The halcyon days of the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s were apparently a boom time in England’s glorious history of great goalkeepers. From the benchmark that was the great Gordon Banks and his understudy, Peter Springett, to the rotation of Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton in the 70′s and early 1980′s, England always had a top class goalkeeper.
As Chris Woods and then David Seaman continued the tradition, despite every other pundit claiming the English goalkeeper was a dying breed, but until Seaman’s retirement from England duty in 2002, that looked an empty prediction. Since then England’s number one has rotated between David James, Paul Robinson, Scott Carson, with sporadic appearances from Robert Green, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland and Joe Hart. An unusual situation after decades of stability between the sticks, which clarifies a pressing issue for Capello. Just who can he trust with the number one shirt?
The obvious choice is David James, but the situation at Portsmouth has had far reaching consequences. James found himself in a situation were Portsmouth wouldn’t play him as it would trigger a clause in his contract rewarding him with an extension. Of course, being the goalkeeper of a side marooned at the foot of the Premiership table and with a worrying tendency to implode under pressure, is James really the best English goalkeeper?
Euro 2004 saw James’ performances came under criticism after admitting he hadn’t studied French set pieces, when England were undone by 5 minutes of madness in the opening game of the tournament. A penalty from Henry and a free kick from Zidane saw England collapse and ultimately end up with the harder run of the tournament.
Yet since those rickets, consistency has returned to his game and as one of English footballs more eloquent footballers, James would be one of the three goalkeepers for me and probably keep the No.1 shirt unless his form completely collapses before the end of the season.The other two places are realistically up for grabs.
To all intents and purposes, the stand out English goalkeeper of the Premiership season has been Joe Hart and what a season. He’s certainly been one of the key reasons that Birmingham City have had such a successful season so far. In fact,I was stunned that Hart didn’t make his second appearance for England in Wednesday nights friendly against Egypt. I’ve been very impressed with his form throughout the season and felt for him when Manchester City splashed out big bucks to bring Shay Given to Eastlands in January 2009.
One criticism that seemingly comes Hart’s way from some quarters is his age. It seems a perennial English trait that players are perpetually too young to play for their country. Hart has plenty of international experience, with his time with the Under-21 squad even scoring a penalty for his country. Yes, it may not be the same level of intensity, but competition experience is invaluable, what ever level it is achieved at. The future England custodian of the gloves for me and a shoe in for the second goalkeeping place.
The final place is the one that several people have a real chance of grabbing, but I’ll rule out the three who I wouldn’t consider. Poor Scott Carson, another one who was touted as the future of English goalkeeper until a wet night at Wembley in 2007 that saw the end of the dreadful Steve Mclaren reign. Critics blamed the pitch, oblivious to the wonderful football that Croatia played. Tactically inept and with his powers of spin unable to cover his failings, Mclaren went down taking Carson’s England career with it.
He’s never recovered and several high profile mistakes last season saw his hopes of an England recall all but disappear. Carson simply hasn’t had any luck with certain mistakes perhaps over analysed in the media but I think this World Cup has come too soon for him. Add to that with him not playing Premiership football as well coupled with not being the best English goalkeeper in the Championship and it’s doubtful he’ll get a sniff unless bubonic plague strikes the England goalkeeper set up.
Chris Kirkland is another that time has not been kind to. Touted as the next great England keeper, injuries stalled his career development and it is only in the last couple of seasons that he has managed to get a consistent level of appearances together. The irony of goalkeeping was shown in no clearer light than on November 22nd when Kirkland conceded 9 goals in Wigan’s mauling at the hands of Tottenham.
Remarkably, without Kirkland, Spurs would have probably scored more, he saved a further 7 shots on target. Classed as injury prone, despite playing over 80 league games in his last 3 seasons, Kirkland has fallen behind Hart and would currently be 5th in my opinion. At 28, time is certainly not against him, but it’ll be a major surprise if he gets back to England duty.
Ben Foster currently can’t get on Manchester United’s bench which says it all and he is a real pickle at Old Trafford. Bags of potential but I don’t care how good you are, playing for Manchester United reserves occasionally isn’t anywhere near the level of getting in to the England set up. I’ve a real fear that he could disappear like Richard Wright did after joining Arsenal and then a disjointed spell at Everton. Now back at Ipswich Town, his is a career of real missed chances.
Which brings me to my final two choices. Paul Robinson and Robert Green. Last night Capello seemed to give Green the chance to prove he could be part of the squad by playing the whole 90 minutes of the friendly. This seemingly would draw a curtain on Paul Robinson’s chances of making the squad unless James, Hart or Green falls injured. Green didn’t really have much to do and he has certainly been fairly consistent over the last 3 seasons at West Ham United.
So overall I think Capello will pick James, Green and Hart with Robinson as 4th choice on stand by. The wild card would be Chris Kirkland but overall, I think Fabio will stick with the devil he knows but what do you think??