Second-Choice Goalkeepers: Life on the Subs’ Bench

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The life of a reserve goalkeeper can be a lonely existence. Even on the off chance that a second-choice ‘keeper gets called up, it could be weeks, if not months between competitive appearances.

Nonetheless, backup goalies can’t rest on their laurels. They still need to commit to the same training routine as their first-choice counterparts, regardless of whether they get anywhere close to the penalty area.

Caoimhin Kelleher and the Curse of the Second-Choice Goalkeeper

Ask anyone to name their pick of the best ‘keepers playing in the Premier League and it’s names like Ederson and Alisson you’ll hear. Ask them for their shortlist of second-choice ‘keepers and they’ll probably be able to count the number of names on one hand.

That’s not to say there isn’t a wealth of talent keeping the subs’ bench warm. Instead, it’s just that so few teams have a backup ‘keeper who comes anywhere close to their first choice.

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Of course, there are some exceptions. At West Ham United, there’s Alphonse Areola (who’s actually been preferred to Lukasz Fabianski in recent weeks). Over at Manchester City, there’s Stefan Ortega. While the latter’s number of Premier League appearances only runs into the single digits, most fans would argue that these backup goalies could quite easily step into the shoes of their teammates.

Then there’s Caoimhin Kelleher. Since joining Liverpool’s academy in 2015, the Irishman has been a firm fixture in the squad. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that he would be elevated to the senior national team for Republic of Ireland. Even then, his competitive debut wouldn’t arrive until that September during an EFL Cup match against Milton Keynes Dons.

Sadly, despite being touted by some as a legend in the making, Kelleher is the latest player having to deal with the limbo existence of a backup goalkeeper. Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has already offered his prediction that the 24-year-old is likely to be leaving Anfield this season, despite Jurgen Klopp ruling out the possibility of a sale.

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What’s Next for Kelleher?

With his rising star and undeniable skills in the box, it’s hard on Kelleher to continue to be relegated to the role of second choice. After all, this is the man that Klopp called the best number two goalkeeper in the world.

The rumour mill has been in overdrive these past few months about Kelleher making the move from Merseyside. After Brentford sold David Raya to Arsenal, there was talk about the Irishman becoming their new number one, but that was put to rest when the Bees snapped up Freiburg’s Mark Flekken.

For now, it seems that Kelleher is perfectly happy to remain at Anfield, but with better opportunities elsewhere, what’s really keeping him loyal to the Reds? To answer that, you only have to look at how much investment is being thrown at Liverpool’s goalkeeping squad. Over the past year, Klopp has added legendary names like Brazil’s Claudio Taffarel to the goalkeeping coaching lineup.

For the likes of Kelleher, it’s this kind of opportunity which must make the subs’ bench a pretty enviable position to be in. However, with Liverpool’s first-choice keeper Alisson signing a six-year deal in 2021, Kelleher looks set to remain playing second fiddle for the foreseeable future.

#Ep89 of The Empire of the Kop Podcast: EOTK Insider with Neil Jones🎙️

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