Knightbridge: It's brilliant to learn from Fabiański and Areola

For a young goalkeeper such as Jacob Knightbridge, there are arguably no two Premier League goalkeepers better than Łukasz Fabiański and Alphonse Areola to learn your trade from.

One has over 350 Premier League appearances, an FA Cup title, and UEFA Champions League experience on their CV. The other is a FIFA World Cup winner, and UEFA Champions League participant too, with 12 domestic titles in a crowded trophy cabinet.

Luckily for the West Ham United U21 stopper, both play in east London. And the young goalkeeper is making the most of it, learning plenty from the experienced heads…

“Having two hugely experienced goalkeepers, keepers at the top of their games, we are really lucky to have that,” the 19-year-old, who often finds himself training with the first team, enthused.

“It is about looking at how they train - their technique – how they carry themselves in the dressing room too. You can learn a lot from that.”

You have to take yourself out of that bubble and think that two or three years ago you would be shocked if you were there [as part of the first team squad]
Jacob Knightbridge

Such first-team experiences have come frequently for the young stopper over the past few months, with Knightbridge named as part of the senior matchday squad for four games in 2023/24 – including the memorable win at Tottenham Hotspur last December.

Sitting in the dressing room, warming up in north London, and ultimately celebrating a 2-1 win 90 minutes later – courtesy of Jarrod Bowen and James Ward-Prowse’s second-half efforts – are difficult to comprehend for the boyhood Hammer. In terms of pinch-yourself moments, that night will always be right up there.

“That was so special,” he agreed. “I haven’t been on the bench for the first team yet but as the third goalkeeper you still play a big role in the warm-up, helping the other goalkeepers get ready for the game. It was brilliant to be involved in the win over Tottenham Hotspur.

“I think a 12-year-old me, a West Ham fan as well, would be pretty shocked to have been there. Sometimes you maybe have to remember not to take it for granted. You have to take yourself out of that bubble and think that two or three years ago you would be shocked if you were there [as part of the first team squad].

“Of course, it makes you want more of that because I’d love to play for West Ham one day – that’s the main goal of mine. I grew up in Brentwood, Essex, and West Ham is massive around there.”

Knightbridge is pretty close to that achievement, though. His performances for U21s have certainly been impressive and put himself on the coaches’ radar. His showings have helped Steve Potts’ side sit second in the Premier League 2 table and also reach the Bristol Street Motors Trophy last 16. A solid start to 2023/24 has continued into an exceptional run in both league and cup competitions for the development side.


“It’s been going well this season,” Knightbridge, who has recently been part of goalkeeper training camps with England U20s, explains.

“Going from playing in non-league [Knightbridge spent 2022/23 on loan at Harrow Borough] to being back with the U21s, it is a completely different style of football, but I think the in-possession side is so important to our set-up this year. I think it’s one of my strengths too and means I am enjoying the way we are playing.

“Being a goalkeeper is an unusual position, though. You can be doing little all match and then you have one moment that can decide the game, and you get a win, or a positive result, from a big save.

“Because of that there is not really a break even if the ball is up the other end, you’re still focused on your position, what your striker is doing, and helping your team by communicating as well.

“I think whereas outfield players are more physically drained after the game, goalkeepers are more mentally tired. You’re speaking the whole game, analysing the movement of the opposition, concentrating for the full 90 minutes. It is just about playing as much as possible to get better at all of that.”

Scouted while playing for Southend United at the age of seven, it has been some journey at Chadwell Heath for the young stopper. His dream is just getting started. His goal though remains the same.

“Being around the Club since the age of seven, it’s always been my goal to play for West Ham,” he concluded. “Like Łukasz and Alphonse, I want to have a long career in football and have the best job in the world. To play senior football, whatever level that might be, would be brilliant. Hopefully, I can make that happen here!”