FOR SALE: One (very) experienced goalkeeper. Excellent shot-stopper, but everything else still needs work – even after all this time. Will command large pay packet, but can write newspaper column if required.
It was a surprise to see so many clubs respond so eagerly to the possibility of signing David James. Namely two. At 39 years of age, there’s a touch of the long serving public servant about him. His wages will be high, but the end product won’t necessarily justify the relatively high outlay. With Artur Boruc gone to Fiorentina, it’s understandable why Celtic are interested in James, but at best he’s a stopgap solution. In Lukasz Zaluska and Dominic Cervi, the Bhoys have two keepers who may eventually be first team regulars, but for the moment they are far from the finish article.
More curious is the interest of Sunderland. In Craig Gordon, they have an excellent young goalkeeper. Injuries has seriously hampered the progress he has been able to make in the Premier League, but even so the Black Cats have capable understudies in Marton Fulop and Trevor Carson. Whilst Fulop is the more ready-made deputy, Carson has the potential to be a long term successor to Gordon. Northern Ireland has a history of producing top class keepers disproportionate to the small size of the country and Carson is the latest along the conveyor belt. They seem to have cover, which again begs the question, ‘why sign James?’
It’s fashionable to belittle James, but the fact remains he is a very talented athlete and that rare breed of Premier League footballer with a social conscience and awareness of the privilege lifestyle the game has given him. He will bring experience and intelligence to whatever club he joins, but is also likely to cost a few goals over the course of a season.
His case sums up the underlying problems with English goalkeepers. He has always had the raw talent of a top class goalkeeper, but it speaks volumes that after the better part of three decades worth of working with English goalkeeping coaches, he is still plagued by the technical issues that dogged him throughout his twenties. Richard Wright, Scott Carson, Robert Green and now Ben Foster are amongst recent England goalkeepers who showed an early potential that hasn’t yet been coached to its optimum.
Some might have seen the World Cup as a nice natural way for James to bring the curtain down on his career, but it’s only natural he tries to extend his career for as long as possible. He’ll never earn the type of money he currently earns once he hangs up the gloves and whilst he’s as agile, healthy and motivated as he apparently is, he should keep going for as long as he can. The question is, who wants to give him that opportunity?