I have grown up supporting a team I watched as a young boy and that support has never wavered through both the good and bad times of football, I have been there through thick and thin. However even though I am an avid supporter of my club I do look out for the results of certain other teams, whether that be because I have friends or relatives who support them, or in the case of Barcelona, because of the number of great holidays to this beautiful part of the world, almost making Barcelona feel like a second home. That coupled with my good understanding of the Spanish language allowing me to read a good chunk of the words in the Spanish press, especially my favourite paper the Sport (This is not in any way the same as the UK boob filled newspaper, this is actually about sport!) allows me to follow Barcelona in more ways than one. Not just from reading the papers whilst on holiday, but also through their App and Facebook site, meaning I am flooded with information on the team, giving me yet more reasons to practice my Spanish whilst reading about the latest rumours in the Barcelona camp.
When it comes to rumours, often the Sport out-trumps our press. They called it right on the transfers of Thierry Henry, David Villa and most recently Alex Song from Arsenal. So as a fan of Goalkeeping a number of stories recently have really caught my eye… That Victor Valdes is not looking to renew his contract with Barcelona when it expires in 1.5 years.
The UK press are all over this story too, already throwing names in the frame as their own potential ‘Exclusives’. With one rumour being that Liverpool and Barcelona could be looking to do a swap for Spain’s 2nd choice goalkeeper, Valdes, for Spain’s 3rd choice keeper, Pepe Reina. Which would make sense as Reina was a former Barcelona scholar and would probably like a return. However, when you read the Spanish press there is a different name being touted, one which make’s more sense, Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois, is someone Barcelona have been able to see up close, from his time on loan from Chelsea in La Liga at Atletico Madrid. Seeing Courtois in very impressive form… Last season (2011-2012) saw him keep 23 clean sheets 52 appearances for Atletico Madrid and this season (2012-2013) to date he has kept 14 clean sheets in 24 games! No wonder he appears to have caught their eye, and no wonder why Chelsea want to hold contract talks with him… However, even though this impressive form ought to see him get more first team appearances with his current employer on his return from loan, there is the issue of the also impressive Petr Cech being in his way. With Cech as the first choice keeper, would Courtois really be happy as the second choice, when this Summer he could be guaranteed first team action? All of which means there is a lot more to this rumour than just paper talk…
It will be a shame for Barcelona to lose Valdes, who according to the Sport will be sold in the Summer. He has been such a great Goalkeeper for them over the many years as their number 1. Indeed, he has had his low points, his critics and dropped the odd clanger, but which keeper hasn’t (including those at the highest level). His stats over the years show that he deserves the praise and recognition he is getting. Most notably his best form was in 2007, when he entered the Barcelona record books after not conceding a goal for 466 minutes, followed by winning the best goalkeeper in Spain in the 2008-2009 season beating the Spanish 1st Choice Goalkeeper Iker Casillas – some feat. It is part of the reason why Barcelona will remain fond of him. I wish him well and perhaps maybe… he will decide to come to the Premiership. If so then I for one can’t wait to see him in action! 😉
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!
Again I pick a spotlight on a goalkeeper against Liverpool. Honestly I have nothing against the Reds, it’s just recently they have been up against some quality Goalkeeping This time they were up against the impressive Simon Mignolet, the Sunderland AFC Goalkeeper.
The previous week Simon Mignolet was drawing the plaudits for his form the previous week in the derby match against Newcastle United, saving a Demba Ba penalty. However that week he ended up disappointed as he was to concede to a last gasp goal from Shola Ameobi .[http://www.sportinglife.com/football/premiership/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=soccer/12/03/05/SOCCER_Sunderland_Nightlead.html&BID=312]
Despite being frustrated by the Tyne and Wear derby, he remained upbeat for the match against Liverpool and as seen was resolute in the goal to numerous efforts from Liverpool.
It’s funny really as, like many Goalkeepers, this wasn’t actually the position that he started his playing career in… For, Mignolet was actually a midfielder! However, like many players of a young age who go through personal changes and growth spurts, this hampered his development. So instead of being given time to improve he was released by his local club for not making the grade. Although this didn’t deter Mignolet who not only still played for fun, found a new position… Goalkeeping. Which six years after being released saw him playing in the Premiership. Midfields loss is most certainly Goalkeepings gain!
Mignolet speaks to the Sunday Sun: http://www.sundaysun.co.uk/sport/sunderland-afc/safc-news/2012/03/11/simon-mignolet-has-become-the-no-1-for-safc-fans-79310-30505994/
Craig Gordon, Sunderland’s big signing from Hearts in 2007 for a British transfer record of £9m. Has recently spoke of his frustrations at not getting in the team [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2111530/Craig-Gordon-wants-Sunderland-No-1-spot-back.html], but we can see the reason why, with Mignolet in the form that he is in! Martin O’Neill’s new team have become solid at the back and a big part of any good defence is a great Goalkeeper… Keep up the great work Mignolet! 😉
Further to my post about Southampton Goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, another Goalkeeper getting the praise they deserve is Wojciech Szczęsny.
At the end of the match between Liverpool and Arsenal, it was a pleasant surprise to see Robin Van Persie giving his man of the match champagne to Wojciech Szczęsny Who equally deserved the recognition for his display against the Reds.
But, spare a thought for Wojciech as he like David De Gea also was at the mercy of the press. His story is a mirror image of De Gea’s, as new to premier league first team action he also made mistakes and like De Gea was vilified by the press, with some questioning Arsene Wenger’s decision not to sign a replacement keeper.
The worst mistake was the defensive mix up between Wojciech and Laurent Koscielny which helped Birmingham to defeat Arsenal in the League Cup Final back in February 2011.
Wojciech like David De Gea still had the Manager’s backing that they had the potential to be world-class…
Yes it certainly looks like history is repeating itself and I am so glad that these Goalkeepers have proved the press wrong and are now getting the praise they deserve.
Perhaps we owe the press a bit of thanks? Maybe Robin Van Persie should have actually given the champagne to the press? Perhaps the press actually can spot the special Goalkeepers… I.e. The ones criticised so heavily by the press… Or maybe it was such press criticism that drove both Szczęsny and De Gea on to prove them wrong? Hmm… food for thought… 😉
I have previously posted about goalkeepers not always getting the recognition they deserve. However I was pleased to see that even though Southampton are usually getting headlines for their prolific goalscorer, Rickie Lambert, this time the press, television pundits and the whole team were providing the praise that their goalkeeper, Kelvin Davis truly deserves. This was especially poignant as it was for a brilliant display against a Leeds side whose form is definitely improving under Neil Warnock management.
Even though Leeds lost and as Neil Warnock pointed out they (Leeds) had a number of chances to score, he was able to praise Kelvin Davis for his display in stopping them scoring, quoting: “The keeper could have won five man of the match awards…”
Southampton are top of the Championship and in the frame for an automatic promotion to the Premiership and aside from scoring the goals needed to get the 3 point, with Kelvin Davis in goal producing fine displays like these, they should be able to keep all these points and succeed in reaching the highest level of english football.
Jimmy Walker has made 529 appearances so far for Walsall and should he start on Saturday will make the record books. It would be well deserved too, for his loyalty and dedication to his club and his craft.
…And further to my previous blog, that in this article on the BBC, a nice bit of (appropriate) praise:
Congratulations and all the best, Jimmy!
Interesting article and one which I agree with that more does need to be done for Goalkeepers. Have a read and see what you think?