Sean Graham

While many of the top goalkeepers take the limelight and hit the headlines for all sorts of reasons, spare a thought for some of the keepers in the lower leagues. They only get noticed by word of mouth, with stories spread by supporters of the club, or perhaps if the club happens to be lucky enough to be featured on TV or draw one of the big boys in a cup competition.

Many teams build their foundations on a good backline and in particular a safe pair of hands with the goalkeeper. This is exactly what Stenhousemuir have done as a young man by the name of Chris McCluskey is hitting the headlines for all the right reasons. It is a name many will not have heard.

This well travelled young man started out at St Roch’s FC before being signed by Dick Campbell who was the Partick Thistle manager at the time – McCluskey was brought in as cover for Kenny Arthur and Colin Stewart.

After his time at Firhill, McCluskey made the move to Iceland with First Division club Reynir Sandgeri. In his two years at the club, Reynir won promotion, meaning McCluskey had a very successful and enjoyable time, living what was a lavish lifestyle for a 17-to-18-year-old.

“At such a young age I was not only enjoying my football but the rewards off the field were pretty amazing too – a club car, flat which myself and David Hannah shared and the experience of full time football, it was a fantastic time for me, the club really knew how to look after its players.”

It was an experience that the keeper will never forget and something he would not rule out in the future.

“It was a great time for me at such a young age, but while I was there I worked hard and enjoyed my football and the lifestyle.”

“My mum and dad live in Spain and I remember during a break in the season in Iceland, I not only trained with Hamilton Accies, but had a week’s training with Cadiz which was also really enjoyable.”

A recommendation from Alan Main and within half an hour he had his return ticket home as Michael O’Neill took a chance on him at Brechin City.

McCluskey’s time at Brechin was frustrating but knowledgeable, as they had Craig Nelson as their first choice keeper. Even though Nelson was the number one at the club and hard to shift, his influence and help would be crucial to young McCluskey as he learned his goalkeeping trade.

In his second season at Brechin, the young keeper was sent out on loan to Albion Rovers for 14 matches, and while there the scouts at Stenhousemuir took notice of this young talent and made recommendations that the club should make moves to sign him, and they did so in July 2009.

At Stenhousemuir the young keeper’s stock has risen and compliments and rewards have come his way as each game passes,"assured, safe pair of hands, agile and commands his defence with confidence and is very vocal just like every good goalkeeper should be".

In his short time with the club, McCluskey has become a firm favourite with the players and fans and has just won no fewer than six Player of the Year awards, which in itself is a quite amazing achievement: Even Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney or Didier Drogba haven’t won that many trophies this season.

The trophies that McCluskey has in his safe hands are: Directors’ Player of the Year; Players’ Player of the Year; Junior Supporters Club Player of the Year; Travelling Supporters Player of the Year; Supporters Club Player of the Year; Norwegian Supporters Club Player of the Year.

Many fans, players and directors of the club have already told McCluskey that this clean sweep of honours has never happened before, in fact it is quite unique to see a keeper win so many awards, and the only one he didn’t win was goal of the season.

There’s no doubt that all at the club hold the young man in very high regard indeed and at a time when most keepers would be quite glad to hang up their gloves for pre-season, McCluskey has decided to go for his professional UEFA goalkeeping coaching license in Largs along with the likes of Neil Alexander and Allan McGregor and other Scottish Premier League keepers as he aims to add another string to his ever impressive bow.

“Trophies are fantastic and they are a bonus as this kind of feedback can only breed confidence and help me achieve my main goal which is and has always been, to play full time football.”

Keep an eye and an ear out for McCluskey in the future, if this season is anything to go by then everyone will be hearing a lot more about this keeper for years to come.