Every morning the Chesterfield branch of the ‘Goalkeepers Union’ convenes and before we get down to business me, Aaron Chapman and Mark Crossley like to put the world to rights.
When we are not discussing the finer points of musical theatre or critiquing the latest Jurassic Park movie, goalkeeping is the topic of choice.
The one thing that concerns us all is the lack of English goalkeepers currently playing in the Premier League.
Here’s my take.
On Sunday Gianluigi Buffon broke Sebastiano Rossi’s Serie A record of 929 minutes without conceding a goal.
The irrepressible 38-year old has set the standard for Italian goalkeepers since bursting on to the scene as a 17-year-old, with Parma, 21 years ago.
It’s testament to the man and the professional that he has stood the test of time, but it’s also a reflection of the way in which Italians revere and cherish their goalkeepers.
It’s a stark contrast to the way in which we in this country view our goalkeepers.
Last weekend in Serie A, 12 of the 20 goalkeepers on show were Italian. In the Bundesliga, ten of the 18 were German. In the Premier League, just five out of 20 were English.
The evidence is damning and suggests that the English game has lost faith and confidence in its own goalkeepers.
The talent is there. Jack Butland has just signed a five-year deal at Stoke City and is well on his way to being one of the best in the Premier league.
Then there is Jordan Pickford of Sunderland, a young, talented goalkeeper who I believe, if he were Italian or German, would be playing regular top-level football.
The trust in English goalkeepers isn’t there.
It should be.
The one English player we do have who is, without question, ‘world class’, is a goalkeeper.
Joe Hart excels for Manchester City week-in, week-out, both in the Premier League and the Champions League. He’s a consummate professional and a winner.
He’s an example of what English goalkeepers can become if given the opportunity.
Is he celebrated as such? The answer is ‘no’.
There seems to be reluctance in this country’s press, public and system to acknowledge just how good Hart is, other than paying lip service to the fact he is ‘a decent goalkeeper’.
Ask an Italian who the best goalkeeper in the world is and you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll say “Gianluigi Buffon”.
Ask a German… “Manuel Neuer”.
A Spaniard… “Iker Casillas”.
Ask an Englishman and you’ll probably get the answer “David De Gea”.
The fact is any of the aforementioned could lay claim to the crown of ‘world’s best’, but so could Hart and that’s something we should be proud of.
Gianlugi Buffon has been put on a pedestal and has inspired a generation of goalkeepers throughout Serie A.
In Joe Hart we have the perfect opportunity to re-imagine the identity of what an English goalkeeper should be and can become.
We should put him on a pedestal, celebrate just how good he really is, let him inspire the next generation but, more importantly, restore the faith that we’ve lost in English goalkeepers.