England’s fine goalkeeping pool slipping away?

Written by Edward Seaman

Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton, David Seaman are some of England’s most capped and most influential players and what have they all got in common? They were all goalkeepers.

joe hart
Joe Hart is currently on the bench Manchester City. Photo: Blue Moon 505 (via Flickr)

However in recent times, England have struggled to establish a number one and concerns are beginning to grow as the pool of potential England ‘keepers begins to dry out.

There is no need to mention the pressure Joe Hart has been under in the last 12 months. After a string of high profile errors in recent times, Hart, England’s undisputed number one since the 2010 World Cup, has been dropped by Manchester City and there are calls for the same to happen to him on the national scene.

The problem however, the other two ‘keepers in the squad, John Ruddy and Fraser Forster, have just 45 minutes of international football between them and with Hart now under pressure and a World Cup approaching, are England prepared?

John Ruddy, of NorwichCity, is the man to have made an international appearance, coming on at half time to replace Jack Butland in a friendly against Italy in 2012. The other, Fraser Forster, plays in Scotland for Celtic and despite a number of fine performances in the Champions League has not had much experience at the top level having never played a Premier League game.

One only has to rewind ten or 12 years to see how the state of England’s goalkeepers has declined. The number one jersey was the first to pick itself, and there was more than enough talent playing at the top level to have three ‘keepers. David Seaman made the spot his own for 14 years between 1988 and 2002. A top performer in the League and in Europe for Arsenal, the national side were assured with him in the net.

The other two men in the 2002 World Cup squad, Nigel Martyn and David James, both had a wealth of experience in the top flight and both had played in Europe, Martyn with Leeds and James with Liverpool.

Back to the present day and has the England number one spot become a poisoned chalice. Since that Ronaldinho lob that ended Seaman’s England career, goalkeepers have come and gone, each making their own mistakes.

The first to take over was David James, who began to find form difficult to come by after taking the jersey. He was England’s number one going into Euro 2004 and was joined in the squad by young Paul Robinson and experienced campaigner Ian Walker, a keeper who despite playing more than 250 games for Spurs, made just four appearances for his country.

He soon earned the nickname ‘Calamity James’ and before long, Paul Robinson became the number one.

At about the same time, Robinson joined Spurs and his career seemed to be progressing. He made his last appearance in 2007, shortly after the costly error that ended his England playing days. In a game against Croatia in October 2006, Robinson totally missed a back pass from Gary Neville and the ball rolled into the empty net.

Next in line to ruin their career was Scott Carson. Steve McClaren’s England needed to beat Croatia to qualify for Euro 2008 but Carson’s howler, allowing a shot to go straight through, led to a 3-2 defeat and the end of Carson, and McClaren’s England’s future.

2010 brought the turn of Rob Green and his moment of horror in the England goal, this time at the World Cup in South Africa. In the opening game against USA, Green allowed a Clint Dempsey shot evade his grasp and to throw away the win. Green was subsequently dropped.

So now we come onto Joe Hart, who after three years uncontested in goal, is finally beginning to show signs that he, like many England keepers before him, are beginning to struggle. Although his mistakes have mainly been in club colours, Hart made an error in the allowing a James Morrison shot to totally evade him in a recent friendly against Scotland.

Is there a link to the pressure put on the goalkeeper by the English press and the memories of the mistakes made by previous holders of the number one jersey.

The problem stems with the number of goalkeepers playing in the Premier League. At the start of the Premier League you had the likes of Seaman, Martyn, Tim Flowers, Chris Woods, Ian Walker, David James, all playing for the top Premier League clubs.

20 years later there is now just three goalkeepers playing regularly in the Premier League. Hart, Ruddy and West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster, who is currently injured. Hardly a large pool to choose from.

So where do England go from here? Expect England to give John Ruddy and Fraser Forster a chance in the upcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany but in the long run Hodgson, or whoever manages the national side, need to stick with Joe Hart and not let him go the same way as the other post-Seaman goalkeepers.

There is hope for England with the likes of Jack Butland coming through and with Greg Dyke’s report, hopefully more English players, including goalkeepers, will be back playing regularly in the Premier League, helping the problem Roy Hodgson, and the national side, currently faces.

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