Roy Hodgson’s England goalkeeping selections for the summer have provoked much debate. No-one can quibble with Joe Hart but there was far less consensus when it game to bringing Rob Green and John Ruddy (and now Jack Butland) to Euro 2012. Many people lament the continued absences of Ben Foster and Paul Robinson, whilst others made a case for Scott Carson who is out of sight and presumably out of mind in Turkey.
The first thing to say is club football and international football are totally different. International football is a lot slower. It’s a different mindset. I got called up to an England B team back in 1996. David Seaman was out injured and then Tim Flowers went down with an injury so I got bumped to the A squad. Nigel Martyn was the first choice and I sat on the bench for the game against Chile at Wembley.
Nigel summed up the differences between the club and country game perfectly. He told me “in international football, you’re generally going to be resigned to taking goal-kicks and picking the ball out of the net.” That’s because the game is a lot slower. In club games, the play is at a much higher tempo and you’re going to have maybe 14 or 15 saves to make. In international football, you’re normally only going to have to make three or four saves.
The teams are trying to work the ball into positions where they’re only a few yards out, so when the shots do come in, you’ve got much less of a chance of keeping them out. At that level, you’ve got to be prepared to do little else but take goal-kicks and pick the ball out of the net. Those requirements don’t suit every goalkeeper. It’s takes much more mental toughness and concentration. To play a long season at club level where you’re making a much higher volume of saves, it’s more suited to the younger and more physical goalkeeper.
From my own experiences, I’m fully aware of the psychological differences between being first choice and second choice both for club and country. At World Cup 2006, I was largely 2nd choice at West Ham, but I was thrown into the limelight for the national team. I knew exactly what was required, so it was no problem to step in and change mental approach.
It’s something England will need. Everyone will hope Joe Hart stays fit and healthy, but if he doesn’t you need to have a certain type of player around. Rob Green is the right man for the job. I’ve always liked him as a goalkeeper. He obviously had a disappointing World Cup in 2010 by his standards. It really knocked his confidence, but he’s going to Poland and Ukraine as a number 2. It’s a completely different mindset when you know you’re the back-up. You know you’ll play the odd game at most and you’re prepared for it. He’s experienced enough to know what international football involves, so it’s worth having him around. He can play that role as well as anybody.
I thought is was a good idea bringing John Ruddy along to give him a taste of senior tournament football. It’s not now going to happen thanks to his broken finger, but it was the right thing to do. Hopefully Jack Butland won’t need to see any playing time and he take build up his experience to play a bigger role in future.