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Friday, 20 February 2015

The Goalkeeping Shelf Life at Nottingham Forest

There was a time where a keeper would be incumbent for a few years. I grew up seeing it evolve from Steve Sutton to Mark Crossley, and that be pretty much 12 years at Forest. Ok there were dalliances with Andy Marriott, or suchlike, but by and large those two kept goal from 1985 to 1997ish.

Since then it seems like a 3 year maximum duration for a keeper has come in. And though we aren't chopping and changing in the season, we are seemingly in a cycle of new keeper comes in, we love him, makes position own, then for some reason we all fall out, and for 6 months there’s a clamour to have him dropped before they exit the club.

If you think, it’s in this period we have been in the doldrums more. Do people need scapegoats so the Keeper is the target?
When Beasant was getting replaced, I remember the away game at Tranmere for Beasant last game, when we knew Ward was coming on a Bosman, and the fans supported Beasant. We didn't think we needed a new keeper. That’s pretty much the last time we have had a keeper replaced who everyone was happy with.

Since then the revolving door has seen the cycle listed above, with slightly different time scales.

Beasant - 1997-2001
Ward - 2001-2004
Gerrard 2004-06
Smith 2006 - 2009
Camp - 2009 - 2013
Darlow - 2013-2015


From Ward, to Gerrard, to Smith, to Camp, and now Darlow, the incumbent invariably gets shifted aside. Darlow we knew it was coming and were unhappy, to now swathes of fans disliking the keeper.

Ward signed in 2001 and was around until 2004 when he left for Norwich, after 2 years as main choice keeper, his third year saw him in and out the team, in part to injury, but also due to lack of form. Roche deputised, and then Gerrard arrived on loan, before signing permanently. Ward left on a free to join Norwich.

So then Gerrard was the main man, and he played well, well enough to be player of the season as we got relegated. He then was in and out the team, in part due to injury and in part, Megson, for which a lot of weird stuff happened. Pedersen played a few games, and Russell Hoult came on loan, but Gerrard kept his place ultimately, until knee injury closed his season. Megson had gone, Hoult returned to his parent club, so Pedersen closed the season out. Gerrard left at the end of his contract after 2 and a half years.

Calderwood swept into town, and Paul Smith was signed as his no. 1. Pedersen stuck around as back up. Smith like predecessors would have a runs where fans critiqued, but ultimately in the promotion season he kept 24 clean sheets. He was never popular though, and when back in the Championship things weren’t going well, Smiths form suffered. Camp would be bought in on loan, like Gerrard and cement his spot. Smith would stick around a little longer as back up, but a 2 and a half year stint as first choice was all he got before leaving after 4 years.

Lee Camp then became first choice in one of the best periods in recent history. Despite strong Derby links, he won instant hero status for his penalty save at Pride Park. Camp would be a crowd favourite for the next 3 or so years. Fans would call his inclusion to England squads, before he ultimately declared for Northern Ireland. But after building him, the fans set him for a fall. Admittedly after Camp had wanted to join Swansea in the premiership upon their promotion. Any inclination of moving to a bigger club is always met with disdain. And when form suffered, the fans who remember bigged him (possibly feeding his ego) then accused him of not having his heart in it and wanting him dropped. McLeish came in, and immediately jettisoned Camp. Darlow would be thrown into the deep end, and he swam immediately.

Darlow started with little or no expectation. Some fans were merely happy to see the back of the supposedly big time Charlie Camp. He quickly cemented his place, and at the start of last season, when de Vries arrived, people were worried he would usurp the younger starlet. Darlow shined brightly. So much so I kept having to tell people openly questioning why he wasn't in the England U-21 squad wasn't because of form, but because he wasn't young enough. People just seemed to assume he was straight from the youth team. Even when we sold him in July, before the loan deal was announced there were deeply unhappy fans, now move on 6 months, and a large percentage want him gone already.

So have we merely just reached the next saga in the ongoing cycle of new goalkeepers? They generally get that 2 years, before fans turn, slightly longer in Camps case. It seems to me, with a high profile role like Keeper, they always are going to get the ire of fans, and genuinely every couple of years large crises kick in. It's just the natural process at Forest. With Sutton and Crossley they rose through the ranks and fought for their places before cementing, often times spending large periods benched. Now, if they are out, they are out the club. Too high profile to sit playing second fiddle, yet not doing enough to keep their place. Does complacency creep in? Or is it merely just how it goes at many clubs these days?
Whoever the next incumbent of the Goalkeeper position becomes long term? Whether de Vries gets the role or a new pretender is bought in, I give it 3 years me, no matter of form, no matter of class. It’s just how it is.

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