Leeds United goalkeeper Wiedwald inspired by fellow German stoppers

Felix Wiedwald.
Felix Wiedwald.
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AS one German footballer prepares to join Leeds United, another is settling into his 61st day with the Whites.

Two months have passed since goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald arrived on a three-year deal from Werder Bremen.

The jury remained out after the opening-day 3-2 win at Bolton Wanderers but the German has conceded just one goal in his six appearances that have followed since.

With Wiedwald between the sticks, United have kept four Championship clean sheets in succession and not conceded a goal in 414 minutes of league football, not to mention stoppage time.

Taking inspiration from the likes of Bayern Munich no1 Manuel Neuer and Barcelona shotstopper Marc-André ter Stegen, Wiedwald hopes to become the latest success in a strong list of fine German ’keepers.

Wiedwald’s impression upon United’s team has been so great that last season’s first-choice goalkeeper Rob Green has chosen to move his career to Huddersfield Town.

Manuel Neuer.

Manuel Neuer.

A German revolution has helped the Terriers to the Premier League through head coach David Wagner and Leeds look likely to have two Germans in their side after the international break.

With Wiedwald already two months into life at Leeds, Hamburg striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga was preparing to sign a season-long loan deal as United looked to strengthen their options up front following the £15m sale of last season’s top scorer Chris Wood to Burnley.

And Wiedwald hopes United already have matters covered at the back with the custodian admitting he definitely takes inspiration from some of his country’s goalkeeping greats.

The new Whites custodian takes particular notice of how the likes of Neuer and ter Stegen use their feet and the fact that Wiedwald is looking to the perfect the role of sweeper-keeper should come as no surprise.

Germany as a country has so many good goalkeepers. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps so many young guys want to be a goalkeeper. Maybe the English people want to be a striker or a defender, not a goalkeeper!

Leeds goalkeeper, Felix Wiedwald

“Manuel Neuer and ter Stegen are very, very strong with their feet and it comes to them more to play with their feet,” Wiedwald told the YEP.

“They are always looking to learn to improve themselves and to be better with their crossing or their feet.

“Germany as a country has so many good goalkeepers. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps so many young guys want to be a goalkeeper. Maybe the English people want to be a striker or a defender, not a goalkeeper!

“There are so many idols – for example Lehmann or Oliver Kahn or Neuer and now ter Stegen who plays for Barcelona.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

“We start early with the training for goalkeepers, we have had goalkpeeping trainers and maybe this is the reason, I don’t know.”

Wiedwald, though, is certain that he has made the right move in joining Leeds whom the goalkeeper spent time researching before putting pen to paper.

The custodian was just 11 when United took on Valencia in the Champions League semi-final of 2011 but the former Bundesliga shotstopper is fully aware of his new side’s past exploits.

“I heard so much about Leeds before I came here,” said the goalkeeper.

“It’s a huge club with so many supporters and there is an unbelievable atmosphere at Elland Road. I looked at some media before on You Tube about the club and the stadium and so I expected it!

“The Leeds fans are great supporters, unbelievable. It’s a big club – not in my time but 15 years ago Leeds were in the Champions League.”

To get back in the Premier League is now the burning desire 16 years later and Wiedwald is confident that United’s strong early defensive displays will prove a sign of more to come.

The new Whites no1 also says he is enjoying his training with United’s new goalkeeping coach Marcus Abad, who previously had spells with United’s director of football Victor Orta at Middlesbrough and Elche.

“He is new, it’s a new staff and it’s different training to Germany as he’s from Spain,” said Wiedwald.

“But we prepare for the games very well and he helps me a lot. We prepare for different openings to change the exercises and every week is another opening and another training.

“It’s important for me and for the team and for the supporters that they can see that I am strong and that I will improve the team.

“It’s a long season and we have good players and a good attitude. We have a good defending line and it’s going to be difficult to score goals against us.”

The custodian will now look to keep a fifth Championship clean sheet in succession when United return to action after the international break with the Elland Road clash against Burton Albion next Saturday.

And Wiedwald hopes his performances will continue to make his club and country proud. The 27-year-old even has dreams of one day bagging a full international call up though the Whites’ custodian readily admits there are no lack of options ahead of him in the queue.

“It’s always the dream to play for Germany or for your own country,” admitted Wiedwald, capped once by Germany’s under-20s. “But we have so much and it’s not like there is just one goalkeeper. There is Bernd Leno at Bayer Leverkusen and Kevin Trapp who plays for Paris St-Germain and ter Stegen and we have so many young guys too.

“I will do my best and the dream is pretty clear.”

Elland Road.

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