Why Jamal Blackman and Leeds United could be a match made in heaven

Chelsea goalkeeper Jamal Blackman's career path hasn't been without its sticky moments - Elland Road though, could well be the place in which his potential is realised.

Saturday, 14th July 2018, 10:53 am
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 4:44 pm
Jamal Blackman during his spell at Sheffield United.

Blackman, once formalities are completed, will become United's second signing of the summer window.

The 24-year-old and his six foot six inch frame announced himself at Sheffield United last season but it wasn't without it's rough moments, something that has been a constant through his career.

Blackman joined Chelsea's youth ranks as a boy but his path to manhood hasn't been as simple as he would've liked. The young boy from Croydon had to grow up fast as he found himself learning his trade facing set-piece practice from the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and David Luiz.

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Jamal Blackman during his spell at Sheffield United.

As Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy in Bavaria, Blackman was taking it all in, learning from a team that only produced serial winners, it would naturally only whet his appetite.

The Blues though, like many of their other academy prospects, decided that his stripes had to be earned away from the club.

Middlesbrough came calling as Blackman went in search of his first real break in the English game, but minutes were hard to come by as he struggled to break into the first-team ranks as a frustrating period followed.

A memorable League Cup appearance at Anfield in September 2014 would be his only for the club.

Jamal Blackman trains with Chelsea's first-team squad.

The tie produced a record-equalling penalty shoot-out in which Liverpool eventually won 14-13 with Blackman taking a spot kick himself: "It was a weird experience, good and bad. The longest penalty shoot-out. I saved a penalty from Raheem Sterling, which was good for me. And I scored a penalty.”

A recall from his parent club was to follow after Mark Schwarzer's move to Leicester City left Jose Mourinho without a third choice goalkeeper.

Blackman would continue his development under the stewardship of Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois until the following March before an opportunity in Sweden came to fruition.

Jamal Blackman during his time with Ostersunds.

Graham Potter, who was recently named Swansea City head coach, and Ostersunds would land his services on a two-month loan in which he would go on to make 12 appearances, yet, it wasn't without controversy.

Following a heavy defeat to local rivals Sundsvall, in which Blackman conceded five goals, he was pulled over by Swedish police in the early hours of the morning after being suspected of drink driving.

Although the limit is much higher, friction came down from the top as chairman Daniel Kindberg hit out. His spell in the Allsvenskan came to a natural conclusion.

Wycombe would knock on the door next where, by his own admission, a different type of football was required: "From the academy you learn to play it out, to pass it out from the back and through the team. My first game here I got the ball and looked to play out and everyone’s like, ‘No, you’re going straight up.'"

Blackman helped Wanderers to a 16-game unbeaten run during his 42 appearances over the course of the 2016-17 campaign but Gareth Ainsworth's men would come up one point short in the race for a League Two play-off spot.

It was a first real taste of the English game and what he would later describe as "men's football."

A natural step up was demanded and Sheffield United provided that opportunity.

Chris Wilder's young charges took the Championship by storm led out by Blackman from the back before falling away in the latter half of the season and, as the common theme goes, there were a few issues along the way.

A suspension here and there coupled with a sending off for an unneeded tussle with Brentford midfielder Ryan Woods following an equaliser at Griffin Park left many Blades fans with lingering doubts over Blackman's long-term ability.

Criticism flowed as did a tough spell in the middle of the season in which he lost his spot to back-up Simon Moore. Overall, though, the signs were good and positives were taken from a campaign that was filed into the top draw of the development cabinet.

Now, with a move to Leeds United all but done and dusted, it's the Whites turn for the next chapter.

Blackman heads to Elland Road at a crossroads, it's now or never, and if his dreams of a long-term future at Chelsea aren't just a fantasy then a smooth sailing campaign is a must and Leeds could well benefit from his continuing progression.

The Whites need to rid themselves of last season's goalkeeping ghosts and Blackman, who has plenty of his own, could well tick all of the boxes to fit the Marcelo Bielsa mould.

He has, after all, grown up at Cobham - Chelsea's training ground - where goalkeepers are expected to be footballers as well as shot stoppers.

A match made in heaven?

Maybe, just maybe.