FLEX­I­BLE FRIEND

Yoga-lov­ing Stephen By­wa­ter on how he needs a grounds­man’s help

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Joshua Richards

EC­CEN­TRIC own­ers, un­der-fire man­agers and star play­ers of­ten com­mand the most at­ten­tion at foot­ball clubs.

But Keep­moat Sta­dium grounds­man Jim David­son is play­ing a key role in en­sur­ing Don­caster get the best out of Jan­uary sign­ing Stephen By­wa­ter.

Fa­cil­i­tated by sec­re­tary Mary Lally, David­son, pic­tured be­low, un­locks the ground at 6.30 each morn­ing so much-trav­elled goal­keeper By­wa­ter can go through his morn­ing yoga rou­tine then freshen up, be­cause there are no baths at the train­ing ground.

And the 33-year-old has vowed to re­pay Don­caster’s un­sung hero – and ev­ery­one else who has made him feel so wel­come in south York­shire – by adding to the back-to-back clean-sheets kept af­ter pen­ning a six-month con­tract ear­lier this month.

“It’s hard to put into words that feel­ing you get when you go some­where new and they wel­come you with open arms, and peo­ple can’t do enough for you,” said By­wa­ter, now play­ing for his 13th club.

“The grounds­man opens up at 6.30 ev­ery day just for me. How good is that? I go in first thing, do my stretches, my yoga. He just does it be­cause he’s a nice guy and wants the club to do well.

“This club com­pares with West Ham, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day and Derby County, all big clubs that I’ve played for who have peo­ple that want to help any­way they can so the team can do what it needs to on the pitch. It’s truly amaz­ing.

“I’d love to stay there. It’s only been two weeks but I’m play­ing and re­ally en­joy­ing it. I’ve been made to feel so wel­come by ev­ery­one at the club and ev­ery­one has the win­ning men­tal­ity, ev­ery­one wants to do well.

“I want noth­ing more in the world than to be play­ing next sea­son for Don­caster in the Cham­pi­onship.”

When By­wa­ter made his move to Don­caster, boss Paul Dickov said he was com­ing in to ruf­fle a few feath­ers and tell it like it is. The vastly ex­pe­ri­enced stop­per is one of the game’s more colour­ful char­ac­ters and no doubt had a few of his team- mates ap­pre­hen­sive about his ar­rival.

By­wa­ter had pre­vi­ously stated his in­ten­tion to turn to cage fight­ing when he hangs up his boots – though now in­sists he is “too old” – and dur­ing his time at Derby be­came em­broiled in a legal row with his neigh­bours af­ter erect­ing a makeshift art ex­hi­bi­tion in his front gar­den, con­sist­ing of a por­ta­ble toi­let, traf­fic cone, mat­tresses and a blow-up doll. His first re­quest when he signed for Don­caster was to oc­cupy squad num­ber 43 – some­thing he has worn since his for­mer goal­keep­ing coach at West Ham, Les Sealey, passed away at that age in 2001.

EX­PE­RI­ENCED: Stephen By­wa­ter makes a save for Don­caster

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