eric. Best of luck in the future.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. NBI Red Onion says:

    It’s not about Moyes putting own stamp, it’s about the fact he has not even got a flavour of what Steele brings or seen him in action and he does this. I am sure Everton won’t be too happy if he nicks their staff too.

  2. Costas says:

    Might be the first mistake Moyes has made as United’s manager. I understand choosing your own staff, but a goalkeeper coach doesn’t have to fall in that category. Especially since the club already employs one of the best in the business.

    Thanks for everything Eric. Good luck in your future endeavours.

  3. safichan says:

    Stupid moyes!!,

  4. Simmo says:

    So much for giving the new manager a chance!!!!
    1st major decisions and the know alls go ape shit!
    God help us if we lose a game or two. The armchair managers will be out in force.

    A new manager will always bring in! Did’nt Fergie??

    Mike Phelan & Eric Steele have done a fantastic job and we’ll miss them because they’re so familiar but the future has arrived!

    Just get behind David Moyes. We are all gonna have to stick together on this!!

  5. ys says:

    Has anyone thought about this ?
    We know Mike Phelan wasn’t great , some of you here said he was just a “YES” man and wanted Quiroz back
    Well Moyes probably felt that someone else can do Phelan’s job
    now here is the interesting part , he can’t just sack Phelan without a valid reason , can he ?
    Valid Reason : He is bringing is OWN staff , the staff he has worked with , so probably the staff would include FIrst team coach , GK coach , possibly Physio as well ( considering our Physio aren’t great as well )
    Steel probably has to go in disguise of having Moyes’s own backroom staff
    Also , Goal keeping is an essential part of your team tactics , specially for defending set peaces , keeping possession, but most importantly for playing high line n stuff

    Moyes probably wants HIS style of play , with coaching staff who know how to coach HIS style

    Lets wait and watch , there are more than 70 days to go for Moyes first proper match
    Also ,w e might get a glimpse of his tactics during Pre-season

  6. Red Robin says:

    Come on guys, its not the whole staff changing! Rene is still there. Even if Moyes changed the whole staff, just give him the space. Let him works, we will only judge him at the end of next season. We can talk if he can’t deliver. That’s how its work.

  7. Toms says:


  8. Redblood says:

    Sad for steele. He has done the best job at the club and he should have been given his chance to build what he has with DDG. I hope moyes knows what he’s doing.
    For Phelan, we all know he wasn’t close to our best assistant coach

  9. DiegoForlanDK says:

    Quite surprised about Steeles departure. Not least in the light of his work with DDG who has progressed so well all season.

    About Mike. Well, he’s obviously done very good at the club for many years now. But he’s not the kind of man we’re hearing a lot about, are we? Or were. I don’t mean to say he hasn’t merited his job, he must have since Fergie stuck with him. But we didn’t exactly hear about his genius either. And we haven’t heard about his close relationship with any of the players either, so I don’t know what to make of his departure. Time will tell, obviously.

    But so it begins, the changing face of our club. Up until now we’ve all been preoccupied with thank you sir alex and collecting our thoughts on Moyes who seem to grow on the most of us. Now, however, now reality hits. Now its on everybody. Fergie is gone and he won’t be there to calm us on whats going on at the club

    Suppose this means Chris Woods from Everton is replacing Eric Steele?
    And will Steve Round, ass manager Everton, be our new ass manager?

  10. belfast red. says:

    When i heard this yesterday, i was like wtf? Why fix something if it isn’t broke?? I guess only time will tell but change is happening fast a quick. Almost to fast imo.

  11. Jay says:

    @wayne I can voice my opinion however I want, just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean you can call me a cunt, what I said was not unreasonable if Moyes had won a few trophies no one would be questioning him bringing in his own people.

  12. DiegoForlanDK says:

    It’ll be interesting to follow our reactions when he starts shipping off players and signing new ones :)

  13. FletchTHEMAN says:

    King Eric, Talking like a guy who sees your new neighbor rip out a prize winning guarden to make a car park for his caravan. Right, “Love what you’ve done with the place.”

    Love people who take a pop a long term posters who are just stating on opinion.
    Go on an sue me then. Just think there is no need to preplace critical cogs in a system without first studying how they work. The relationship between Steele and DeGea seemed really important.

    If the thinking is that Moyes is bringing in Chris Woods, who apparently rubs many people the wrong way, then I don’t think there is anything wrong with raising an eye brow.
    Chis was a decent keeper and been Everton Goal Keeping Coach for years. He holds the british record for consecutive run of unbeaten games in all comps (1,196) from his spell at Rangers in 1986-87. It seems that Tim Howard rates him as well since Woods is listed as USA Goal Keeping coach on some sites. But Chris (or anyone else) would have to bring a whole other level to pip what Steele seems to have build with our prized Spanish wonder boy. Just sayin.

    Go on have a pop son. As I said, I understand Phelan. I would understand Rene though I think another role in the organization could be found. I am just not at all impressed with the manor, timing, or thinking (probably the lack of it) behind sacking Steele.

  14. MickDunne says:

    Some great words about my cousin Eric. Moyes has made a massive mistake. Would have expected bit more loyalty from Man Utd board.

  15. Nairobired says:

    @Wayne and @everyone110%behindmoyes, there 2 very distinct camps here, those who think moyes was a bad and rubbish replacement and who think united deserve a manager who has demonstrated the highest calibre of ability or some modicum of top level competence. We deserve the highest pedigree coz we are the best club in the world. Moyes is not that, neither am I and neither are you. We were just adapting to the huge blow of getting a 2nd rate replacement as manager, but when he starts making sentimental and bone headed decisions, I’m sorry, he will not be getting my 70% support.
    It’s like appointing your semi capable brother to head your sales deprtment, over the overly successful foreign chap. Your bro can do a job but don’t expect to be challenging for shit if we start employing evertons backroom staff.
    Moyes is simply not good enough, there I said it, at least with the likes of Steele and mulenstein we would have retained the same level of performance. Man Utd will next year be everton fc but playing in a bigger atadium.

  16. alfREDo says:

    Best of luck to the Guru,
    Damn shame your stay wasnt longer!!

  17. Raizzen says:

    When SAF mentioned about throwing our supports behind the new gaffer. I think this is one those moments. Gutted, yes, but Moyes will do whatever he thinks is right. And we just have to get behind him and believe.

  18. Gopher Brown says:

    And so it begins, the round-the-clock castigation of Moyes and very decision he makes. He will have no success if he is continually questioned over every decision.

    From what I’ve heard, which is very little, Eric was a good gk coach but I am sure there are many good gk coaches out there.

    DDG is becoming a world class keeper. That’s down to his temperament and abilities. Not the coach’s.

  19. wayne says:

    Never argue with stupid people they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience
    Mark Twain
    just a generic answer Nairobired,Jay and anyone else i might of missed

  20. Jay says:

    Wayne keep my name out of your mouth and get a life.

  21. wayne says:

    have a life thanks,stop making comments like a Fucktard i will

  22. lordrt says:

    looks like moyes will bring united to everton’s level soon, dear me his start itself with the staff is bad, and he wants to bring in his own men around, why did saf have to choose him…

  23. dugz says:

    we are fucked already clueless Moyes – long ball football to Fellani any chance of winning anything gets slimmer by the day

  24. Chartkrische says:

    Thank you for everything, Eric.

    As much as I’d like to give Moyes all the support he deserved. I cannot quite come to term with the upheaval of winning formula. Althought I can understand that bringing his own staff give him more sense of control. but at what cost? I’d rather see him work with the current backroom first and make adjustment as he see fit.

    Moyes hardly have UCL experience and by sacking Phelan, Moyes lose that experience with departing guy. I’m already waving goodbye to our chance at UCL. With Evertonian giving underwhelming support for Round, call me pessimistic or whatever, but what chance have we got with a manager and his assistance clueless about the competition. If we reach Quarter Final, it’s largely attribute to players experience. Although there might be one last shining hope…

    I could come to term with sacking of Phelan though, that’s Sir Alex right hand man, Moyes must feel like he want his own right hand along side him at OT. I can’t come to term with sacking of Steele, however. Everyone must have read that long ago, that it was Steele who scout De Gea and recommended him and how he responsible for the development of De Gea.

    Sure, it won’t stop his development but it may well hinder/slow down his development. No disrespect to Chris Wood, whom Tim Howard gave rave review. However, every player respond differently to different training methods, and we can see that De Gea is blossoming under Steele.

    The last shining hope that I mentioned is the news that Rene will assumed his role at United, that would provide the much needed experience to compete with the best of Europe. I was really disappointed when I heard Rene was leaving and the rumor was linger for weeks. I’m suspecting that Sir Alex might have gave Moyes voice of reason which overturn Rene decision to leave. Whatever the reason for turn around, I’m really thankful for that.


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