[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you asked football fans to name some of the greatest clubs producing young talented footballers over the past 30 years, Crewe Alexandra would be very near the top, if not top. Not enough time or space here to list them but David Platt, Danny Murphy, Neil Lennon, Geoff Thomas, internationals all, to name but four. But no goalkeeper. Indeed, perhaps the best known keeper to emerge from Gresty Road over the past three decades was Brian Parkin – if you exclude the 24 games, and one goal, for the Alex by one Bruce Grobbelaar. Brian went on to play more than 200 games for Bristol Rovers but the Alex has never been known for producing members of the Goalkeeper’s Union, until now.
Proudly performing between the sticks for Crewe Alexandra as they battle to avoid relegation from League One is Ben Garratt. Not a name that readily springs out of the football headlines, beyond the Crewe Chronicle, but the youngster is making a name for himself and has all the talent necessary to progress from the Railwaymen and up to a much higher level.
Not 21 until April, Ben’s performances have already seen him nominated for last December’s Sky Bet League One Player of the Month and of all the attributes required by a goalkeeper to make the grade, Ben has already demonstrated perhaps the most important, consistency.
Ok, if you look at Crewe’s goal difference, currently the worst in the division, with more than 50 goals conceded in the league you may wonder why Ben is rated so highly. There are many reasons and they are the aforementioned attributes required by a goalkeeper. He has them all, is very good in all areas of his trade, with the possible exception of his kicking, and is improving steadily in all areas.
First and foremost he is an excellent shot stopper, the main prerequisite for a goalkeeper. He is agile and his reflexes are amongst the best I have seen outside the top flight. All good goalkeepers command their six yard box, the very good ones dominate beyond there and as far as the penalty spot, Ben Garratt comes into the latter category.
His decision making is also very good. If he has to come flying from his line he quickly decides what he has to do. If he can catch, he does. If he has to punch he can get elevation and distance, enabling recovery time. He is also very quick off his line when he has to become an emergency defender and sweep up any through balls and has very good feet.
At around 1.85 meters tall he has the height for a goalkeeper although weighing in at just 66kgs he maybe needs beefing up a little, although his lack of physicality does not prevent him from mixing it with opponents when required. His kicking does sometimes let him down, though his distribution by hand is excellent and having a team full of skilful footballers in front of him allows him to start many an attack from his own box. Fred Barber, that extrovert par excellence amongst goalkeeper gurus recently became Goalkeeper Coach at the Alex, and Crewe manager Steve Davis told Proven Quality exclusively :
“Ben has come on in leaps and bounds over the last year or so. He owes a lot of that improvement to the coaching he got from Scott Shearer and Steve Phillips. But when Fred Barber became our goalkeeping coach his work took Ben to another level.”
At just 20, Ben Garratt has the world at his feet, or in his own hands if you like. In career terms he has everything ahead of him, not even halfway through his career when compared to some who have played into their late 30’s and early 40’s. So the England Under 19 international, is likely to become the first notable goalkeeping product of the Crewe conveyor belt when plucked from League One and polished into a Premier League diamond.
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