Sam Roach uses Leyton Orient experience to cement No 1 role at Histon
Sam Roach is bucking the trend of one of the great anomalies in football.
You do not tend to think too much about teenagers making their debuts at any level in the game, or even cementing their places in a first-team.
There is an exception though – goalkeepers.
When a teenager lines up between the sticks, it is still quite rare and even more uncommon to become the first choice.
Roach has done just that at Histon, and aged only 19 has clocked up more than 100 appearances for senior men’s sides.
He was part of the academy at the Stutes before being snapped up by Leyton Orient, and during his time at Brisbane Road was called up to join training camps with England under-16.
But after a spell back at Histon on loan during the 2016/17 season, he was released by Orient, who were having off-field difficulties and suffered relegation from the Football League that summer.
“I enjoyed every minute of it (at Orient),” said Roach.
“Towards the end, it wasn’t great for them because of everything that was going on but I was still enjoying it and all the lads around me were good.
“It wasn’t a great time for the club but I learnt a lot through it, and not a lot of players have gone through and experienced that at such a young age.
“Getting released was hard but I took it on the chin and almost took it as a boost.
“All I could do is work harder and work my way back up. I will train harder and get back to where I want to be eventually.
“Most goalkeepers are older than the outfielders when they make their debuts and I feel like I’m learning all the time.”
That process continued after his release from Orient with Mildenhall, but he made the move back to Histon on loan last December, and the switch was made permanent in January 2018.
It meant Roach renewed acquaintances with Stutes manager Lance Key and assistant boss Mark Critoph.
“They both like me and it’s great to be involved with people you know,” he said. “They like me as a goalkeeper so they have respect for me and I have respect for them as we have worked together before.
“They have seen me progress so know everything about my game.
“With Lance being a goalkeeper as well, it’s a massive plus for me. A lot of coaches try to get involved with the goalkeepers but you don’t always agree.
“But when it comes from a goalkeeper you listen to it more. Other coaches might have knowledge about the game and some goalkeeping, but it’s not as specific as Lance can provide and sometimes it can be hard what they’re trying to get across.
“When it comes from a goalkeeper, they know how to explain it better – it’s a lot more handy and helps you so it’s really good.”
Success this season with Histon would go some way to making up for a near miss on one of the multiple occasions that Roach has previously worked with Key and Critoph.
The latter was manager of the Cambridge & District Schools under-15 team when they made it through to face Liverpool in the two-legged final of the ESFA PlayStation Inter-Association Trophy final in 2014.
Roach was the goalkeeper as they drew 2-2 at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium, before a 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park – with Key coming in to put him through his paces in the warm-up.
And it was some achievement for such a small district to have gone all the way to the final.
“It was surprising how good we actually were,” said the former Comberton Village College student Roach.
“A few of the players had been at Cambridge United when they were younger in the shadow squads, but everyone was local players apart from me and Anthony Scully.
“A lot of us were actually surprised how far we got considering a lot of the other teams had up to eight academy players in their team.
“Everyone in our team were very good players who could have, if they wanted to, play at a higher level, but none of them seemed to take it up apart from Callum Fullwood, who was the striker. He had a spell at Ipswich. It was only the three of us who played for academies.”
Having returned to his first academy stop, Roach has dual aims with Histon this season – to earn promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League, Premier Division and continuing their FA Vase run, with Northwich Victoria the next opposition at the Glass World Stadium this Saturday (February 2).
“Obviously the main goal is promotion, but we’re still concentrating on the Vase and have big hopes in getting as far as we can in that,” he said. “I’ve never been with a team with such good morale.
“It’s just a good bunch of lads, we all get on with each other and there always just good laughs and we take that onto the pitch as well.
“It’s probably why we bond so well in games.”
With that camaraderie, you would not bet against success for Roach and his team-mates come the end of the campaign.