The sometimes fantastic and frequently middling BBC Sport Blog has an interesting article on the importance of an experienced goalkeeper to a team with league aspirations. Interesting may be the wrong word, but the quotes from John Lukic sum up the roots of a problem that has been festering in English football for 20 years. Lukic points out that historically, there wasn’t a huge amount of time spent worrying about the man between the posts. Two hands, a head and the willingness to do the job seemed to be the main criteria.
Whilst Lukic speaks about it in terms of a bygone era, it’s something that’s still relevant today. In England, the time devoted to the goalkeeper isn’t enough – from grassroots up. Exhibit A is the sheer volume of clearly talented young goalkeepers who become middle of the road keepers later in their career – Richard Wright, Scott Carson, Ben Foster, David James, Chris Kirkland and of course Robert Green. It’s not too late to be proved wrong, but each has undoubted talent that has not been fully developed. Walk through a park on a weekday evening and the chances are you’ll see youth teams training. Too often aspiring custodians will largely do the same session as the outfield players with little specific training given other than the obligatory 5 a side to finish. Exhibit B is the number of imported goalkeepers at the top clubs. Coaches and in turn clubs don’t seem to know how nurse the initial promise resulting in managers plumping for something approaching the finished article and relegating the homegrown alternatives to the bench or loan spells of dubious worth.
As eluded to in the BBC article, mentality may have something to do with it, but it cannot account for the sudden drop-off rate of seemingly talented goalkeepers. Action is required to truly make it a thing of the past.