GK Rivalries - The Battle to be England's No.1
After Jordan Pickford’s penalty saving and scoring exploits in the Nations League 3rdPlace Play Off on Sunday and a squabble to apply for tickets for next year’s European Championships, Sparta Spotlight’s mind turned to England and a three-way-battle for the number one jersey.
Before the aforementioned ‘Mackem Radgie’ took his raving to the international scene, England did not exactly boast the wealth of goalkeeping talent that they do today.
Back in 2010 as England were about to embark on a dismal World Cup in South Africa, the man between the sticks was hardly a foregone conclusion and all three goalkeepers called up to Fabio Capello’s squad: David James, Robert Green and Joe Hart, were in contention to follow in the footsteps of Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and the likes.
Rob Green was the preferred choice in the warm up games leading up to the tournament, despite only nine appearances to his name. However, with him, 39-year-old James and Ben Foster sharing the gloves in qualification and an impressive season at Manchester City for Joe Hart, the West Ham ‘keeper would be just one mistake away from losing the number one spot.
With Rio Ferdinand injured in the lead up to South Africa, England fans were worried at the prospect of a backline omitting a ‘proper’ first choice ‘keeper and their ball-playing centre half. They were right to be.
40 minutes into the opening game with USA, Green’s international career was effectively over as he suffered a similar fate to Paul Robinson after an iconic error against Croatia in the Euro Qualifiers three years prior.
Steven Gerrard’s opener (England’s best moment at the tournament missed by millions watching on ITV HD) was cancelled out before half time as a pretty tame shot from Clint Dempsey astonishingly squeezed under Green and set the tone for The Three Lion’s World Cup.
Ledley King hobbled off at half time to intensify England’s defensive woes ahead of their two remaining group games, a drab 0-0 with Algeria and a scrappy 1-0 win against Slovenia left England 2nd and set up a Second Round tie with Germany in Bloemfontein.
Those two encounters would see a change of goalkeeper in David James and switches between Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson to accompany John Terry, to demonstrate the instability at the back.
The latter partnership would be to the detriment of England’s World Cup as a shocking defensive display which was carved open on several occasions, particularly Upson, who would never play for England again.
David James also didn’t cover himself in glory and would be dislodged by understudy, Joe Hart straight after he retired at the end of the tournament.
We can look back on that era with the assurance that we now have a wealth of young goalkeeping talent and one who is pretty handy in a penalty shoot-out, a rare breed in the English game.
In years to come as Pickford will face a fight for the coveted spot with Jack Butland, Angus Gunn and the likes, few will be ruing the days the hotly contested battle for number one of 2010 World Cup.