FRANK Fielding never got the chance to pull on the jersey of his beloved Blackburn Rovers.

But the Bristol City goalkeeper, who will come up against his hometown team at Ashton Gate today, does have current Rovers boss Paul Lambert to thank for kick-starting his career.

Blackburn-born Fielding was a teenage rookie, yet to make his senior debut, when he was one of two goalkeepers signed by then Wycombe Wanderers manager Lambert in September 2007.

The Scot had suffered an injury crisis on the eve of Wycombe’s weekend trip to Bradford City after training ground accidents sidelined first-team keepers Scott Shearer and Jamie Young.

Frantically scratching around for replacements, Lambert signed Fielding on loan from Rovers and fellow 19-year-old Przemyslaw Kazimierczak on loan from Bolton Wanderers.

Having sized up the bigger and more experienced Kazimierczak, who had played eight games on loan for Accrington Stanley the previous season, the former Celtic midfielder felt the Pole was the obvious choice to start between the posts at Valley Parade.

But he left the final decision to his goalkeeping coach Laurence Batty who, after following Lambert to Colchester United and Norwich City, has now linked up with him again at Ewood Park.

Lambert was initially sceptical about Batty’s decision to go with Fielding, warning the former Fulham and Woking keeper that he ‘better not get it wrong’.

But the new Rovers goalkeeping coach’s instincts proved correct and the rest, as they say, is history.

“We were playing Bradford City and we lost the two goalkeepers to training ground accidents within days of each other,” said Lambert, who will also today come up against members of his promotion-winning Norwich teams in the shape of midfielder Korey Smith and striker Aaron Wilbraham.

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“So we needed two goalkeepers. One of them was Frankie. We spoke to the goalkeeping coach here, Kevin Hitchcock, and we got him in along with the other guy.

“They turned up at Bradford and I’d never met the guys before. The two of them were sitting across the table and I just saw this little kid (Fielding). He looked about nine. I thought, ‘oh no’, but when he opened his mouth I actually thought it was George Formby! I always say that to him.

“The other goalkeeper was a big guy so I was thinking, ‘surely the big guy has got to be better’. So believe it or not Laurence Batty was my goalkeeping coach and I said to him in the morning, ‘take these two kids to Bradford’s stadium in the morning, fire balls at them and make them catch them, and then phone me before I leave the hotel and tell me who I should go with’.

“And I said, ‘you better not get this wrong’. So he phones me at 1pm and we were on the bus going to Bradford and he said, ‘go with the little one’, and I said, ‘are you sure?’ And he said, ‘I’m telling you, go with the little one’.

“So I did and we beat Bradford up there 1-0 and near the end of the game Frank had two unbelievable saves. One was going in the top corner from a free kick and he plucked it out of the air and the other he saved with his foot. They were two unbelievable saves and from that day on he was fantastic.

“He’s obviously changed since that time but he was an absolute top kid. It was great managing him and he was one I always wanted to do really well with his own career.

“His enthusiasm for the game was exceptional and I believe he was the same here when he was a kid. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.”

Fielding, a former England Under-21 team-mate of current Rovers number one Jason Steele, went on to make 39 appearances under Lambert in his breakthrough season.

Further loan spells followed before in the summer of 2011 he made the permanent move to Derby County, where he remained until the summer of 2013 when he joined his current club.

Fielding, who attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, where his talents were spotted and nutured by former Rovers keeper Vince O’Keefe, who was coaching there at the time, said: “I really thought they would go with the Polish lad for that game at Bradford. I was so grateful when I got the nod.

“I’ve come up against Paul Lambert and Laurence Batty before, when I was at Derby and they were with Norwich. Nobody has picked upon it before, that’s all.

“They played an important part in my early career, giving me my Football League debut, and I’ll always be grateful.

“It will be good to see them after the game on Saturday but I still want the three points!”

While there will be no split loyalties for Fielding today there was only one team for him when he was a boy.

“I always supported Blackburn from when I was a little kid and I never went glory hunting elsewhere,” said the 27-year-old, who played a key part in Bristol City’s League One title triumph last season.

“I’ll always have a connection with the club because my mum still lives in the town and so does my mother-in-law and her family. They are always talking about the club.

“But when you are a professional footballer, your allegiances tend to change and go out of the window a bit. I’m the Bristol City goalkeeper and I want the best for Bristol City.

“It’s weird really, because you support them (Blackburn) all your life and then you turn professional and whoever you watched as a boy just goes out the window.

“When I was a boy, Tim Flowers was my hero. Not only was he the Blackburn goalie, he was also playing for England.

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“I watched Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, Colin Hendry and Graeme Le Saux, so I was really lucky to be from that area and able to see such a good team.

“Jack Walker put all his money into the club when I was a kid and that was probably the first time a local businessman had done it on that level. It was a dream for him and it came true.

“It seemed strange to see all of these great players coming to Blackburn and the stadium just kept getting bigger.

“I was eight years old and I used to cycle up there on my bike and watch the ground getting bigger by the week.”

The last word goes to former Fulham and Chelsea academy goalkeeping coach Batty.

He said: “The gaffer turned up at Bradford’s ground and was like, ‘what keeper, what keeper, what keeper?’ I could see he was hoping I’d say the 6ft 4in Pole. I said, ‘you’ve got to go with Frankie’. And I could see him sort of go, ‘are you 100 per cent sure?’

“I was 100 per cent sure Frankie was the better goalkeeper so he put him in, we won 1-0, Frankie was man of the match, he was ever-present for the rest of the season and was absolutely outstanding.

“He became a character. Everyone at the ground loved him. He was a wonder to work with. He had a great sense of humour. A real diamond lad.

“I hope we can beat them with two worldies that aren’t his fault.”