Journalism student Billy Hawkins casts an eye over the goalkeeping situation at Vicarage Road
For all the talk apropos the England goalkeeping crisis, it has come to light in recent weeks that there is one much closer to home.
Manuel Almunia – for all his experience, knowledge, and proven quality – is still culpable for an above average number of goalkeeping mistakes; whether that is clearing the ball into Chris Wood’s physique to offer Leicester the lead, or dropping a routine catch through his own legs for Jermaine Beckford to tap into an open goal.
On a weekend with top level goalkeepers making the headlines – here`s looking at you, Artur Boruc – what better way to question the foundation of the flailing Watford team than through Almunia?
Through his Arsenal days – as with many north London based ‘keepers – Almunia had previous. There is no doubting his ability as a Premier League level goalkeeper – his double penalty save in the Play-Off semi-final was remarkable – and Watford are extremely lucky to have him on their team sheet; especially knowing that he was wanted by Valencia over the summer.
Yet, while questions remain over his liabilities, questions will always remain for Zola. How long should you persist with a player who is single handedly costing you games? Zola has shown his extreme faith in out of form players – in the continuing appearance of Troy Deeney – and the ‘illness’ suffered by Almunia during the interval of the Bolton game could be a blessing in disguise.
Whether he truly was ill or injured – he did suffer a worrisome knock in the game – the decision to substitute newly Under-21 capped Jonathan Bond in his place should be seen as a logical move from Zola.
Bond has only ever impressed in his appearances for the club – his athleticism and shot stopping ability outmatch Almunia – and people have been calling for a more equal share of games between the two ‘keepers.
It seems wise to bed in a young goalkeeper, as you do an outfield player, with a gradually increasing number of appearances until they are ready to step up full time. Unfortunately – as only one goalkeeper can play – they are far more likely to move from youth ‘keeper to first team ‘keeper without any prior experience; and this pressure can mentally effect the player.
Scott Loach – still an impressive goalkeeper for the Championship – was permanently ridiculed by sections of the Watford faithful as a 20 year old in a team known for conceding more than an average number of goals; he did incredibly well to last as long as he did before needing a fresh start.
And there is no need to go into detail surrounding Jack Bonham, whose Watford career ended the day it started.
The rambling does have a point, and it is a wish to see more of Jonathan Bond as a starter.
On current form, as Watford struggle from game to game, why not try someone new; the youthful energy – albeit from a goalkeeper – might rejuvenate the team into their winning selves.
But don’t expect a quick fix. The abuse caused by the short sighted fan might just take another Watford starlet off his upwards career path and onto a life of self-deprecation and loathing in the lower end of the Football League.
Agree with Billy, disagree? Let us know your thoughts on the Hornets’ goalkeeping situation by commenting below.