Is the West Ham goalkeeping division a cause for concern?

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West Ham

1st Team Goalkeepers: Jussi Jaaskelainen (37), Stephen Henderson (24), Raphael Spiegel (19)

There’s cause for optimism around Upton Park. A group of players who know they can perform in the Premier League, a streetwise manager who knows how to get results and what looks like a more peaceful boardroom than we’ve seen in the past. The optimism doesn’t extend to the goalkeeping ranks however and it’s one area of the team with some question marks.

It may be a little bit harsh, but to me, Jussi Jaaskelainen hasn’t looked like a Premier League keeper for the last couple of years. Athleticism was never his trump card, but his lightning quick reactions often made up for it. I suspect he’s got to the point were the reflexes can’t compensate for age catching up with the body.

Shaka Hislop once remarked he felt he should hang up the gloves when there were shots going by him he knew he could have got to in the past. The reactions can still be razor sharp, but at some point the body can’t execute those instincts as quickly as it could in the past. That’s my concern for Jussi. I would be concerned that Sam Allardyce is letting his memories of Jaaskelainen’s great service to him at the Reebok Stadium is blurring his view of the Finn’s current form.

That said, I detected similar age-related issues with Brad Friedel a few seasons back and he’s still performing to a high level so I have been very wrong in the past. Maybe Jussi has a lot more still to give, but my gut feeling is he doesn’t.

He’s also becoming increasingly injury-prone. Just how injury-prone is hard to gauge as it wasn’t always clear if Owen Coyle’s preference for Adam Bogdan was enforced or down to form. In view of this background, letting go of Rob Green was strange. Maybe it was down to personalities or pay, but if Big Sam had the chance of keeping Green, surely he would have done it. He performed well for the majority of the promotion push and to me at least, the Hammers haven’t traded up when it comes to goalkeepers.

It gets a little more optimistic when looking at the back-up options. Stephen Henderson is a very highly rated young keeper with a decent bit of experience behind him. After several loan spells when nominally a Bristol Rovers player, he joined Portsmouth and took Jamie Ashdown’s place between the posts. He signed for West Ham on loan earlier this year and was signed permanently in May. He has yet to make a first team appearance for the club, but he’s an interesting option to have on the bench.

Raphael Spiegel signed for West Ham in July from Grasshoppers Zurich. He has represented Switzerland at various under-age levels, but that’s about were my knowledge of him ends.

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Premier League Goalkeeper Preview: Bolton

Bolton

Jussi

1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Jussi Jaaskelianen, Adam Bogdan, Robert Lainton

Overview: I must confess total bemusement with how Bolton have managed their goalkeeping ranks over the summer. At its essence a loan spell should be an opportunity for a club to allow their own player gain the experience elsewhere that he’s unlikely to get by staying with the parent club before eventually coming back a better player. Fair enough, Bolton saw Jussi as first choice for the 2010-11 season and allowed Ali Al-Habsi to for Wigan. Over the course of the season, it became clear that Jussi just doesn’t have the agility he once had. Shots he was easily getting to a couple of years ago, he was struggling to get to now. The reactions remain razor-sharp, but the body can’t seem to do the mind justice. When Al-Habsi went on to be Player of the Season with the Latics, the time looked right to gently usher the long-serving Finn out of the first team, but instead, Bolton have remained loyal and more surprisingly allowed the Omani keeper to go for the relatively paltry fee of £4 million.

Is the heart ruling the head when it comes to Jussi? He’s been a fantastic goalkeeper and servant to not only the club, but also English football, but all good things come to an end and after watching his performances last season, I think he has lost a good deal of agility and that is irreversible. The Trotters are left with – not so much a bad goalkeeping division – but one that’s vulnerable. Adam Bogdan is a goalkeeper of potential, but could he step in for long parts of the season should Jussi suffer an injury or a dip in form? It’s doubtful and that makes their recent goalkeeping decisions all the more perplexing.

Worst case scenario: Age continues to ravage Jussi and his performances deteriorate at a rate of knots. Owen Coyle turns to Adam Bogdan is given his chance, it soon becomes apparent that he’s not yet ready to be a first choice. The club are forced to make do with the duo for much of the season and eventually the mistakes add up to drag them back into the relegation scrap.

Most likely outcome: Jussi will continue to decline slowly, but his natural ability will compensate and Bolton won’t drop a huge amount of points.