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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Emergence of Darlow Softens Camp’s Legacy

It occurred to me that over the last decade or so we seem to have a set shelf life for goalkeepers before we move them on, or they become untenable in the team. It’s around 2 and a half to 3 years before a new cross over period develops.

Ever since Crossley was number 1 for near enough a decade, we seemed to have had a roll call of keepers who do well but ultimately move on at the end of a contract because of either their age or because they want more money or simply put, just aren’t doing it anymore.

Beasant was being shipped on because Platt wanted a younger man, he was succeeded by Darren Ward, who ultimately lost form and was shipped off to be Norwich sub keeper when they got promoted (which sounds awfully familiar) Gerrard had a decent longish stint of around 2 years before being temporarily replaced by Russell Hoult, he then left as he had high wages, before his eventual successor became Paul Smith. Smithy of course was main keeper for around 2, or so years before Camp came in, and the rest we know.

The challenge is now for Darlow to first become part of this pattern, and become part of the team permanently, that so far he seems capable of, and then creating a lasting legacy in the team. What would be nice is to break the cycle of being in the team for 2 or so years before needing to be replaced for whatever reason (usually lack of form)

Darlow hasn’t really been challenged yet in terms of having a torrid time in a game. His emergence is along the same period as the defence finding its feet again. That said, there were games under McLeish he was thrown in the deep end at, and yes we lost, but he never ashamed himself.

The first big challenge for him will be when he has a drop in form. The role of a goalkeeper is so founded on confidence that it will be interesting to see how he fairs. He seems confident, but then Smith did when he first arrived.

I heard it said by a pundit or ex player once a few years (so long ago I have no recollection who it was) that the best thing for any team was to know what that keeper was likely to do. If he stayed for crosses, then fine, as long as you knew he was going to stay you could clear up. If he came for the cross, then fine you knew he’d be there, the worst scenario was when you had an “eccentric” keeper, A Huelho Gomes or Manuel Almunia. A keeper you had no idea of they’d be coming, going, or whatever, and for a defender, then that creates the uncertainty. So to have a new keeper trying to forge his role, it must have been a tricky time for the defence.

But now Darlow is cemented in that role. I think many thought, myself included that there may have been pressure to put al-Rashidi in goal, and that Darlow was merely a stop gap whilst he acclimatised. That’s proven to be entirely incorrect. Darlow I would argue is almost undroppable at the moment. Ok he may have done better with the Wolves goal, but there has been no uncertainty in the crowd, and indeed he has made a couple of great stops that you’d argue Camp may not have.

The end of Camps period was a shame. His legacy of being a good Forest keeper for many years has been upset by his own ego, and therefore the fans perception. Make no mistake he wasn’t a bad keeper, but it would have been more glaring had Darlow, like Forests own form, not been a shining light during February. Because Darlow took the ground running, Camp has barely been missed. It had the potential to be so different. Just think of Barry Roche.

And it is a shame, Camp had the talent and potential to be our keeper for a long time and keep Darlow out the side. Camp however has his own demons, his ambition is what he cites, but at the end of the day it’s no-ones ambition to be Third Choice keeper at a mid rate Premier League Club. It comes down to money. And because of that Camp’s legacy is that he won’t be remembered for his keeping or his performances, but more his petulance at not being allowed to go to Swansea, and ultimately for leaving when he should have been first choice.

We have had a number of decent keepers at Forest, each with their own foibles and characteristics. Now we have the chance for a new keeper to forge a new legacy in goal. Darlow has the potential to hold on to this position for a few years. In fact the one obstacle to this I can see is Promotion to the Premier League, which even if he helps us achieve it would likely see Darlow replaced by another man. Like it or lump it, that would probably occur as we’d need an experienced head in there. That is a debate for another day, for the time being let’s just enjoy Darlow making the transition from budding youngster to First Team regular.

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