Not Your Father’s English Keepers


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England goalkeeper GORDON BANKS blocks a header from the not-pictured superstar PELE of Brazil at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara during the First Round, Group Three match of the 1970 World Cup from Mexico. Although Brazil won the round-robin game 1-0, this save from Banks is, in all likelihood, the single, greatest stop ever seen in World Cup history. (Allsport Hulton/Archive/Getty Images)
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Once upon a time, the England national team routinely featured world-class goalkeepers such as GORDON BANKS, RAY CLEMENCE and PETER SHILTON, but things have changed somewhat since.

The run by English professional football clubs on foreign goalkeepers began in earnest after Denmark’s PETER SCHMEICHEL enjoyed such success playing for the powerful Manchester United side starting in the early 1990s.

This past season, only six of 20 Premier League clubs could claim to have employed an Englishman as first-choice between the sticks.

Aside from the three players selected for England’s South African expedition led by national team manager FABIO CAPELLO, a total of nine other Premier League goalkeepers represented their countries at the final tournament of the 2010 World Cup.

Three of those players — RICHARD KINGSON of Wigan Athletic, VLADIMIR STOJKOVIC of Serbia and BRAD GUZAN of Aston Villa
— were restricted to a reserve role this past season for their English employers; both Kingson and Guzan failed to get even one first-team game in any competition for their respective clubs.

It is interesting to note where the two goalkeepers used by England at the World Cup in South Africa, ROBERT GREEN of West Ham United and DAVID JAMES of Portsmouth, finished on the Premier League save percentage chart, which analyzes goals conceded against shots-on-target stopped.

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2009-10 ENGLISH Premier League
goalkeeper stats

81.43 % – 21 app — Edwin VAN DER SAAR — Manchester United — Holland
78.72 % – 25 app — M. HAHNEMANN — Wolverhampton — UNITED STATES
78.15 % – 31 app — GOMES — Tottenham Hotspur — BRAZIL
76.36 % – 38 app — Brad FRIEDEL — Aston Villa — United States
76.27 % – 36 app — Joe HART — Birmingham City — ENGLAND
75.35 % – 33 app — Thomas SORENSEN — Stoke City — DENMARK
74.64 % – 38 app — Pepe REINA — Liverpool — SPAIN
74.29 % – 37 app — Mark SCHWARZER — Fulham — AUSTRALIA
74.19 % – 26 app — Craig GORDON — Sunderland — England
73.03 % – 34 app — Petr CECH — Chelsea — Czech Republic
70.00 % – 35 app — Shay GIVEN — Manchester City — Ireland
69.94 % – 38 app — Tim HOWARD — Everton — UNITED STATES
68.98 % – 38 app — Jussi JASKELAINEN — Bolton Wanderers — Finland
68.69 % – 29 app — Manuel ALMUNIA — Arsenal — Spain
68.15 % – 35 app — Paul ROBINSON — Blackburn Rovers — England
65.88 % – 27 app — Boaz MYHILL — Hull City — United States
65.08 % – 38 app — Robert GREEN — West Ham United — ENGLAND
65.06 % – 38 app — Brian JENSEN — Burnley — Denmark
64.06 % – 25 app — David JAMES — Portsmouth — ENGLAND
61.34 % – 32 app — Chris KIRKLAND — Wigan Athletic — England

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One goalkeeper who has not developed as fast as England might have found necessary is 26-year-old BEN FOSTER, who was highly rated by the powers that be when joining Manchester United from Stoke City in July of 2005 for a fee of roughly one million English pounds.

However, following a pair of fine seasons on loan with Watford, Foster was unable to displace veteran Dutch international EDWIN VAN DER SAAR in the Manchester United net and only made 12 first-team appearances in the Premier League for the Red Devils over the past three seasons.

In truth, Foster made some rather high-profile mistakes and, ultimately, could not even beat out Polish international TOMASZ KUSZCZAK for deputy duty during his time at Old Trafford.

This past May, following the conclusion of Premier League action, Foster was sold by Manchester United to Birmingham City under a price tag believed to be six million English pounds; it is thought that four million pounds has already changed hands with the rest contingent upon Foster’s appearances for his new club.

Birmingham City’s number one this past 2009-10 schedule played was England’s third-string World Cup goalkeeper JOE HART, who was only on loan from Manchester City and will return to the Eastlands club for the coming Premier League campaign.

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