BE FRANK, IT’S A COMEDOWN!
EXACTLY three years ago, to the day, Frank Fielding was the name on everyone’s lips – the Blackburn reserve thrust into the nation’s consciousness following England’s disastrous World Cup campaign.
On August 11, 2010, Fielding was sat on the Wembley bench while 72,024 fans watched the Three Lions beat Hungary 2-1 in their first game since being eliminated in the knockout stages in South Africa.
A dearth of goalkeepers had forced Fabio Capello’s hand. Ben Foster had withdrawn while Fielding’s Blackburn teammate Paul Robinson had just retired from international football.
An England call-up at the age of 23, having never played a first-team game for Rovers, was remarkable.
Today he’s preparing to keep goal for Bristol City in front of what is expected to be the smallest league crowd ever recorded at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium – due to a boycott from Coventry City fans.
The sense of perspective is not lost on Fielding, who this summer was let go by Derby after being deemed surplus by Nigel Clough.
“It wasn’t an ideal way to end, but the boss wanted to do his own thing,” said Fielding, who made 64 appearances for the Rams after joining from Blackburn in 2011.
“I don’t really know what happened towards the end. I got sent off (against Peterborough in April) and never played again, but I can’t change someone else’s opinion, he didn’t want to play me.
“I have massive respect for Nigel and what he’s done for Derby, he gave me the chance and I have loads of friends there.There’s no hard feelings towards anyone at the club.
“Obviously playing for England was my career highlight so far, and I’ll never forget it.
“It was surreal really. I was playing for the U21s, at Bristol and Stuart Pearce called me in the morning before we played Uzbekistan and said ‘after the game you’re joining the seniors’.
“I thought he was joking, and then all of a sudden I was sat on the bench against Hungary at Wembley.
“To see someone like Joe Hart up close was brilliant, I’d never met him before. He came across really humble and I think that has something to do with the fact he came from the lower leagues.”
Fielding, too, has served his time in the lower leagues. He played a key role in Rochdale’s successful 2010 promotion campaign in League Two.
He’s also played at Northampton and Wycombe, but the 25-year-old doesn’t consider his move to Ashton Gate this summer a step down – more a chance to get his name back into people’s thoughts.
“I don’t really think of it as going backwards, as soon as I spoke to the gaffer (Sean O’Driscoll) I knew it was an opportunity too good to turn down,” added Fielding, who was subsequently called up by England in 2011 for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales.
“John Ruddy has done the same, he has done the lower league circuit and he was linked with a move to Chelsea this summer and he’s now in and around the England set-up.
“It’s good to see players who have spent time in the lower leagues doing well.You can never say never as far as I’m concerned, but I just want to concentrate on getting promoted this year with Bristol City.”
CHANGING SCENE: Frank Fielding with Bristol City. Right: Training with Joe Hart for England