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.