Hull City keeper Ben Amos happy to learn trade in first-team spotlight
WHEN Ben Amos agreed to join Hull City on a season-long loan deal from Manchester United in July, he soon set about drafting a series of targets to be met during his East Yorkshire sabbatical.
Four months on and the 22-year-old's watershed campaign is ticking every box.
As the only player to have featured in every minute of the Tigers' Championship season, the goalkeeper has quickly landed a pivotal role in Steve Bruce's plans for 2012-13.
Valuable experience is gathered with each City fixture and, slowly but surely, Amos is compiling a confident case for a bright future back at Old Trafford.
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Supporting the rookie's development is the perfect tutor.
Gary Walsh, City's goalkeeping coach for the past 10 months, has walked many a mile in Amos' shoes.
As a graduate through United's youth system in the late 1980s, Walsh won England under-21s honours before eventually forcing his way into Sir Alex Ferguson's plans.
Such a tale should sound familiar to Amos and, in Walsh, the ambitious apprentice says he has found a fitting inspiration.
"I've got a lot of respect for Walshy and what he's done in the game," Amos told the Mail, ahead of what would be his 13th consecutive start for the Tigers against Ipswich today.
"His knowledge of the game is second to none and he's a great bloke as well. I consider him a friend and we bounce off each other every day.
"He's been through it all at United and he knows just how good you've got to be to make it there."
Where Walsh faced the huge obstacle of Peter Schmeichel until his exit in 1995, David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard are blocking Amos' path.
"Walshy was number two to one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he understands what I need to do to give myself the best possible chance of going back to United and knocking the other two off the perch."
Such a transformation would first be to City's huge benefit. A 10-month loan has enjoyed a largely pleasing start and Amos admits Walsh must take a share of the credit.
"He's working on all parts of my game and he's been looking through all my DVDs," he explained.
"I feel the improvements are really encouraging. It's just about fine tuning my game and getting that decision making right.
"You don't get that unless you're playing games and for my age I've not played a massive amount of games. That's why I'm here and I can feel a big improvement."
Just as Walsh represented England under-21s in 1987, Amos has been on the same stage this week.
The Macclesfield-born keeper was an unused substitute as England clinched a place at Euro 2013 with a 2-0 aggregate win over Serbia against a backdrop of racist chanting and ugly on-field altercations.
Both City and the Football Association placed a gagging order on Amos preventing him from shedding light on the dark night in Krusevac, but the City star has set his sights on ousting Birmingham's Jack Butland ahead of next June's under-21s finals.
"I'm not playing at the moment which I'm obviously disappointed about," he explained.
"It's good to witness the atmospheres and what's at stake, so in that sense it's still good to be involved with the country's best young players.
"All I can do is concentrate on playing well. The manager of England favours Butland at the moment but it's up to me to try and change that."
Amos is gripping to a steep rock face on his City learning curve.
While he was confident and assured to help deliver away wins at Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, perhaps his first real mistake came in a 3-2 defeat to Blackpool last time out at the KC.
With the score 2-2 late on, a rush of blood to the head saw Amos' attempts to snuff out a long ball come undone as the Seasiders grabbed an unjust win. A dent to his confidence? No chance.
"I try and stay in the present moment and whatever happens, happens," he said. "I'm always positive about my approach to the game and that'll never change.
"What I can't live with is being negative and then making a mistake because I've shied away.
"In the Blackpool game, I was positive with the decision but unfortunately it was the wrong one. That's why I'm on loan and that's why I've come here, to learn those things.
"I'm sure there's still a lot more to come from me. I'm ready to kick on."
The next opportunity will come at home to Ipswich today, where Amos will look to keep his first clean-sheet at the KC since the opening day.
Six goals were leaked in back-to-back defeats to Peterborough and Blackpool as the Tigers' attacking adventures left gaping holes in front of a helpless Amos.
Resilience was recaptured two weeks ago with an obstinate 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday and Amos said: "We looked much more solid from front to back to be honest.
"I didn't feel exposed and everyone did their jobs really well.
"All that mattered was the win but the impressive thing about the performance was the collective defensive display.
"Everyone worked together front to back and that hasn't always happened throughout the first 10 games. The balance just needed tweaking."
Another win today could be enough to propel City back into the Championship's top six after relinquishing their play-off place late last month.
Ipswich, who are without a win since August 21, offer an inviting chance to make up lost ground and Amos is aiming for a productive return to action.
"We've got such great attacking players, who are so fluid on the ball, it's just been the other side where we've needed to defend collectively that's let us down at times," he said.
"That gave me a little concern but we showed against Sheffield Wednesday that we can grind out wins."