Stick or twist? England’s keeper conundrum

We probably should have seen it coming. Every national goalkeeper since the dawn of time (or so it seems) has made a mistake which has cost England big. Since the turn of the 21st century, millions of supporters have been encouraged to introduce face to palm after a myriad of goalkeeping mishaps.

To name a few, there was the looping shot that embarrassed David Seaman in 2002, the bobble on the Zagreb pitch which helped send Paul Robinson to the international wilderness, and Scott Carson’s howler which meant England stayed at home for Euro 2008.

Robert Green’s nightmare mistake during England’s 1-1 draw against the USA on Saturday night is another one to add to the list. His immediate apology has caused many to urge Capello to keep faith with the West Ham man, but has the damage already been done? Has Green blown his chance?


Robert Green speaking to reporters before heading to South Africa. There are more questions he needs to answer now. Photo: City College Norwich

There were concerns before the tournament about him. Green had a less than impressive season for the Hammers and, despite the East London team’s leaky defence, he must take responsibility for the 66 league goals that they conceded last season. There was also speculation that John Terry and the rest of the England defence were apprehensive about Green’s selection because of his lack of command and vocal instruction to them.

Those reasons alone might be enough for some people to have concluded that Green should not have been picked as England’s number one, regardless of his howler on Saturday. But, as aggressively as Green has been taunted in the media, he should also be equally praised for the excellent second half save which denied Jozy Altidore a winner for the Americans.

When a striker fails to tuck away a one-on-one (Mr Heskey) or a winger takes a bad touch when there is an opportunity to cross the ball (Mr Wright-Phillips) the mistake is not shown over and over again by broadcasters. Gaffes for a goalkeeper are polarised which makes Green’s slight miscalculation seem infinitely more unforgivable. And while that is unfortunate to an extent, it is why goalkeepers need to have excellent concentration skills—something which Green lacked on this occasion.

It also means they need to have resilience though. It won’t be the first time Green has made a mistake in a match and it probably won’t be the last. But he has had “bouncebackability” before, so there is no reason that he can’t regain form again. As soon as an English goalkeeper makes a mistake, he is instantly denounced by the baying English crowd, demanding “off with his head!”

Maybe, for once, the single-minded Capello will keep faith with his goalkeeper. Let’s face it, mistake-dependent rotation of the number one shirt hasn’t worked so far.

7 Responses to Stick or twist? England’s keeper conundrum

  1. Dean West says:

    You have to keep playing Greeno – Hart hasn’t got the international experience and James isn’t fully fit. Besides, it’s not as though any other English keepers have made mistakes before: Seaman Vs Brazil, Carson Vs Croatia, Robinson Vs Croatia, James Vs Austria. Everyone just needs to get over it and get behind Greeno for the rest of the tournament.

  2. Dan Perry says:

    Green shouldn’t have played in the first place. He had the worst season of all three goalkeepers and to be honest, I don’t even think the save he made in the second half was great – he very nearly got beaten at the near post.

    As for the mistake, Green was under no pressure at all and the ball was pretty much trickling towards him. Five year olds get taught to get your body behind the ball – it was pathetic.

    Still frustrates me a bit to think that Robinson gets flak for the Croatia fluke. Out of all of the mistakes mentioned, that was the only one that the keeper could do nothing about – an absolute freak accident which was nobody’s fault.

  3. Bradley King says:

    Would you replace him then Dan? Thing is, what if James or Hart has a shocker against Algeria? Do we turn to the other one?

  4. Bradley King says:

    Couldn’t agree more, but Robinson can’t be blamed for the bobble surely?

  5. Dan Perry says:

    I don’t know if I would replace him now, because it sends out a bad message to the rest of the side and it would be just as counter productive to keep chopping and changing keepers.

    My point is that it was a mistake to play him, going by his form this season he shouldn’t have been picked and given the chance to make this mistake in the first place.

  6. Dean West says:

    Sorry, bad wording there on my part. Robinson definitely shouldn’t be blamed for the bobble, perhaps I should have said that most England keepers seem to have one big unlucky moment!

  7. Bradley King says:

    I agree, I’d have gone with James, but now we’ve picked Green he has to stay.