Clean Sheet – Mixed fortunes for Aussie stoppers

by James Clark

Welcome back to the third edition of ‘Clean Sheet’, an inside look at the greatest position in world football… “Goalkeeper”

Well we are already into round six of the A-League and surprisingly our first managerial casualty of the season. It was a tough call for Ian Crook, but obviously the pressure of coaching the ‘Sky Blues’ was too much to bear. From where I sit, there are some serious questions to be asked of the defensive pattern adopted by Sydney FC. Say what you like about Sydney’s record when ADP is not on the park, but their lapses in the mid field and defence are the biggest challenges facing the incoming boss (whoever that might be). You only have to cast your eyes over Ivan Necevski’s worrying keeping stats (27 saves and 16 goals conceded), to admit that things need to change and change quickly. I’ll randomly throw it out there, but why not sign Željko (Spider) Kalac as boss? If anything he will certainly boost the profile of goalkeepers in this country or at the very least bring brylcreem back as a standard fixture in the kit-bags of many top level players lucky enough to be blessed with healthy flowing locks.

On to the EPL and may I start by saying that I got it terribly wrong last week in stating that Australian keeper “Adam Federici looks destined for an extended stint warming the bench this winter”.  He had an impressive return to form for Reading even though the game failed to worry the scoreboard attendant.  Federici’s commitment in goal helped him deliver his side’s first clean sheet of the season. The praise doesn’t end there with Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic picking up his fifth clean sheet in only 11 games and joined West Ham’s Jussi Jaaskelainen who kept Newcastle scoreless at St James’ Park.  Norwich’s John Ruddy also staked his claims for second spot on the stats sheet with his forth clean sheet of the season, although I’m sure his preference would always have been solely on his club grabbing the three valuable premiership points on offer. It proved to be a great week for Aussie keepers in the EPL with Brad Jones continuing to impress his Liverpool Boss and remain in the starting line up ahead of Pepe Reina.

To Villa Park, and Brad Guzan must have been pinching himself 50 minutes into the clash after the Claret and Blue were two goals up against Alex Ferguson’s men. He certainly wasn’t counting on second half substitute Javier Hernandez conducting a striking master-class and playing a part in all of United’s three second half goals. United eventually ran out winners to retain top position on the table and put the ball firmly back into Chelsea and Man City’s court to chase them down. Villa fans will be buoyed by their side’s confidence building showing, but with upcoming fixtures against Manchester City and Arsenal to follow, Paul Lambert’s task to move his side safely above the relegation line doesn’t get any easier. The London Derby between Arsenal and Fulham produced my save of the week. Mark Schwarzer’s outstretched go-go gadget arm penalty heroics singlehandedly delivered a point for his team. His effort avoided what would have been a cruel loss after a very poor hand ball judgement handed down by Phil Dowd in the dying seconds of the match.

Moving to the A-League, my gripe of the week is the lack of keeper recognition by the Fox Sports commentators in rewarding their on field efforts with any points towards the Alex Tobin Award tally. As a spectator at last Sunday’s Brisbane v Adelaide clash, Eugene Galekovic failed to win a solitary point from the expert panel in the commentary box. Not only did he add a clean sheet against a relentless Roar attack, but arguably made the save of round five and help his side grab the three points. Central Coast keeper Matt Ryan has taken the lead for the coveted ‘Clean Sheet’ title with his fourth of the season against the Phoenix. The only question is will he surpass his debut season tally of 12? Sadly he is yet to earn any Alex Tobin points for his near perfect efforts on the pitch. On a positive note Ryan received a massive boost to his keeping stock value by getting a Socceroos squad call up for the mid week friendly against the Korea Republic in Hwaseong, It is unclear whether Holger Osieck will rest veteran Mark Schwarzer in favour of starting Ryan, but it would a real boost to see him get some game time at international level. Something tells me it won’t be too long before we see him leave our shores for bigger and better things after trialling with Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion in July.

To date I’ve been unsuccessful in tracking down any keepers here and abroad who are prepared to answer a few brief questions in forming a light hearted bio titled “Penalty Shoot Out”…  The idea is to pepper keepers with five quick questions from the 12 yard spot to help give the readers a little insight on what makes these characters tick. If there is anyone who can help out, I’d love to hear from you. Just follow me on Twitter and I’ll be in touch.

Here is the goalkeeper quote of the week.  I was unable to track Fabien down to confirm his rather awkward quote:

Unconsciously, I fell in love with the small round sphere, with its amusing and capricious rebounds which sometimes play with me.

I think there’s something in that for all lovers of the round ball…ahem.

Catch you all next week

Yours in football

bigfella (James Clark)

Twitter: @clarkies2340

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