India under-22 goalie on Wigan’s radar

Rising Star: Punjab’s Gurpreet bags trial-cum-training offer from Premiership Club

Written by Tashi Lundup | Chandigarh | Published: July 17, 2012 3:50:19 am

India’s under-22 goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu didn’t initially know that he was being watched by an established talent scout during the AFC Cup in Muscat,Oman,last month.

John Burridge,the former Blackpool,Newcastle and Manchester City goalkeeper,was at the tournament. Burridge has a keen eye for budding talent and is credited with discovering Oman’s national goal-keeper Ali Al Habsi during his stint as national team coach.

Burridge was so impressed with Gurpreet’s goalkeeping skills that he recommended Gurpreet to Wigan Athletic Football Club. Incidentally,Al Habsi is the current Wigan custodian. Gurpreet will now undergo a week-long trial-cum-training stint with Wigan.

Gurpreet is now set to travel to the DW Stadium at Wigan,home to the Wigan Athletic Football Club,on Wednesday.

Burridge,who is based in Dubai,had travelled to Muscat to watch Gurpreet in action. “I have come from Dubai to follow Gurpreet’s progress. From my experience,I can tell you that he has potential. If he gets proper training,he can surely play in the UK,” the former English Premier League ‘keeper had told the local media.

Before flying out to England,Gurpreet has another task to complete.

He has to appear for his BA Part I exams on the eve of his trip. “I am really excited. I really don’t know whether to focus on my exams or train,” Gurpreet said. “I got to know the news about the trial a couple of days ago. I am glad Wigan is offering me a chance to show my skills. This is the day I have been waiting for,” Gurpreet said.

Apart from his raw talent,Gurpreet has two other things going for him: his 6’5” frame and 20 years of age.

Gurpreet also met Burridge’s protege,Al-Habsi,“Burridge and Ali came up with the idea of a trial with Wigan. Ali told me about how Burridge had played an important role in shaping his career in EPL,firstly with Bolton Wanderers and then Wigan. Burridge showed faith in me and it was a big boost of confidence as he has trained top goal-keepers,including Paul Robinson. Now,I have started believing in fairy-tale stories,” Gurpreet said.

Gurpreet’s showing during the AFC Championships,during which he was also the stand-in skipper in place of Jeje Lalpekhlua,impressed senior national coach Wim Koevermans too. When the Indian senior team for the Nehru Cup,to be held in August,was announced,Koevermans named Gurpreet among the 37 probables for the tournament.

Before Gurpreet,another Indian keeper Subrata Paul,had trial stint with Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Gurpreet hopes his trial-cum-training stint will be more successful than that of his senior.

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