Saturday, 22 December 2012

Penalty Spot - A one on one with the keeper

This is the first article in what hopes to be an ongoing series, giving football fans a little insight into the world of a top flight goalkeeper. A big thanks to Melbourne Heart’s Clint Bolton for giving up his time to stand in front of the spot and be peppered with a few off the cuff questions.

Clint is arguably one of the most experienced keepers in the Hyundai A-League and NSL with around 480 games under his belt since joining the Brisbane Strikers way back in 1993. He was part of Frank Farina’s team who went on to win the NSL Title in front of 40,446 parochial Queenslanders at Lang Park in 1997. He kept a memorable clean sheet that afternoon after going head to head against Sydney United’s Zeljko ‘Spider’ Kalac. Clint’s strong work ethic and his ability to stay fit and injury free has helped him be one of the most consistent performers in the game.

Goalkeepers have always been known as being a little bit different and at times left of centre. Do you follow any strange pre-game routines or have any idiosyncrasies that you would care to share with everyone?
"Other than just relaxing and getting into a good frame of mind before each game, I like to down a bowl of porridge on match day. To keep myself focussed on the game for the full 90mins, I believe it’s vitally important to always keep the communication and talk up between the players."
In your opinion who has the hardest shot in the A-League?
"Last year I would have to say it was Carlos Hernandez (Melbourne Victory) as he could really fire it like a rocket, although it may surprise a lot of people to know that Alessandro Del Perio’s shot is very powerful for a player of his height and size. The nature of his kicking style with a minimal back-swing makes his shots deceptively quick from the free kick spot and very difficult to judge."
Who was/is the biggest influence on your keeping career?
"The biggest influence on my football career would have to be Jimmy Fraser (Former NSW and Australian Representative goalkeeper 1969 to 1976 and Coaching Director – International Goalkeepers Academy Sydney). Jimmy has been a tremendous supporter of my career and is a real old school coach who also has the great ability to tell the odd awful joke."
"John Filan (Former Australian keeper and current Goalkeeping Coach Sydney FC) has also had big impact on my career from when he coached me at my time at Sydney FC from 2008-2010."
What are your passions away from the pitch?
"I am a huge music fan, in particular Hard Rock and Metal. Australia has a very strong underground Hard Rock/Metal scene and I love to head to as many gigs as possible in my spare time. I love nothing more then heading north to visit my old man to go Barramundi fishing up in the rivers and estuaries of Far North Queensland. I’m not too good with sea sickness when it comes to heading offshore so I stick to the safety and calmness of the inland systems. It’s a great way to unwind and relax after a busy A-League season."
What team/player’s jersey did you wear to training when growing up?
"I grew up playing for my local junior side in Bundaberg called ‘Aston Villa’. I then adopted the Birmingham club and have followed their progress ever since. They have had a difficult time of it in the EPL of late but with a big emphasis on youth in the side, their future is looking good."
Can you remember where you were when Mark Schwarzer and Jon Aloisi helped the Socceroos qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup?
"I certainly can like most Australia football fans. I was glued to the TV at home and can recall every moment from Schwarzer’s first save to Duke’s (Mark Viduka) unfortunate miss. With Schwarzer then keeping out a second, I just had a deep belief that Aloisi was the man for the job and wouldn’t miss. It was an emotional moment and I freely admit to getting a little teary like many Aussies who were lucky enough to witness that most memorable sporting moment. I only wish I had been there to experience the atmosphere of the packed Olympic Stadium."
Who is your favourite international keeper past or present?
"That would have to be Manchester United and Denmark Legend Peter Schmeichel. While he wasn’t known as the most technically brilliant and considered a little unorthodox in his methods, I always admired his keeping style. I liked his unorthodox nature because I feel I am similar in many ways to how he approached the game."
Who is the Heart’s serial practical joker/pest in the dressing sheds or on road trips?
"Well after a memorable end of season trip to Bali after Season 1, I would have to say the title falls to  Aziz Behich. His small stature certainly belies his behaviour in the sheds and he’s always one to try and make the players laugh through his ‘Rooster Behaviour’. A fun guy to have around and he strives to maintain the positive atmosphere on road trips and in the dressing room."
Clint Bolton can be followed on twitter @bootsa22

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Clean Sheet 8

Only two clean sheets to speak of in the A-League this week. The Mariners’ Mat Ryan continued on his winning ways after a busy week making his Socceroos debut at the EAFF qualifying tournament in Hong Kong. Watching the game against the Heart, it was apparent that Ryan’s confidence is sky high as he surveyed the 18 yard box like he’d just put an offer in on the real estate. Ryan has gone to the equal top of the A-League clean sheet tally along with Ante Covic who also had a fine night out in the Sydney Derby. As bad as the defensive woes are for Sydney FC, they appear to be performing better under new manager Farina, however their midfield and forward play was poor and pedestrian at times. The passes failed to stick and the turnovers were all too frequent. The normally dependable attacking flair of Brett Emerton wasn’t there and I cannot remember seeing him miss three passes in succession like he did in the second half.

Western Sydney Wanderers are a very cohesive unit under Tony Popovic and his side followed his match plan to the letter by totally out enthusing their cross town cousins in all facets. What can be said is how wonderful the Sydney Derby atmosphere was at Allianz Stadium. The Wanderers support base is very impressive despite the club’s infancy, and teams heading to Parramatta Stadium should never underestimate their power to lift their side to victory.  A local Derby is what every player and fan wants to be part of. From the long time rivalries that exist in the EPL between United/City; Liverpool/Everton; Tottenham/Arsenal; Leicester City/Nottingham Forest all the way through to the recent A-League Victory/Heart clashes. It’s what makes our game great. Even for a local Brisbane lad like myself, I‘m always drawn into watching a Derby clash around the globe, no matter where my club allegiances lie. This Saturday night sees another Derby with the Heart hosting the Victory at AAMI Park. I’m putting my money on the Heart to bounce back from the Mariners loss to narrowly get the points against Ange’s men.

Back to goal keeping and the Phoenix’s Mark Paston will be a little disappointed with his keeping performance after being kept very busy by the Adelaide United strikers. Paston failed to get a glove on the strikes from Carrusca (2) and Ferreira. Contrastingly United’s skipper Eugene Galekovic was in great touch by only conceding a solitary goal. It is certainly no fluke that Adelaide is sitting in second place on the ladder this year. Witnessing the players celebrating with their captain after his added time penalty heroics, you can see the genuine team spirit that exists in the playing group. It surprises me that Adelaide’s keeping captain Galekovic hasn’t recorded a vote towards the Alex Tobin Award this season. Although I’m sure most keepers prefer their performances go under the radar and not drawing too much attention from the outside world.  On this occasion though he deserved at least a point maybe two…

To the EPL fixtures and only two clean sheets greeted the statisticians this week. Tottenham snuck home at White Hart Lane against Swansea with Hugo Lloris moving to three clean sheets in seven games for the French international. Lloris looks to have cemented himself ahead of Brad Friedel for Spurs since signing from Lyon before the summer transfer window. AVB must have a high opinion of him as his appointment back in October ended Freidel’s long run of 310 consecutive games in the Premier League.

In other clean sheet news West Brom and West Ham played out a scoreless draw at the Hawthorns. As the score line suggested, the game lacked any attacking flair or creativity but the result helped to stop the recent run of losses for Steve Clarke’s chargers. Boaz Myhill earned his first clean sheets after starting in his seventh game of the season. It is still unclear when Ben Foster will return after groin surgery but in the meantime Myhill has tackled his return with vigour and enthusiasm by doing extra hours in the gym and shedding a few kilos in the process. West Ham keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen continued his impressive stats and sits in equal second on the clean sheet table with six for the season. West Ham’s season so far has probably exceeded expectations, but with a seemingly good draw over the next few rounds they have the opportunity to move up a couple of places and consolidate their position.

Great news this week for Australian and Liverpool with keeper Brad Jones agreeing to a contract extension that will see him remain at Anfield for a few more seasons at least. Jones has been an impressive fill in for Pepe Reina this season and the Spaniard will need to remain in good touch so as not to give Manager Brendan Rodgers too many reasons to give Jones more game time.

Random Clean Sheet Trivia Answer

What is the record number of goals conceded by a goalkeeper in a FIFA World Cup match and by which keeper/country?

Congratulations go to @paulbroad who correctly identified that Luis Guevara Mora (El Salvador), leaked a record 10 goals in their match against Hungary in the 1982 FIFA World Cup (Spain)

Keeper Quote of the Week:
"The joy of seeing Yuri Gagarin flying in space is only superseded by the joy of a good penalty save."
Lev Yashin
Russian Goalkeeping Legend  and nick-named ‘The Black Spider’

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Clean Sheet 7


Sadly the A-League only threw up two clean sheets this week courtesy of John Aloisi’s Melbourne Heart holding out the Perth Glory and the Central Coast Mariners win over the out of form Newcastle Jets. Clint Bolton recorded his second clean sheet of the season, although the three points is always the first priority.
The ageless Bolton has been a consistent performer and possesses a calmness and leadership quality that many younger keepers would love to aspire to. The win helped the Heart stay within reach of the top four; however the same cannot be said of Perth and Brisbane who are the unlikely partners for Sydney at the bottom of the competition table. Bolton’s reflex save from a sharp shot from Perth’s Travis Dodd displayed his class under pressure and tireless work ethic.

Although Clint Bolton was awarded by many football pundits with the save of the week, my stand out keeper of the week went to Sydney FC youngster Vedran Janjetovic. Frank Farina’s recent faith in Janjetovic was repaid after he pulled off two cracking saves. The first showed mountains of courage as he rushed from the safety of the six yard box to slide head on and pick-pocket the ball out from underneath Paul Ifill’s nose. The other displayed much more athleticism after diving full stretch to his left to reel in a powerful Jeremy Brockie header.  The away win should help build some much needed confidence in the Sydney FC camp before they host the local derby at Allianz on Saturday evening. It appears Vedran is part of Farina’s immediate defensive plans and if his form continues, he could make things difficult for Ivan Necevski to win back his spot in the side. He’s obviously relishing his time under the Sydney FC goalkeeping Coach Zeljko “Spider” Kalac who he credits as his main reason in signing with the club.
Justin Pasfield’s strong performance against the Newcastle Jets delivered his first clean sheet of the season. Justin stepped into the Mariners senior side with Mat Ryan making his International debut for the Socceroos at the EAFF qualifying tournament in Hong Kong. Unfortunately for Pasfield, Ryan is in the form of his career which may not provide too many future opportunities to impress the coaching staff. The bonus of being part of a winning and competitive environment will certainly build his value going forward.

Moving on to the EPL, and the Arsenal, Aston Villa, Stoke, Southampton keepers all recorded clean sheets this week, although all the talk rested solely on the Manchester derby at the Etihad. It’s always unfortunate when the talk turns to happenings off the pitch, but the game itself was an arm wrestle from start to finish and it was difficult to turn away even with a late night calming Brisbane downpour on the tin roof calling me to my slumber. On the keeping side of things, David De Gea performed very well in comparison to his cross city rival Joe Hart with some very fine stops to keep United with their noses ahead at the final whistle. Hart  seems to be searching for his fine form of last season, however City, like many of the top Premier League clubs, is built on huge finances and sometimes the team harmony that managers so often strive for becomes a distant mirage that is rarely reached despite the wealth, table position and on pitch success. Chelsea’s Petr Cech again impressed as did Asmir Begovic who picked up his eighth clean sheet of the season for Stoke City in a scoreless draw at Villa Park. For the six keepers that have played all 1440 minutes of the season thus far, Begovic has faced 195 shots, and leads the group with only 12 goals to breach his line. Very impressive stats indeed!

The weekly ‘Keeping Clanger’ unfortunately goes to Nathan Coe. Not so much for his keeping performance but for the Victory defensive group who certainly didn’t do him any favours at the back. The Adelaide attacking line were afforded far too much space by the Victory back four and Ange Postecoglou will hope to fill the gaps before taking on Brisbane Roar this weekend. They won’t want a repeat of their Round Two encounter where they leaked five goals in a night that keeper Lawrence Thomas is still having nightmares over.

Random Clean Sheet Trivia Question

What is the record number of goals conceded by a goalkeeper in a FIFA World Cup match and by which keeper/country?

Tweet and follow me on @clarkies2340 with your answer for a mention in next week’s article,

Keeper Quote of the Week:
You’ve got to believe that you’re going to win, and I believe we’ll win the World Cup until the final whistle blows and we’re knocked out.
Peter Shilton (Former England, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest keeping Legend)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Clean Sheet 6

Round nine of the A-League threw up some goalkeeping changes due to Mat Ryan and Eugene Galekovic being absent as a result of their Socceroos squad call up. This made way for some reserve keepers to show their wares to club management. Paul Izzo stepped into the Adelaide United goal on debut and impressed many pundits with his sharpness in the box. His save from a quality strike from Central Coast’s Josh Rose displays how healthy goalkeeping talent is in this country. So many writers tend to heap too much early praise and expectation on young talent, but Izzo’s calmness under pressure belies his age and I’m sure it won’t be too long before the Joey’s Australian U-17 rep gets more game time at senior level.  Justin Pasfield was called into the Mariners courtesy of Matt Ryan being in Hong Kong on Socceroos duties and helped his side take the top spot on the competition ladder. For Pasfield it will be a case of taking his rare chances or as such time as number one keeper Mat Ryan secures an overseas contract.

Another keeper to be promoted into the run on team was Sydney FC’s Vedran Janjetovic. With Frank Farina taking over the reins at the embattled club, Janjetovic was brought in at the expense of regular gloveman Ivan Necevski who has had to endure a very tough time at the back. The goals conceded column at Sydney FC certainly cannot be contributed to Necevski, but perhaps an early freshen up paired with a solid tactical change and mindset in defence can build the confidence of the struggling unit. The change certainly paid dividends as Janjetovic recorded the first clean sheet for the club this year.
My save of the week was a tough decision and was harder to split than a knotted piece of old hardwood. Melbourne Victory’s Nathan Coe was a fine candidate after his lowdown dive prevented the powerful Shane Smeltz header finding the net, but it was stand in Sydney keeper Vedran Janjetovic who’s effort to stop Fred’s rocketing header that narrowly gets the chocolates for my save of the week.

To the EPL and the commentator curse strikes again. If you remember my article from a week ago, I was singing the praises of the West Bromwich Albion keeper Ben Foster. Since my last post, Foster has gone under the knife in Germany for a groin injury and is recovering aiming to return to the pitch in three weeks. Hopefully his return to the Baggies will see them continue their impressive season and consolidate their position on the ladder. My positive piece certainly didn’t help their chances on the weekend, losing to Stoke at The Hawthorns. My future self imposed media ban will certainly go a long way to helping their chances of winning the three points in future games this season. Another big apology goes out to Norwich stopper John Ruddy. I prematurely put some big raps on his performances for the Canaries only to learn that his torn thigh courtesy of the Everton clash will see him sidelined for three months. Norwich will now rely on replacement keeper Mark Bunn to fill Ruddy’s shoes and hopefully continue the club’s unbeaten Premier League run since a defeat to Chelsea way back in early October.

Joe Hart’s save on the weekend against Everton will help give him some much needed confidence, but it was Asmir Begovic’s seventh clean sheet which has helped Stoke climb above Arsenal and into ninth place on the table. Begovic has played all 15 games this season and if his clean sheet form continues, Stoke City will make life very difficult for teams at the pointy end of the season. I only hope my reports don’t have a negative effect on his form or fitness coming into the festive season and beyond.

The weekly ‘Keeping Clanger’ unfortunately goes to Ante Covic from Western Sydney Wanderers. I never like highlighting the low points of a keeper’s game but Ante’s miss against Wellington was right up there. The fluky windy Wellington conditions inside the “Cake Tin” totally bamboozled Covic as he was clean bowled by a long strike by Jeremy Brockie. His effort to bounce back and finish strongly with a couple of classy saves displayed his mental toughness and his ability to put an error behind him quickly and move on.

Random Clean Sheet trivia answer
Last week’s quiz asked, “Which goalkeeper has the longest clean sheet record of all time in soccer?”
Sadly I didn’t get a correct response to the quiz, but for the record the longest clean sheet record in the EPL is currently held by the great Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar for a staggering 1,311 on field minutes back in season 2008-09.I will search for another goalkeeping stat to quiz my many thousands of weekly readers and twitter followers for next week’s edition. Please stay tuned.

Quote of the Week
Football is a fertility festival. Eleven sperm trying to get into the egg. I feel sorry for the goalkeeper.
Bjork (Singer – Iceland)

I’ve always liked Bjork’s offbeat music style, but never thought she had such a deep understanding of the greatest position in football.