For me, there is only one English goalkeeper that can be England’s number one for South Africa next summer and that man is Paul Robinson. After being so badly treated at Tottenham under Juande Ramos and unfairly blamed for giving away a soft goal for England against Croatia, Robinson has finally got back to his best. He was hung out to dry by Steve Mclaren after Gary Neville’s wayward back pass bobbled over his foot.
Everyone conveniently forgot the string of saves Robinson had made to keep England in a game they were a poor second best in that night. Right now, he is playing better than any of his counterparts, with probably the exception of Steve Harper at Newcastle United and Joe Hart at Birmingham City. Forget the Robert Green argument, he’s nowhere near good enough.
Of the goalkeepers available to Capello, Robinson is head and shoulders above all others and has been for the best part of a year. David James is injured and playing for a team in free-fall, both on and off the pitch. Robert Green is bang out of form and consistently makes mistake after mistake. He also has a tendency to try and deliberately foul players whenever possible.For all his bravado and wearing “England’s number 6” on his gloves, he’s not good enough. He’s always been poor coming off his line and his aerial ability is not the best.
Poor old Ben Foster has suffered from some rather unnecessary criticism but still can’t shift the dreadful Thomas Kuszczak from between the sticks at Old Trafford.There is no doubt that the lad can go a long way in the game, but he’s suffering from a crisis in confidence at the moment, but he’s still a better goalkeeper than Kuszczak.
Scott Carson still suffers from a lack of concentration at West Bromwich Albion and still seems to bear the scars from the defeat to Croatia in November 2007 at Wembley. For all his shot stopping ability, Carson can still make some all mighty howlers from out of nowhere and seems to have fallen away from anywhere near the England team.
Poor old Chris Kirkland simply can’t keep fit, whenever he gets on a great run of form, his long standing back injury seems to flare up and take out of the side. Despite the 9 goal mauling Wigan Athletic suffered at White Hart Lane, it’s no exaggeration to say it could have been twenty if it wasn’t for Kirkland. He showed such promise at Coventry but injuries blighted his time at Anfield and he’s never been able to shake the tag of being injury prone.
Other than Robinson and Hart, the other stand out candidate for the three places in South Africa for me is Steve Harper at Newcastle. He’s now getting the opportunity to show just how good a goalkeeper he actually is week in week out after Shay Given left last January for Manchester City. Whilst most people would have been itching for a move, Harper has shown incredible loyalty to Newcastle over the years.
After 16 years service, with 12 of those as Given’s back up, he’s incredibly only played 151 games for Newcastle, with 86 of those appearances coming in the last four seasons. He has constantly served the club with pride and is now in the form of his life. Whilst others may have viewed Given’s depature as a real blow, having a player of the ability of Harper would certainly soften the blow.
Whilst some people seem to point out that you need a great goalkeeper to win the World Cup, with the exception of Buffon in 2006, you have to go all the way back to 1982 to find a team with a world class goalkeeper that won the World Cup. Every other winner since then has had good, and in some cases distinctly average custodians between the sticks. Paul Robinson is far better than average and Capello would do well to welcome him back into the fold. With Harper and Hart, that would be a dependable and quality set of goalkeepers to choose from.