Is there a harder job in football than being a top flight goalkeeper? The job of standing between the sticks for a club the size of Liverpool must be the toughest of the lot. You are either great or a liability. Many have tried, many have failed. With recent events, let’s take a brief look at Liverpool goalkeepers in recent times…
David James managed to hang on the Number 1 jersey for a lot longer than many expected during the 90s. Calamity James was his nickname during his time at Anfield, but he managed to remain at Liverpool for seven years despite constant blunders.
Brad Friedel is perhaps the one that got away. After three years and just 31 appearances, the American left, only to become a very dependable keeper for several clubs in the Premier League, playing into his forties.
Sander Westerveld, who played his part in the 2001 treble winning season, knows all too well how harsh life can be at one of Europe’s elite football clubs. In the August following that treble winning season, Westerveld made a blunder against Bolton and by the next game, Gerard Houllier had signed Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland. The Dutchman was never seen again!
Dudek himself was prone to errors, like the costly ones against Man United… But Jerzy, with his wobbly legs, became an eternal Anfield legend after our night in Istanbul, but this was the end for the likeable Pole.
Rafa Benitez signed Pepe Reina that summer and Dudek became reserve goalkeeper, rarely used again.
Reina was an excellent stopper for the Reds, staying at Liverpool through Benitez’s Golden Era. After a blunder in the 2006 F.A cup final, he recovered to save three out of four penalties and all was forgotten.
At one point, he was right up there with the best keepers in the world but his peak didn’t last as long as we’d hoped and eventually, he was chopped too…
Brendan Rodgers decided he wanted his own man in 2013 and that was the end for the Spaniard.
Next was Simon Mignolet. Saving a 90th minute penalty on your debut to earn 3 points is a great way to endear yourself to the Anfield crowd. The former Sunderland man could never quite get to grips with corners and crosses though, something which still plagues him. Dropped for Brad Jones on occasion, the Belgian never really won anyone over despite starting every game in our 2013/14 title challenge.
There were others; Chris Kirkland was plagued with injuries during his years at Anfield and could never retain the Number 1 spot for too long. Scott Carson was a promising young English talent, even playing his part in the lead up to Istanbul but his Liverpool career never got off the ground.
Loris Karius is the latest to try his hand, a 23-year-old rookie who recently replaced Mignolet. When the Belgian was finally dropped by Jürgen Klopp, there were few complaints..
But after a couple of months, Karius is the latest Red keeper chopped following some dire performances and a media frenzy, although he hopefully still has a lengthy future at the club.
The good thing for Karius is, that his replacement has already had his time. Mignolet looked good against Middlesbrough but he had little to do. Nobody wants him to make a mistake, but everyone knows he’s that prone to them, that it’s inevitable they will come.
When they do, the young German needs to be ready. David De Gea was dropped early on in his Manchester United career, but nobody said that was the end for him. The Spanish stopper has gone on to become one of the world’s best, usually showing so against us, most frustratingly.
Today, David James would not last as long as he did back in the 90s. The media is different now to what it was then. With the emergence of Twitter, everyone’s an expert. When a goalkeeper makes a mistake, we see it from every angle.
Gone are the days of Ray Clemence, too. Make a mistake in 2016 and everyone sees it. Randolph, in goal for West Ham on Karius’s last appearance arguably made the worse mistake that day, but the story though was about our German goalkeeper. The difference is, Karius plays for Liverpool.
He’ll get his chance again and will receive a decent run of games at some point, but the knives will be out in preparation. Time on the sidelines should do him some good, even though he doesn’t see it that way. To remain between the sticks for Liverpool, you must be really, really good. Football and Liverpool can be ruthless. Just ask Sander Westerveld.
Thanks to Kennie Pritchard, @travellingreds, for this guest post!