Nicholls already has plenty of coaching qualities

"You can hear him on the sidelines, screaming advice and encouragement to Fish"

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 11:08 am
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2021, 11:10 am
Lee Nicholls

A career in coaching would be an easy transition for Lee Nicholls should he choose to go down that path when his career comes to an end.

The 28-year-old has been limited to just six cup appearances since being replaced as Dons' first choice keeper Andrew Fisher in October, taking up position as the first of the substitutes ever since.

In the quieter stadiums up and down the country, Nicholls can often be heard shouting advice from the dugout to Fisher at set-pieces, and words of encouragement after hitting his marks.

Coach Dean Thornton said Nicholls' vocal encouragement, as well as his approach in training, not only makes him an excellent member of the Dons dressing room but also shows how easily he could make the transition into becoming a coach when he hangs up his gloves.

He said: "You can hear him on the sidelines, screaming advice and encouragement to Fish. It's so important for the lads who aren't playing to buy into it, and into the environment we're creating.

"When we've had younger keepers coming up to work with us from the academy, Lee's there talking to them, telling them to try something with their hands or their feet. When Lee decides to retire in many years time, it wouldn't surprise me to be a coach. He certainly has the qualities to be one."

Having been Dons' first choice since 2017 and making nearly 150 appearances for the club, the decision to replace Nicholls with Fisher from the Blackpool game in October raised plenty of eyebrows. Only appearing in cup competitions since, Nicholls' attitude has been great, according to Thornton, in a position that requires a lot of patience and understanding.

"When we told him he was coming out of the team, he was disappointed as anyone would be," Thornton explained. "But we've had numerous conversations since then and I cannot fault him.

"He comes in, works as hard as he can, he tests Fish and Laurie. I can explain to Fish how we want to play, but you've also got Lee there who has done it this season and last telling him to try this or that as well.

"It's tough, only one keeper can play. You can be thrown in in the first game, you might not play at all. You've got to be ready physically and mentally.

"It's tough when you're travelling up and down the country but you know you're not playing, but that opportunity may arise and that's when keepers come into their own. They step in, take the shirt and it's up to them to keep it."