It’s a tale of two over-reactions. Robert Green played well the other day. It wasn’t amazing, career defining or conclusive proof that he’s world-class as some parts of the media made out. Against Tottenham he did everything that was expected of him and a few thing that weren’t. It was a good performance and describing it as anything else is disingenuous and ultimately unhelpful if he has serious aspirations of returning to the national side.
The over the top reaction from the press may owe largely to a sense of collective guilt. Green was torn to shreds by the media and maybe the passage of time had given those people hiding people their laptop screens a sense of perspective regarding events in South Africa. At the time, they fanned the flames of public outrage and forgot that at the sharp end of the criticism was a mere mortal. After regular errors for West Ham followed by the costly mistake against the USA, it was time to throw him a bone and that bone came in the shape of overly generous and possibly insincere praise. We must now be on the building him up part before the eventual knocking him down.
What was most perhaps interesting was Green’s histrionics at the final whistle. With a clean sheet firmly in the bag, the West Ham keeper went out of his way to gesture towards the press box. And most of the gestures weren’t inquiring if the hacks wanted to go for a post-match pint. Green played well and earned his team a vital 3 points for what looks set to be a long, hard fight against relegation. Of course he was elated, but his reaction wasn’t one of elation – it was one of bitterness and perhaps understandable contempt.
Yes, Robert, you played well. Yes, you’re a talented goalkeeper, but is that really necessary? Do it or something like it more often and then it might truly be an indication that you are finally delivering on your potential. Nothing would make people happier than to see an English goalkeeper finally deliver on early promise. It brings into question Green’s focus and suggests a man worrying too much about what’s being said about him. It may seem hypercritical, but a couple of the saves Green made seemed to be feature a flourish solely for the benefit of the cameras. It’s purely speculation, but it hints at a player looking for validation. It’s not pleasant, but criticism is part and parcel of the job. Even the greats were on the receiving end of it, but what sets them apart was a single-mindedness that ensured they bounced backed from the low points. Time will tell if it’s the turning point in a faltering career, but Green would benefit to using his hands solely for the goalkeeping.