Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Playing for Keeps?

When the latest England Squad was announced for the recent Friendlies @ Wembley which players would have been first on your team sheet?
John Terry? Not everyone's cup of tea but he is the team captain & has leadership qualities. Wayne Rooney? Nine goals in six League games he's a must surely?? But with his imminent ban maybe not this time....
How about Joe Hart? England's Number One? Playing for a top team in The Premiership and now Europe, he's another dead cert - isn't he?.

But what if he were injured? Who comes in then?
Over recent years it seemed that England's problem position was on the left side of Midfield with such luminaries as Steve Guppy, Alan Thompson and Jason Wilcox given the task to balance up the side. Eventually that puzzle was solved - by maybe jamming some square pegs in round holes but resolved none the less. For me now, our problem position is that of Goalkeeper and I can't see it getting any better.

Not taking anything away from Joe Hart but when was the last time we had an England goalie that really stood out and claimed the number one spot as his own or had to fight off rivals for the right to wear the jersey?

Hart is a fine 'keeper - starting out @ Shrewsbury Town before impressing Manchester City enough for them to sign him for an initial £600,000, a fee that would rise if he were to represent his country, after a few games in the City first team it was decided by then manager Mark Hughes to loan Joe out to Birmingham City where he first started to catch the eye picking up a few accolades along the way before debuting in the England U21 side, he certainly must be fairly decent having returned to Eastlands and seeing off the challenge of another great 'keeper Shay Given to take the number one job @ City full time.

It would appear that Joe Hart has very few rivals now, David (Calamity) James moving to Bristol City seemed to announce his International retirement even if nothing of the sort had been stated, Robert Green who himself has had his dodgy moments is currently injured, but both Paul Robinson @ Blackburn Rovers & Ben Foster now at West Brom have both asked not to be considered for England again. Scott Carson another one time number one now plys his trade in Turkey (maybe his time abroad may improve his game?) but other than that and if previous squads are anything to go by our only other hope comes from reserve or lower league 'keepers. The defeatist attitude of Ben Foster who had a decent season @ St Andrews last term is astounding, if he doesn't want to be selected only to sit on the bench then why doesn't he try to impress that bit harder in games and England training??

There simply aren't enough decent English born goalies around. In fact of the twenty teams in the English Premiership only Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have a homegrown player between the sticks.
From a one time apparent wealth of English goalkeeping talent we now seem to have hit a barren patch, going back to Ron Greenwood's tenure as England manager he was so spoilt for choice that he couldn't make up his mind between Shilton & Clemence so instead alternated them in games, Peter playing one game then Ray the next!

In a blog of this sort after identifying a problem it should be my responsibility to now come up with a solution, but I can't see one! There is talent coming through, but would you pick a player either failing to make any first team appearances or not playing in the highest division week in week out?
Once again the dreaded influx of the foreign footballer must take some of the blame, with top clubs preferring to buy a proven foreign International stopper than taking a risk or nurturing young talent, one minor plus point is that goal keepers have a longer shelf life than outfield players and as Hart matures he will get even better, our major problem could be then finding England's number two!

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