FC Halifax Town: “All I can do is prepare myself for that chance” - Keeper Davison-Hale on fighting for the number one spot
Try telling Harrison Davison-Hale he has to settle for being back-up keeper at FC Halifax Town.
The 20-year-old accepts he is understudy to Sam Johnson, but isn’t playing second-fiddle without a fight.
Davison-Hale is yet to make his competitive debut for Town, and is the latest in a long line of second-choice stoppers to Johnson, who is the club’s established number one.
But that isn’t stopping him trying to oust Johnson from between the sticks.
“I’ve accepted when I came here that Pete (Wild) was like ‘you’re going to be second choice but it’s up to you to fight for that spot’, which I have been doing since the start of the season,” he said.
“From the start of the season to now I’ve progressed in training so much. It’s been half-a-year and I’ve probably progressed more in that time than I did at Huddersfield for two years, just down to the coaching and being in the first-team environment.
“I’m still young but I’m hungry and I won’t stop training as hard as I can and putting 100 per cent into it to get a first-team spot.”
When asked where he feels he has improved since joining Town, Davison-Hale said: “Everything from the basics to my kicking - my kicking’s been hit and miss.
“I couldn’t kick a ball to save my life when I was 15, 16, I’d just shell it 70 yards and that was it. I couldn’t hit the wingers like I could now, or pinpoint a man on his head.
“But going out with Pogs (Paul Oakes, goalkeeping coach) every morning before the lads come in, keep practicing and practicing, it’s been great.
“I know I’m going to be on the bench but then it’s up to me at the end of the day to show it in training.
“I have dropped down to a couple of under 23s games and Pete and Milly have come to watch, which is good.
“I don’t expect them to be there but if they are it’s a bonus because I can show them what I can do.
“It’s a decent league, it’s tough in different aspects, very physical. But I definitely, definitely can fight for that spot and I’m in a good position in myself to do that.”
And Davison-Hale says playing at National League level wouldn’t faze him, if and when the opportunity arrives.
“Not at all, no. I’m a pretty confident character in myself, and I’m confident in my training that I’ve been doing so far,” he said.
“They always say as a second-choice keeper you’ve got to be ready, and then take your chance when it comes.
“All I can do is prepare myself for that chance.”
Davison-Hale was was playing under nine’s football for his local side in Doncaster when he was spotted by a scout from Leeds United.
“For my dad to take me from Leeds to Donny, a good 45 minutes away, was a bit commitment so I’m thankful for him for that,” he said.
The keeper also had trials at Manchester City and Everton before going to Sheffield United.
“But the travelling got too much for my dad so I took a year out, played non-league for the likes of Ossett Albion and teams like that in Wakefield,” he said.
“Then the academy goalkeeping coach at Huddersfield Town came to one of the games, because he used to play for Ossett. He saw me playing for the first-team when I was about 15, 16, which was good experience for me at such a young age.
“I’m a pretty big lad so I was perfect for that type of football.
“So I went to Huddersfield as a scholar aged 16. Really good training facilities, top-of-the-range.
“I was there every Tuesday with the first-team for about a year, year-and-a-half, so it was good to get in that first-team environment.”
But after a meeting with the club’s academy chief, Davison-Hale left The Terriers.
“I had a meeting with the head of the academy, Leigh Bromby, and just said ‘where am I at, am I going to get a contract in the summer?’ because I didn’t want to be getting the news in the summer and then be trying to find a club straight away without an agent, because I didn’t have an agent at the time,” he said.
“So I said ‘just give me a decision now’ and he said ‘we can’t promise anything’ so I said ‘that’s fine, I’ll look for other clubs’.
“I tried at Carlisle and was in and around the first-team for a week, week-and-a-half, did really well there.
“They did want to take me on but the goalkeeping coach said ‘we’ve got two keepers, we want a third to push for that first-team spot, we’ll try and get you in’, then the manager got sacked.
“I came back from there with great confidence, got an agent and they got me a move to Halifax.”
As back-up at the club, Davison-Hale says the working relationship with Johnson is about supporting his colleague as much as pushing for his place.
“They say it’s a goalkeeper’s union and they’re not wrong,” he said.
“I’ve got to support him as much as he supports me in training, got to give him the respect he deserves.
“He’s got over 200 appearances, which is great, he’s had a good career, so I’ve got to give him that respect as a second-choice keeper.
“It starts on the training pitch, the service (during training drills), what you say to him, and then on match-days, you’ve got to give him that confidence boost, and the service has got to be bang on from me and Pogsy for him to get ready.”
And that support works both ways.
“He’s an easy going lad, I could speak to him about anything, says Davison-Hale.
“If I had a problem or I wanted to work on something, I could ask him because he’s got the experience.”