Former Derby County player and coach Eric Steele is one of the most renowned goalkeeping coaches in English football over the last 20 years.
The former goalkeeper was with the Rams between 1984 and 1987 and was part of the Division Three and Division Two promotion-winning sides under Cox.
Steele, perhaps best known on a national scale for his role as Manchester United’s goalkeeping coach under Sir Alex Ferguson, held a similar position at Derby between 1997-2001 and 2013-2015.
He also served a number of other elite clubs in his specialist role and now conducts his work with the Football Association’s goalkeepers.
But the role of a goalkeeping coach didn’t become the position that it is today until the 1990s.
After retiring as a player, Steele moved into coaching and visited various clubs across the country, and in Europe, as a part-time goalkeeping coach.
As the game began to develop, albeit not to the level the professional game finds itself today in 2020, the need for a full-time coach to specifically work with goalkeepers increased.
Steele’s big break came under the tutelage of Jim Smith and Steve McClaren in the mid-1990s – and he never looked back from that stage.
He has since coached at Aston Villa, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United, where he worked under Sir Alex Ferguson and played a prominent role in the scouting and signing of David De Gea in 2011.
He returned to Derby in 2013 under Steve McClaren and after his departure in 2015 he has continued to keep himself busy in various projects, namely with the Football Association, to continue in his passion to develop and hone the skills of goalkeepers.
“There were a few people before me, but there weren’t many goalkeeping coaches around when I started out,” Steele recalled during his interview with RamsTV Meets two years ago.
“Alan Hodgkinson (former Sheffield United and England goalkeeper), Mike Kelly (former Wimbledon, QPR and Birmingham City goalkeeper) and Bob Wilson (former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper) were the main ones.
“They were the pioneers I looked at when I finished playing.
“I was part-time goalkeeper coaching after I finished playing and in the 1990s was when people really saw the benefit from it and from there it began to take off.
“I remember in the 1990s doing two days a week at Derby and also some time with Leeds United as well under Howard Wilkinson. People didn’t look at it as a serious role.
“However, under Jim Smith and Steve McClaren, I came in full-time at Derby. Steve pushed for the role to be full-time, Jim was obviously keen too, and felt we needed full-time staff on positions which weren’t considered to be required every day back then.
“From there we had some great times as we got promoted and established ourselves in the Premiership, as it was known then.”
He added: “Looking at it now, a goalkeeping coach is an established position in a football club and on the coaching staff.”
Steele’s return to Derby for a third stint came at the end of 2013 under Steve McClaren.
McClaren took charge as Head Coach and was assisted by former Derby player Paul Simpson and Steele on the coaching staff.
The 2013/14 was one of the Rams’ most memorable in recent history, as they finished third in the Championship table with a club-record 85 points and 84 goals scored in the league.
Promotion, however, was narrowly missed out on as Derby were beaten in the Play-Off Final in May 2014 by Queens Park Rangers, and a dip in form at the wrong time a year later saw them miss out on a top six-spot.
McClaren, Simpson and Steele departed in the summer of 2015 and the 65-year-old looks back on those two seasons with great fondness, particularly for the way they entertained the Derby faithful.
“It was a great time,” he recalled.
“We inherited a good squad from Nigel Clough and credit to him for that.
“Steve quickly got to grips with things and his strength was on the training field, which we all know.
“It was a special season and the seven or eight months with the momentum building and us reaching the Play-Off Final.
“People still talk about it now and how great a season it was. Steve established a way of playing and got the best out of the players we had in the squad, such as Chris Martin and he became a very feared striker in the Championship.
“It’s just a shame we couldn’t build on it all and get over the line. We didn’t make it, and that’s football, and despite not making it we certainly entertained as a team.”
He added: “It was great to work with Lee Grant for a second time when I came back and look where he is now in his career (at Manchester United).
“I brought Lee to the club as a youngster, so it was lovely to work together.”.
Despite being best-known for his goalkeeping coaching, Steele’s time in goal himself should not be forgotten.
He began his playing career as a goalkeeper at Newcastle United in 1972, where he was part of the squad that won the Anglo-Italian Cup.
He went on to play for Peterborough United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford, Derby County, Southend United and Mansfield Town before retiring and moving into coaching.
“I know a lot of people only know me as a goalkeeping coach, but I think there’s a fair balance of people who remember me from playing too,” he joked.
“I still get people messaging me now with images and footage of me playing for the likes of Derby and Brighton; mainly commenting on the parting in my hair and my moustache.
“People still collect memorabilia and I get a lot that people want to share and get me to sign.”
Want to hear more from Eric Steele on his life in
football and time at Derby County on the coaching staff under Jim Smith and
Steve McClaren? Watch the full RamsTV Meets in the videos embedded in this