England goalkeepers and major tournaments – a recipe for disaster?

Joe Hart

It’s the year before the dawn of another major tournament for the English football team, and yet again the goalkeeping situation is what’s making all the headlines. Even though it is still several months away until the start of Brazil 2014, Roy Hodgson has a very difficult situation on the horizon. With Manchester City’s Joe Hart currently out of favour with Manuel Pellegrini, Hodgson must now consider his options with regards to who is playing the most first team football with their clubs in the run up before it is decided who will be picked for the plane to Brazil.

With Hart’s continuity of errors in the weeks preceding his dropping to the bench to be replaced by Costel Pantilimon, Celtic’s Fraser Forster and Norwich City’s John Ruddy have been names mentioned to replace Joe Hart as number one. Nevertheless, Hodgson has said publicly shortly after Hart’s drop in form in the Premier League that Hart will remain his number one selection. When asked by journalists if the fact that Hart would not be the regular number one at his club in the build up to the start of the World Cup would put him off, Hodgson said that he would deal with the matter at the time.

This however wouldn’t be the first time that uncertainty has arisen in the past with English goalkeepers in the build up to major tournaments…

World Cup 2010 – Robert Green

In the weeks leading up to England’s first match of the World Cup in South Africa 2010, much was debated in the English press about who would start in goal for England in their first match against the USA.

Robert Green makes a disatrous goalkeeping error

Robert Green’s error in the first match of the 2010 World Cup

David James seemed to be the safest pick for many and on the day of the match, while myself and a few friends were on holiday in Majorca, one of my friends, a West Ham United fan was adamant that Robert Green was going to start in goal. We even had a bet on it!

Unfortunately for me, when the team was named, not only was I in shock of Green starting in goal, but also angry the fact that I had to buy my mate a cocktail in the local hotel bar. Oh he was singing ‘Greeno, Greeno’ at the height of his voice. That singing however, quickly stopped when Green let in a shocker from Clint Dempsey to make it 1-1.

There seemed to be complete pandemonium in the English camp and it was uncertain who was to start the second game of the group. David James took up the reins between the sticks shortly after, in spite of that, it was the pressure put on Fabio Capello a few months before the start of the tournament by the English press that made it seem increasingly difficult for Capello to not only handle the pressure of the press with regards to his goalkeepers, but also to make the correct decision with his choice.

Euro 2008 Qualifying campaign – Scott Carson

With Steve McClaren going on to lose his job as a result of this woeful campaign for England which saw them fail to qualify as a result of losing to Croatia at Wembley, the goalkeeping situation was once again blown up to all sorts of proportions. Scott Carson coming in for Paul Robinson in goal left many pundits bemused by the decision at the time, and proved to be a catastrophic mistake by McClaren. Carson fumbling Nico Kranjcar’s shot into the net put Croatia one nil up and it was all an uphill battle for England after that.

Scott Carson error against Croatia

Scott Carson contemplates another error

Carson’s debut disaster came only a year after Paul Robinson had made an error in the other qualifier against Croatia in Zagreb. With England already losing 1-0, Robinson took a misjudged swing at a bobbling back-pass from Gary Neville, completely missing the ball as it rolled behind him into his net.

We saw again however, the failure of England to maintain a sustainable number 1 in goal in a crucial match, and this time it saw the failure of England to qualify for a major tournament. The failure of McClaren to make a standout decision to play Paul Robinson ahead of Carson left him open for a world of trouble – the fact that David Beckham didn’t start the match at Wembley also put McClaren to the sword if anything was to go wrong that night, which in turn ended up being the outcome.

World Cup 2002 – David Seaman

The thing that separates this incident in Japan and South Korea in 2002 from all the other goalkeeping disasters that England have had through the years, is that the situation was fine leading up to the tournament.

David Seaman watched Ronaldinho's free-kick fly into his stanchion

David Seaman misjudges Ronaldinho’s free-kick

David Seaman had played well in qualifying and had been an ever present in goal for England for some years at that stage. In the Quarter Final of the World Cup against Brazil, with the match finely poised at one a piece, Brazil were awarded a free kick out to David Seaman’s left hand side, but still a good forty yards away at the angle with which it was at from the goal.

Ronaldinho stepped up and clearly meant to cross it into England’s crowded penalty area, however he over-struck it and inadvertently caught out David Seaman, and the ball ended up in the top corner. Disaster.

The game finished 2-1 to Brazil, with most of the English players consoling Seaman after the final whistle had gone. It was the start of something traumatic for England’s number one at the time, with errors occurring in subsequent qualifying matches afterwards, somewhat like the goal conceded against Brazil in the World Cup, from more set pieces. It saw the end of what was a remarkable career for an outstanding goalkeeper for both club and country, on a more sour note. It was to be the start of the English media’s hammering of goalkeepers from then on, including leading up to major tournaments.

Positive action the key for both media and manager

I was always very negative towards the English media’s ‘tearing apart’ of their goalkeepers in press conferences and the subsequent pressure it put their managers under; making them inconclusive on which goalkeeper to choose. In spite of that, the English press should be more positive in whatever Roy Hodgson decides in the coming months on his final squad for selection for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, even though the situation at the moment could perhaps lead the press into the same situation again as previous years.

John Ruddy sits next to Joe Hart

England goalkeepers John Ruddy and Joe Hart

Joe Hart is a fantastic goalkeeper and every player goes through a bad patch in every position, whether it be a striker who can’t score, or a defender who gets the offside trap all wrong, it’s human nature. A lot will depend on the thinking of Manuel Pellegrini, and whether he see’s Hart as being the regular for the remainder of the season ahead of Pantilimon. At the moment Pantilimon is looking good and has been flawless in goal since being made the regular first choice.

Pellegrini saying lately that he was not going to go shopping in January for another goalkeeper must have come as a relief to Hart at the same time. For England fans, the sooner the situation gets sorted out the better. The last thing the fans want is for the media to have another field day on a goalkeeping situation leading up to a major tournament, with a manager who is indecisive in picking who should be on the plane for Brazil 2014.

Manchester United fan, but love all things Premier League and Champions League!
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