Cork City's new goalkeeper Liam Bossin showed his bravery in Friday night's victory over Finn Harps when he had to stretchered off after a goalmouth incident.
Earlier last week Denis Hurley spoke to the Belgian-born Irish underage international about his journey to Turner's Cross.
LIAM BOSSIN has had a tough start at Cork City, but the goalkeeper is keen to help the club move up the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table and show his abilities.
Hosting Finn Harps at Turner’s Cross, was a second home game for Belgian Bossin, who has represented Ireland at underage, qualifying through his mother, who is from Carrick-on-Suir.
Bossin (23) started playing football as a striker but became a goalkeeper by happenstance
“I started at six. I was a striker, but I soon became a goalkeeper,” he says.
“One day, we had a game and the goalkeeper wasn’t there. We didn’t have someone to go in, so I offered to play there.”
He developed quickly, to the point that he was signed by Belgian giants, Anderlecht, at the age of 17.
“I started with my local club, Royal White Star; it’s a club in the second division in Belgium,” Bossin says.
“I made all my debut for the first team at the age of 16; it was quite nice to do it for your boyhood club.
“Anderlecht came in for me soon after that. I went there as a third-choice keeper, but it was another level for me.
“I needed to get used to the gym-work and everything, I had never done that before. I played with the U21 team, even though I was still only 17, so it was a good experience.
“I played with some great players. Youri Tielemans, who is with Leicester City now, was a good friend. It’s a great club for young players; to have a chance with the first team was a great opportunity.
“I was told I could leave, as Mile Svilar, who’s with Benfica now, was coming through and I joined Nottingham Forest. That was the summer of 2017,” Bossin says.
Going from Brussels to Nottingham was quite the change for Bossin, who had achieved international recognition with Ireland by that stage, albeit thanks to luck.
“I was U15 or U16 and I was called up by Belgium,” he says.
“There was a heavy snowfall. I was house-bound and so I couldn’t go; after that, they didn’t call me anymore.
“Once Ireland called me, it was a case of, ‘Why not?’”
The Irish links might have been a help when Martin O’Neill became his third manager at Forest, symptomatic of the constant managerial changes in England.
While it was an experience he enjoyed overall, there were quite a few frustrating moments in the East Midlands, not least involving O’Neill’s goalkeeping coach, former Ireland international Séamus McDonagh.
“It was the first time I was living on my own, so it was quite a big change,” he says.
“It was another country, I was a little bit on my own, I felt quite lonely. I had to learn French and Dutch at school, so my English isn’t the best,” Bossin says.
“Football-wise, it was great; it was nice to see something else. It’s another type of football and training and everything.
“The coach was Mark Warburton, who’s at QPR now. He liked my style of play, but he left after a few weeks. After that was Aitor Karanka. I wasn’t really around the first team then, but I was still playing all the games at U23.
“After that, Martin O’Neill came in and I thought that, maybe, I might make my debut, because I’m Irish, but the goalkeeping coach was Séamus McDonagh and I didn’t really get along with him,” Bossin says.
“One day, he can tell you that you’re the best and the next he’ll say that you’re not good enough. I was really lost.”
Ultimately, he would not feature for the Forest first team, even if the reason given didn’t seem to add up.
“I was doing well; I’m not going to lie,” he says.
“I thought I might get a spot on the bench, at least, but, one day, the academy manager rang me to say I was being released.
“Séamus had said I was too small to play Championship — I’m six-foot-two — but, at the time, Costel Pantilimon was the goalkeeper: he’s six-foot-eight and the other young goalkeepers were quite tall, too,” Bossin says.
Such knock-backs are never easy to take and in role as associated with confidence as goalkeeper, it can have a negative effect.
Bossin tried to bounce back, but he found his appetite for football coming into question.
“When I heard that first, I was really disappointed, so I took a bit of time off and went back home,” he says.
“I went on trial at Fylde, in England, and I was really doing well and they were happy with me, but one day I just lost it completely. I said: I didn’t want to play football anymore.
“That was the end of June last year. They wanted to sign me, but my head wasn’t right. I took a month off and then, after that, I had a trial with Swindon. I drove from Brussels to there and played a friendly the following day, against Bristol City.
“I saved two penalties, but I was told that they didn’t want me. I couldn’t understand, and still don’t, and that really seemed to say that it wasn’t for me,” Bossin says.
Back home in Belgium, he did wonder if that was it for his career, not knowing what the future held.
“I just went to the gym every day with my best friend and trained with a really small team twice a week,” he says.
“Then, in December, my agent texted me to say that Cork wanted me and I was like, ‘Let’s go.’
“I was a bit scared, I was thinking maybe I had lost my level, but after a few days, I was feeling good again. I want to show what I can do.”
Bossin has been manager Neale Fenn’s first choice for the opening three league games, against Shelbourne, Shamrock Rovers, and Dundalk, displaying good footwork, as the boss seeks for the team to play out from the back.
Veteran McNulty retains the number one jersey, with Bossin wearing 21, a reference to the birthday of his girlfriend, Laetitia. This season, McNulty has also taken on the role of goalkeeping coach, which makes for an unusual situation, in that Bossin is being taught by the man challenging for the starting spot, but he has no problem with that. “I enjoy training with him; he makes me learn a lot,” he says.
“We get on well, and Harry [David Harrington] as well. Mark is a really good goalkeeper and he knows the league more than anyone,” Bossin says. “He has been really helpful.”