For anyone who has experienced the unique challenges facing the goalkeeper, there’s something heart-warming about seeing Rob Green once again in the England squad and vying for a place. Long after the Spanish players had celebrated their World Cup win by assaulting Cesc Fabregas using a Barcelona shirt as an accessory to the crime, England’s goalkeeper is still best known as the laughing-stock who failed to stop Clint Dempsey’s pea-roller. The goalkeeping role is a lonely one at the best of times, but after that calamity Green must have felt like a loner on a continent of over a billion.
Too often it feels like we only talk about a goalkeeper in the aftermath of a mistake, so it’s a pleasure to say Green’s response since that set-back has been outstanding. His performances couldn’t always be described in the same terms, but in terms of determination and resolve, the West Ham keeper has been excellent. There’s still the occasional costly error, but without his saves, the Hammers would be in trouble far deeper than the struggles they’re already enduring. His performance against Tottenham last weekend showcased the superb reflexes that earned him international recognition to begin with and underscored the fact that he has shown commendable mental strength to emerge from adversity.
Of course Rob Green has been in England squad’s since the humiliation in South Africa, but the remarkable element to the story is that if Fabio Capello was going purely on recent form, Green should get the nod. He won’t, but with Joe Hart experiencing the first sustained slump of his career and Ben Foster performing in patches, Green would be the form choice. The consensus for most people would be that Hart is the most complete and naturally talented goalkeepers of the three, but Green has shown the spirit and tenacity to merit being in the reckoning for the game in Cardiff.
Sadly the flipside of Green’s resurgence is that it highlights the absolute dearth of talent available to England which I’ve touched on several times previously. No sooner had David Stockdale strung a handful of appearances together for Fulham than he was called into the senior squad and despite never having played a Premier League game, Frank Fielding was in the mix for the national team job as recently as August. As good as Green has been, the flaws remain. Agile and blessed with excellent reflexes, his handling and concentration errors undermine his bid to be considered genuinely world-class. He’s more than capable of putting together a run of good games, but sooner of later a blip comes along and often those blips are a little too frequent for comfort. A lack of long-term consistency sees him fall into the ‘good’ rather than the ‘great’ category – the worry for England is that ‘good’ might have to be good enough for some time to come.