Scunthorpe United keeper Sam Slocombe benefits from taking a break
THE turn of the new year has a hint of deja vu about it for Scunthorpe United keeper Sam Slocombe.
And given his previous experience, he would settle for the same feeling again come May.
January 2, 2012, the Iron stopper found himself back in the starting XI after a spell playing second fiddle to Manchester United loanee Sam Johnstone.
From that point on, it was nothing but positive vibes and end of season awards for Slocombe.
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Fast Forward to January 1, 2013 and it is the departure of Steve Mildenhall which paves the way for his return between the posts.
Taken out of the firing line by new boss Brian Laws following some heavy defeats, the 24-year-old understood the decision even if he didn't necessarily agree with it.
"It was hard to take, although we weren't winning games so something was always going to change," he said.
"It was disappointing to not be given the chance when we changed (manager) but that was his decision.
"If results aren't going right, they're going to make changes and you've got to get on with that.
"There's no point sulking, you've just got to work harder and make yourself better.
"I didn't doubt myself.
"It was good to have a… I don't want to say rest because it was probably the hardest working month-and-a-half of the season because you're out of the team.
"But it was good to step back and see what was going on from off the pitch.
"You realise that it's not just your fault, there's another 10 players out there.
"The type of character I am, I always question everything that happens and think, 'can I do better?'.
"But sometimes, like I've learnt in the last month and a half, there are things out of your control."
Such a philosophy has come from time spent with Mildenhall.
The Millwall custodian cut short his stay at Glanford Park this week with a move to Bristol Rovers – a club close to his family in the south west – in the offing.
But not before he had imparted some words of wisdom to his young contemporary.
"He was great," Slocombe reflected.
"He was a bit of help because as an inexperienced goalie you do things and you're not sure whether they are right.
"Steve's played hundreds of league games and he just helps you and says, 'yeah, they are right'.
"The biggest thing I've learned is, it's quite a selfish game, football, especially as a goalkeeper.
"You have to look after yourself. And if you do everything right yourself there's certain things you can't control in front of you.
"That's what he's taught me."
It was, he added, a different scenario to Johnstone's arrival last term.
"It was nice to have the competition when he (Johnstone) was here," continued the former Bottesford Town keeper.
"But I feel like last year it was a little push because Sam came in and he's from a big club and is a good goalkeeper; but he was younger than me and I was a bit disappointed at that.
"Whereas Steve coming in, I took it a little bit better because he's played so many games.
"You can really take a lot from him and learn from him.
"It wasn't so much a push this time, it was just maybe a development stage to help me."
It means he returns in a much improved frame of mind.
"I feel I've come back maybe mentally more experienced," said Slocombe.
"I didn't have disbelief in my abilities but mentally I feel I'm more experienced for having Steve around and for having the break out.
"Last year, at a similar sort of time, I came back in the team and had a really good run of form so I'm hoping to repeat it again."