IT'S a little known fact that Burnley was Phil Hughes' first English club.

As a youngster, the former Northern Ireland international spent his Easter and summer holidays at Turf Moor playing for the Clarets' schoolboys.

Although he was later taken on by Manchester United to complete his apprenticeship, reaching the Youth Cup final in a team that included the likes of Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes and Clayton Blackmore, he returned to his original Football League roots five years ago when he was appointed goalkeeping coach.

"To coach a goalkeeper you've got to have been a goalkeeper at some level, otherwise you can't feel the situations they are in," said the 43-year-old, who left Old Trafford to earn professional status with Leeds United when he was signed by Eddie Gray in 1983.

It seemed set to be the beginning of a promising career, as he made his Northern Ireland debut against England, at Wembley, aged just 19, and was included in the 1986 World Cup squad in Mexico as Pat Jennings' understudy.

But he never really recovered from a cruel injury blow he suffered with his first club.

"I dislocated my shoulder at Leeds, and it went three times after that," explained Hughes, who was capped only twice more for his country.

"I held onto my career with my fingertips and had my shoulder pinned, but had to retire when I was 27."

As a goalkeeper, he would have been expected to play for at least 10 more years under normal circumstances.

But Scarborough was to be his last club, following spells with Bury, Wigan Athletic and Rochdale, and he hung up his gloves in 1992 - but only in a playing capacity.

Leeds and Grimsby Town provided him with a platform to become a goalkeeping coach, and it was with the Mariners that he first worked with Danny Coyne. The two were later reunited at Turf Moor.

"I worked with Danny Coyne at Grimsby as part of my development, and at that stage he was flying. His performances got him a move to Leicester and that's where my link with Burnley came about because they didn't have a goalkeeping coach," said Hughes.

"He was a fantastic professional footballer, and you couldn't ask any more of him.

"He was always the first down to training and he never bothered about what was served up to him. He was very positive, but just got injury after injury."

Hughes was certainly able to empathise with the Wales international in that department. But he feels it is invaluable that goalkeepers work with a coach that is 100 per cent behind them in all aspects of their game.

"As a goalkeeper, when everything is going well and results are fine it's a matter of coming in and doing what you do," he said.

"You've got a bit more to do mentally with them when things aren't going as well.

"There are more questions to ask and you need a little bit of support. That's one of the most important things.

"It can be a team game until the keeper does something wrong.

"From a goalkeeping coach's persepctive we've got to discuss it instead of sweeping it under the carpet.

"We will talk about the mistake and why and how it's happened, as opposed to not introducing it anywhere. We'll hit it straight on.

"The next training session will be centred around what's gone wrong because you need that to recover.

"The mistake Brian Jensen made at Plymouth was just one of those things that happens to goalkeepers. It can, and has, happened to the best goalkeepers in the world.

"Unfortunately, Brian's was repeated at Hull, but I don't think it affected him after that.

"He was fantastic at Southampton, when he touched that Inigo Idiakez shot onto the bar.

"He's worked very hard on his kicking game and that's improved a lot. In the last three or four games his kicking game was very good."

He added: "If you lose faith and confidence in the keeper, they are lost.

"You can't ever let them see you haven't got that confidence in them.

"You've got to have ability, obviously, but a big percentage of goalkeeping is being mentally strong in that ability. You need a lot of self-belief."

But it is approaching a time of year when Hughes' emphasis is on physical work in particular.

"In pre-season I would ask goalkeepers to do running for the first week and get the core fitness into them instead of something that's goalkeeper specific," he explained.

"As much as they detest it and it doesn't sit right with them, they have to do it.

"They used to just come in and join with the squad, stood in the goals most days of the week.

"We have goalkeeper specific training now and it's very physically demanding for them.

"During the season, the early part of the week is more of a working session. We go down to the training ground before the rest of the squad and start half an hour earlier.

"If there isn't a midweek game then Monday and Tuesday are aggressive sessions with regards to the physical side, and they are as fit as the outfield players are.

"We have Wednesday off then on Thursday we look at the technical side - crossing and hands, and Friday is all around kicking the ball; from hands, back passes, kicking off the ground, kicking it early, and then we finish off with the team.

"A lot of the sessions are geared around the two keepers."

He added: "On a matchday, myself and the goalkeepers go out 20 minutes earlier than everyone else.

"Brian Jensen's warm-up is structured towards him, as is Gabor Kiraly's.

"Gab's is a lot more technical, with a few catches, a few dives and a few kicks, whereas Brian's is more of an up-tempo session to get a sweat on.

"Danny Coyne was more like Gabor, and it's good for me to be able to mix things up.

"They're both the same age, but both different to work with.

"Brian, in particular, is a very hard worker. He runs to Gawthorpe from the ground twice a week because it was agreed that was best for him.

"When he got down to his fighting weight, he has maintained that himself. He's very dedicated."