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The sparkling new season kicks off – So which Goalkeeper will shine?

A new season with new opportunities for Goalkeepers to cement their place in their clubs folklore, to show them self as the new star on the block or just try desperately to deal with all that is thrown at them…

So who do we have to watch this season? Who will we be most excited about and who will excel?

In the English Premier League, we will get chance to see those Goalkeepers again who impressed last season, through their impressive stats, such as Manchester City’s Joe Hart (Awards: http://wp.me/p27nBU-c1 and Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-80) and Manchester United’s David De Gea (Awards: http://wp.me/p27nBU-c3). Will they impress again or for De Gea will he be pushed this time for his place in goal by the equally impressive Andres Lindegaard now that he is back from injury? 

Will Arsenal’s Worjciech Szczesny (Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-5u) put his Euro 2012 red card behind him and build on his stats last season to be the Goalkeeper that lives up to the potential Arsene Wenger believes he has to be one of the greatest Goalkeepers?

We have some new Goalkeepers to watch too, where through promotion from the Championship we see two exciting propositions, with equally impressive stats, Reading’s Adam Federici (Awards: http://wp.me/p27nBU-bA and Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-am) and Southampton’s Kelvin Davis (Awards http://wp.me/p27nBU-bX and Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-5o). Can they continue their impressive form or is the Premiership too big a step up…?

West Ham also promoted lost England Goalkeeper Robert Green to QPR who felt that he has the potential they need to keep it clean at the back and help QPR avoid their dalliance with the drop zone this term… A great Goalkeeper indeed with the potential to be their saviour, however will they be too reliant on him and perhaps will he then be as busy as Wolverhampton Wanderer’s Wayne Henessey was last season if the QPR defence is not there to help him?

West Ham instead bring in a new Goalkeeper but one who is very experienced  in the Premiership, Jussi Jaaskelainen from relegated Bolton Wanderers to work once again with Sam Allardyce. Jussi’s stats were also impressive last term, before he was unfortunately out for the season through injury. However if he rediscovers this form, could he help Big Sam bring back a mean defence like that which they both experienced in the old days at Bolton Wanderers, to keep West Ham in the Premiership? A defensive record similar to that which Martin O’Neill can boast in his time in the premiership, that may also see Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet (Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-6k) shine?

We have already discussed QPR but what about second season syndrome for last terms other Premiership new boys, will the defensive records slip for Swansea’s penalty king Michel Vorm or Norwich’s England new boy John Ruddy?

Will it be these that I have mentioned or the other equally impressive Goalkeepers of Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic, Wigan Athletic’s Ali Al-Habsi or Newcastle United’s Tim Krul that shine?

Perhaps indeed it could be a more experienced Premiership Goalkeeping head that steals the lime light such as Tottenham’s Brad Friedel, Aston Villa’s Shay Given, Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer, Chelsea’s Petr Cech, West Bromwich Albion’s Ben Foster (Spotlight: http://wp.me/p27nBU-6Q), Liverpool’s Pepe Reina, or Everton’s Tim Howard, that stand out this season?

It’s early doors in the Premiership with a number of goals scored against some of our hopefuls, whilst some others are already impressing…  However with another 37 games to go I wonder who will stand out from the crowd (and for the right reasons!). Who ever it is, for now I think we should sit back and watch as we are most certainly all in for a treat of some tremendous displays of Goalkeeping – I can’t wait 😉

2011-2012 Premiership’s Best Goalkeeper Poll

So I have already shown my cards as to who I think is the stand out Goalkeeper of the Premiership this Season. But you may disagree with me… especially as there has been some fantastic Goalkeeping examples by a number of the Goalkeepers in the top level.

Now is your chance to vote for your best in my poll.

Goalkeeper spotlight: Joe Hart

I am sure some of you goalkeeper following folk were wondering why I hadn’t done a spotlight on Joe Hart sooner. This isn’t because I haven’t wanted to, I have just found excuses not too after seeing some other fine Goalkeeping that really needed a stage before even the talent that is Joe Hart.

Following on from previous posts, where I have discussed that there is much English talent in the lower leagues, Joe Hart is a classic example of the talent we have in this country that is being spotted outside of the Premiership. In fact for Hart after playing his first professional game in 2004 for Shrewsbury in the Conference and then going on with Shrewsbury to be voted League Two’s best Goalkeeper in the 2005-2006. Plus also putting him PFA League Two Team of that Year.

It was such great form for Shrewbury Town that brought him first under the England FA spotlight at U19 level and also on the radar of a number of high-profile clubs. So at the end of the 2005-2006 season, it was time for Hart to move on, where he decided to sign for Manchester City in a deal worth up to £1.5m.

Sometimes signing young talent can be a gamble as you are unsure how much more a player will develop. However in Hart’s case he developed his skills not just at Manchester City, but while going out on loan at Tranmere, Blackpool and then his greatest loan move, Birmingham, where he showed the Premier league just what sort of player he had developed into, earning him a nomination for the 2010 PFA young player of the year and getting into the PFA team of the year. Like his replacement at Birmingham, Ben Foster, Hart took his loan move as an opportunity to show his current club and the rest of the country that he could compete at the highest level. That his was an exceptional talent. Someone who not only turned his club manager’s head but also the England Manager’s head too.

So in the space of 5 years, Joe Hart went from non-league football to England’s first choice goalkeeper. What an exceptional rise to fame!

Some say he is a fantastic keeper now, that he has it all… And I would agree that he is a fantastic keeper although I still feel this is just the start of even better things with Joe Hart, that he could easily become one of the world’s best.

At the Academy we like to encourage our own keepers to look at what they do well and where they could improve (we also do this for the coaches and the Academy too!). The coaches and keepers last week also reviewed Joe Hart and agreed that there are many areas that he does well, but like them, there are still areas that we all felt could improve.

Some of the areas we all agreed that Joe Hart does well were:

  • Communication skills – How many pictures have we seen in the press of Joe Hart shouting out instructions to his team? This is probably why he could be a good future England Captain.
  • Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) – The ground Joe Hart covers to get over across the goal to save a ball is exceptional. Couple that with how quick he is to get back and set for a second or third save, shows excellent skill.
  • Reactions – Joe Hart makes some great pinpoint saves, where he has little time to react. This also adds to the SAQ, with his quick reactions after getting to his feet to make lightning quick reactionary saves!

Some of the areas we all agreed that Joe Hart could improve on were:

  • Set Position – We noted that in some situations Joe Hart is seen with a wide stance. OK that maybe how he is comfortable and may allow better push-off but we prefer having feet closer together, otherwise you could fall foul like Pepe Reina of Liverpool did recently in the match against QPR, with the ball going through his legs (I can hear Soccer AM now: ‘Tunnel’… ‘Taxi for Reina’…!).
  • Punching – Goalkeeper do tend to punch balls these days, however with Joe Hart he always tends to go for the catch (great!). That said that in situations he really needs to he makes the judgement call to punch, unfortunately we have seen examples where the punch is neither high or wide and most often punched out to the front of goal. Fortunately though in most cases he got away with it!

OK you may disagree, on the areas of improvement. But like all keepers of Joe Hart’s mind-set, he will know the areas he wants to improve on, using his coach to hone in his skills. Joe Hart like other great players in this world may already have talent, but he will do what he can to ensure further development. After all he has already shown this in such a short space of time. He is an exceptional talent and I look forward to seeing how this talent improves further.

The Goalkeeping future is bright for England

So the Premiership is bad for English football? That English football clubs are damaging the England team, with them bringing talent in from abroad rather than develop or look to bring in home-grown talent?

OK, certain rules are now in place and there is an expectancy for top level clubs to develop their own players. However, doesn’t it seem that things are changing naturally anyway, that our English keepers are slowly being seen on the big stage as some of the best in the world. Talented keepers previously overlooked like Ben Foster (previously posted about) of West Bromwich Albion and Joe Hart of Manchester City, who went to other clubs to show that they should be first choice keepers. With some now citing Joe Hart as being one of the best keepers in the world!

Where as in previous years the press were questioning our goalkeeping talent as not matching that of other countries, including that of current world champions Spain, that now we have a pool of talented keepers that are getting themselves recognised on the biggest stages, through international, premiership and cup competition matches. With the Cup competitions also elevating the talent that is emerging in the lower leagues. Talent that includes Tom Heaton of Cardiff City (previously posted about) and that of Frankie Fielding the bright prospect at Derby County and already in the England U21 set up.

Also consider Jack Butland of Birmingham City, who like Ben Foster and Joe Hart has gone out on loan to get first team action at Cheltenham Town. That from his incredible displays for Cheltenham, has now being noticed by the Premier League, being linked to Arsenal and Tottenham. This shows that the search for talent is not always abroad, but local too. He has also represented England at every level up to the Under 21s! [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2116662/Jack-Butland-wanted-Arsenal.html#ixzz1pTZ0VtLS ]

For me, all this shows that we have much to look forward to with England. With our current crop of keepers, those waiting in the wings and of the development of the next talent through the expansion of top-level development or at goalkeeper specific centres (like that of our own Academy), the future for England goalkeeping most definitely is much brighter than ever before!

Ben Foster Goalkeeping Saves

Further to my previous post. You can see just why Ben Foster won the Player of the Season with Birmingham City, through this YouTube video, which includes his superb display in the Carling Cup Final in 2011…

Goalkeeper spotlight: Ben Foster

In a previous spotlight I posted about Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny and that infamous mix up with Laurent Koscielny in the 2011 Carling Cup Final. However let’s not forget that in that match, even though Szczesny may not have been having the best of games, in the opposite goal, Ben Foster was showing the world just why he is one England’s finest keepers.

Like Tom Heaton of Cardiff (also previously in one of my Goalkeeper spotlights), Foster was also a former keeper at Manchester United who like Heaton was unlikely to ever be first choice keeper at United considering the form of Edwin van der Sar (and then also to become third choice in the pecking order behind Tomasz Kuszczak). So like Heaton, Foster has had to move away from United to establish himself.

Foster had a loan spell away from Manchester United with Watford, where he was described by the then Watford Manager, Aidy Boothroyd as “better than current Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar”. With Boothroyd proclaiming that Foster “is going to be the best goalkeeper in the world.” High praise indeed, but then he did help Watford secure their promotion to the Premier league and was named Player of the Season the following year when on loan again with Watford.

So after impressing on loan and with Watford and with Alex Ferguson also believing he had a potential talent, Foster eventually got the chance to take over from Edwin van der Sar at a time when van der Sar was injured. However, where as David De Gea at Manchester United seems to have been given the time to prove himself even after being slated by the press, Foster appeared not to have had such a grace period.

Like De Gea, Foster to seemed to be having a crisis of confidence.[http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/oct/05/ben-foster-england-manchester-united].

But you have to hand it to Foster, even though being slated by the press, especially after the 2-1 defeat to France, Foster has dusted himself off and got on to show that Aidy Boothroyd’s comments were just.

Foster’s move from Manchester United for an estimated £6m to Birmingham City, really showcased his talent. Although when he first moved, Foster had a lot to live up to as the previous season saw loanee Joe Hart show Manchester City just why he is considered England’s best keeper (and was enough to ensure that Hart then became first choice at Manchester City, which was frustrating to their other great keeper, Shay Given!). However, Foster showed that he was equal to Joe Hart, and kept things as tight as Hart did at the back. Becoming a firm favourite with the Birmingham fans especially after his heroics in that Carling Cup final, picking up the man of the match award in that Final. [http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Birmingham-man-of-the-match-keeper-Ben-Foster-amazed-at-the-Carling-Cup-triumph-over-Arsenal-against-all-odds-article708595.html]

In addition to his Carling Cup winners medal and man-of the match, like at Watford, Foster was also deservedly awarded Birmingham’s Player of the Season!

Even though Foster was in inspirational form it was not enough to keep Birmingham in the Premiership and with subsequent relegation, meant that Birmingham needed to look at sending out Foster on loan to help their wage bill. This has seen Foster go on loan to West Brom, with the option of signing permanently, should Birmingham fail in their bid to bounce straight back up into the Premier League. Birmingham’s loss is most certainly West Brom’s gain, as he is now their first choice keeper producing again exceptional goalkeeping prowess that is getting the praise he deserves, from his Manager, Roy Hodgson who has stated in the press of his desire to keep Foster permanently [http://www.sundaymercury.net/midlands-sport/west-bromwich-albion-fc/west-brom-news/2012/03/18/west-brom-roy-hodgson-praises-ben-foster-66331-30561771/]; and getting high praise from Alan Hansen on this weekend’s Match of the Day after producing a string of fine saves.

Foster has most certainly grown into a great goalkeeper. An asset to any team… It now is not really a question as to whether he will pick up more awards, as with the form he is in, it is almost a certainty that he will be honoured again….The only question really for us, England fans, is how can we persuade Foster to join the England squad again? To have both Joe Hart and Ben Foster at future championships with England would be fantastic!

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