KEEPERS THEN AND NOW
Is another golden era possible?
AS THE Premier League attracts the best players from around the world captivated by the, let’s be honest, huge sackfuls of cash on offer, British goalkeepers have largely disappeared from sight.
Nowadays we marvel at the displays of keepers like Arsenal’s Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Manchester United’s David de Gea (Spain) and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris (France).
It’s a remarkable change from a few decades ago when we felt, perhaps a touch arrogantly, that we produced the best goalkeepers in the world. The likes of England trio Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence and Northern Ireland’s Pat Jennings were genuinely world-class.
But we also had great strength-in-depth. I recently stumbled upon a Football 79 Panini sticker album and I started to look through the keepers at all the Division One (those were the days) clubs and it made for impressive reading. Perhaps you will recall some of the following:
Arsenal – Pat Jennings, Aston Villa – Jimmy Rimmer, Birmingham City – Neil Freeman, Bolton – Jim McDonagh, Bristol City – John Shaw, Chelsea – Peter Bonetti,
Coventry City – Jim
Blyth, Derby County – John Middleton, Everton – George Wood, Ipswich Town – Paul Cooper, Leeds United – David Stewart, Liverpool – Ray Clemence, Manchester City – Joe Corrigan,
Manchester United – Paddy Roche, Middlesbrough – Jim Stewart,
Norwich City – Kevin Keelan, Nottingham
Forest – Peter Shilton, QPR – Phil Parkes,
Southampton – Peter Wells, Tottenham – Barry Daines, West Brom – Tony Godden, Wolves – Paul Bradshaw.
Of those 22 keepers, the only one born outside the Uk or the Republic of Ireland was Norwich’s Keelan (born in India).
At that time, foreign players were few and far between. Tottenham had the Argentinian pair of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, while Dutch duo Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren shone at Ipswich.
In the Premier League era, the floodgates have opened to foreign players – and homegrown goalkeepers have suffered more than most. In the Merlin’s Premier League 2016 sticker album, there are just a handful of British keepers – Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey, Manchester City’s Joe Hart, Norwich’s John Ruddy, Stoke’s Jack Butland and West Brom’s Ben Foster.
Is it the case that we’re just not producing the same quality of goalkeepers as before? If so, why is that? Is the talent not there, is there a lack of willingness by young boys to put the hard graft in, do they all want to be strikers, are parents worried their sons will get injured?
Is it simply that there is much more competition now and, therefore, only the very best will rise to the top?
Or is it that the talent is still there, but our young goalkeepers aren’t being given a chance? Is the price of domestic goalkeepers too high or do managers under pressure for results simply decide to get an experienced foreign keeper rather than risk a young ’un from here?
One person who knows a thing or two about goalkeepers is Mick Payne. The 61year-old has been coaching keepers for the last four decades and is a qualified UEFA A Licence goalkeeping coach.
He has coached and worked with the likes of Bob Wilson, Pat Jennings, Tony Roberts, David Stockdale, David Button, Chris Day and Marcus Bettinelli. He’s also been the England Non-League team, England C, goalkeeping coach for the last decade.
“I do believe we still have the talent, but it’s been stifled,” he said. “Managers are very reluctant to put young goalkeepers in because their jobs are on the line. They want someone experienced in goal, but how do