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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Green’s Form Gives Capello Something To Think About

Rob Green

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.

Latest Goalkeeper News

Goalkeeper News

FastGlove
– After Robert Green aimed some choice gestures towards the journalistic corps at Upton Park last weekend, Hammers owner David Gold explains that there was “no malice” in it. We tend to disagree. Anyhoo, it would appear Green knows about as much about gesticulation as he does about holding onto a tamely struck shot. According to anthropologist, Desmond Morris, although the ‘Phallic Forearm Jerk’ is understood as an insult on the continent, in England it’s generally applied as “a crude form of sexual admiration”. We’re pretty sure that’s not what Green intended. Unless of course he has a more extreme plan for getting back into the journalists’ good books.

– In more Green related hilarity, Avram Grant says Green’s one good performance of the year is basically good enough to get him back into the national side. What’s more worrying for England is he’s not a million miles off the mark.

– Some good news in an otherwise bleak season for Shay Given. He avoids a driving ban for being nabbed doing 75mph in a 50mph zone. It’s not the the biggest speeding violation we’ve heard of involving a footballer, but it’s is substantially faster than the progress his career is making at present.

– In our now weekly piece entitled ‘which terrible goalkeeper is Arsene Wenger defending now?’ Arsene Wenger explains why blah, blah, … Fabianski …. rubbish … Almunia … worse .. To be honest, we stopped listening a couple of weeks ago.

– Oh to be young and naïve once again. David de Gea says he won’t be leaving Atletico Madrid for Man Utd because he’s got a contract until 2013. Oh David, you’ve got a lot to learn about the ways of the world and more importantly, how Fergie operates.

– And finally in the bit we’re cleverly calling our ‘and finally’ bit, here’s some footage of a goalie going a bit mental. It’s Khalid Askri of Moroccan side, FAR Rabat. Not long after falling foul to the incredible spinning ball, he has enough and storms off the pitch in style.

The Green Shoots Of Recovery?

Robert Green
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.