‘I’m from a family of goalkeepers’

Bywater, who became a pro at 17 and who grew up with stars like Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard at West Ham, has 120 clean sheets from 352 matches in his club career. The Blasters had a goalkeeper--former World Cupper David James, as its marquee player in the ISL’s first edition last year and the Englishman did a good job carrying the team to the final.

Stephen Bywater, Kerala Blasters' new goalkeeper, is a former Premier League star.   -  Stan Rayan

When he took to football at seven, it did not take long for Stephen Bywater to realise where he felt comfortable.

“I’m from a family of goalkeepers, both my dad and granddad were goalkeepers. My dad played for Leeds and my grandfather for Luton Town which was one of the best teams in the country at that time,” the new Kerala Blasters goalie told The Hindu on Saturday evening here.

The Blasters had a goalkeeper--former World Cupper David James, as its marquee player in the ISL’s first edition last year and the Englishman did a good job carrying the team to the final.

Will that put a bit of pressure on Bywater?

“I think the only pressure in life is tyre pressure,” said the former under-21 England star in jest, brushing away the worry. “I’m here to be myself, I’m here to play well. Last season was last season.”

Two things influenced the 34-year-old’s arrival in India. “The big attraction to come to India is the gaffer (Peter Taylor). In England, he’s a very respected, top-talented coach,” said Bywater who played for Premier League clubs Derby and West Ham United in the late nineties and mid-2000.

“And before coming here, I spoke to Stephen Pearson (the Blasters’ central midfielder last year) and he said this was an amazing club, amazing tournament and he was a big influence in me coming here. So, it’s first the gaffer and then Stephen Pearson.”

But there was a bit of a shock when he landed in the country. “I could not drink tap water! But I think the Indian people are very nice. The weather was hot but that’s not the problem now. I see a big passion for football here, I love that. I thought it would be cricket here.”

Bywater, who became a pro at 17 and who grew up with stars like Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard at West Ham, has 120 clean sheets from 352 matches in his club career.

And he is thrilled with the huge support for the Blasters here. “The support for the team is huge here. Not many English teams have this support. I’m grateful to be here, I want to enjoy and to enjoy it by winning.”

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