Hey screechers, leave that Nix kid alone
OPINION: So people have made their minds up about Keegan Smith already.
The cesspit of social media critics has seen enough from the 18-year-old Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper to know he’s not good enough to cut it at A-League level.
Some felt he was at fault for Brisbane’s second goal in the 68th minute of the 3-3 draw at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night, probably because it’s easy to find fault in a goalkeeper.
But take a closer look at the goal and you will see at least four other players and two officials who can be attributed similar, if not higher, levels of blame.
Daniel Mullen in the first instance gives away a needless freekick. Fault.
Referee Jarred Gillett allows Fahid Ben Khalfallah to walk the ball five to seven metres closer to the goal from where the infringement occurred. Fault.
The left-side wall player, Roy Krishna, turns his back on the ball and doesn’t jump when Khalfallah swings his ball in. Even if he jumps, he might not block it, but we’re in an overly critical mood, so let’s put this down as a fault too.
Smith does well to save the shot, but let’s give him a fault for positioning or how he set up his wall, because we’re all experts in how to do that.
Brisbane’s Avram Papadopoulos ghosts between two stationary Phoenix defenders, Dario Vidosic and Andrija Kaludjerovic, to poke the rebound home. Fault for both of them.
The biggest fault goes to the Video Assistant Referee. Watch the replay. Watch the back post as Papadopoulos starts his run across goal. The man marking him, Mullen, gets fouled by Brisbane’s Brett Holman. If he is allowed to track Papadopoulos then maybe he gets to the ball ahead of the Roar player and can clear it. Double fault for the VAR.
And even Smith he made a genuine howler in his first four games between the sticks, which he hasn’t, I would still defend him.
Think back to August 2010 when an 18-year-old goalkeeper made his debut for the Central Coast Mariners. He spilled a simple cross into the path of Rhyan Grant to tap in for Sydney FC’s only goal in a 1-1 draw. Critics bemoaned the loss of incumbent goalkeeper Jess Vanstrattan to a season-ending knee injury, questioning if the new guy was good enough to fill his boots.
You might have heard of that young fella now. His name is Mathew Ryan and he plays for Brighton and Hove Albion in the English Premier League.
Some people seemed annoyed that Smith blew a kiss at Massimo Maccarone before the Italian took the equalising penalty on Saturday. Lack of respect for a 20-year pro, they said. Really, who cares? I had a chuckle and said good on him for trying to get any edge he could.
The point of all this is, give Smith a chance to find his feet at this level. He is young and will make mistakes.
After all, it is those feet which have got him here in the first place.
Phoenix coach Darije Kalezic has picked him because he feels he is the best goalkeeper to fit their style of wanting to play out from the back.
That makes the decision by the club’s management to re-sign Lewis Italiano as what they described at the time as their ‘‘No 1 for season 2017-18’’ on June 10 seem ill-advised.
Kalezic hadn’t even had a chance to look at him when that decision was made, and now he’s chosen a schoolboy as his No 1 instead.
That’s no knock on Italiano, who remains a good shotstopper, but he wasn’t the type of goalkeeper Kalezic wanted.
If you want to criticise anyone, then point your finger in the direction of the club management for not waiting to sign a goalkeeper Kalezic wanted. If that’s not your cup of tea, then point it at Kalezic for insisting on needing a goalkeeper who can play out from the back, despite not having a professional in his squad capable of doing that.
But leave Smith alone.
❚ Phoenix falter B7
Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Keegan Smith, left, wasn’t shy about making his presence felt on Saturday.