Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 21 November 2007

Who'd be an England goalkeper?

On the eve of tonight's match between England and Croatia, it seems the main story in today's newspapers is that Scott Carson will be given a second chance to play between the sticks following his debut last Friday.

While no-one would deny the former Liverpool man a chance of glory after his poor treatment by Rafa Benitez, it seems Carson will be given the nod mainly on the basis that Paul Robinson can't be relied upon. But isn't it fair to say that most England goalkeepers have at some point been deemed untrustworthy? Does Paul Robinson have some justification in feeling a tad peeved accordingly?

We thought we'd look back down the years at England's Number 1 men to see how well their careers stand up to the ravages of time.

Paul Robinson
Caps: 36; Last match: v Estonia (June 6 2007)
The Leeds and Tottenham man came to the fore during the qualifying campaign for World Cup 2006 and made a good start, keeping numerous clean sheets right through to the finals. Unfortunately for Robinson, his confidence took a massive knock when his massive air shot failed to clear a bobbling Gary Neville back-pass in the match against Croatia in October 206 and things went rapidly downhill thereafter.

In a friendly match against Germany this August, Robinson flapped at a cross that led to Germany getting their first goal of the game and that's when the voices in Steve McClaren's head started to get noticeably louder. Likely to figure in England's future plans, but no longer the automatic first choice he once was.

David James
Appearances: 34; Last cap: v Jamaica (June 3 2006)
Possibly the archetypal accident-prone England goalkeeper of recent times, James has won back the hearts of many of his doubters with some strong performances for Portsmouth this season and last.

Unfortunately he's still prone to the occasional lapse and his performances are still capable of being as variable as his choice of hairstyle. Crosses have often been a problem area for James but he remains a good shot-stopper and on current form is worth having as a reserve option in the England squad, but perhaps no more than that.

David Seaman
Appearances: 75; Last cap: v Macedonia (October 16 2002)
Even 'Safe Hands' Seaman, once held in high esteem among almost all England fans, fell prey to Lady Luck after a career that saw him pick up the second highest number of caps to Peter Shilton. His penalty-saving heroics in Euro 96 saw our moustachioed hero quickly ride a wave of unprecedented popularity but as we're already finding out, pride often comes before a fall, and so it turned out to be…

The World Cup of 2002 saw England face Brazil in the quarter-finals in what should have been a day to remember for Seaman, but alas a long, high, curving cross-come-shot by Ronaldinho caught him napping. The ball looped perfectly over the straggling Seaman and with one shot his credibility had been erased, particularly among the British sports journalists who were only to pleased to pin the blame on any individual they could find. A sad end to the career of a much admired player.

Chris Woods
Appearances: 43; Last cap: v USA (June 9 1993)
Almost a professional understudy to Peter Shilton throughout out his England career, he finally got his chance to shine after Italia '90 when he became first choice 'keeper under Graham Taylor. An often overlooked player in England's history, Woods was highly capable in his role and prided himself on the fitness and agility he gained while at Norwich City and Rangers, amongst others.

Sadly the writing was on the wall for Woods when he was seen to be at fault for Norway's first goal in a qualifier away to Norway in June 1993 and after that he only played one more game wearing the Three Lions. He might also put the blame for his demise on the emergence of DAvid Seaman as a goalkeeping option, but that's just incidental, perhaps.

Ray Clemence
Appearances: 61; Last cap: v Luxembourg (November 16 1983)
The nearest thing you can get to an England goalkeeper that doesn't have a blemish on his record. Clemence, as you probably know, had a constant battle for that yellow jersey with Peter Shilton who was also reaching the peak of his game during the 1970's, and it was his form with Liverpool that got him so many call-ups.

Both Don Revie and Ron Greenwood made use of Clemence's services at a time when England were sadly struggling to qualify for any major tournament, but that was no fault of Clem's. With Liverpool, he got his hands on numerous pieces of silverware and it was ironically one of his Reds team-mates, Kenny Dalglish, that gave Clemence his only real moment of embarrassment when Dalglish slotted the ball through his legs in an England v Scotland match in 1977.

Fortunately for him, it didn't jeopardise his entire career and he went on to play for England for another six years afterwards. Ray Clemence was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005, the treatment for which has seen him spend time away from his current role as England's goalkeeping coach. We'd like to wish him a full and complete recovery from the condition and hope that England can earn a win tonight in his honour.

Peter Shilton
Appearances: 125; Last cap: v Italy (July 7 1990)
Dear old Peter Shilton. With 125 caps, you'd think he was second to none on the list of all time great England keepers… but it's not quite as simple as that. Shilton's career seemed to get better and worse in equal measures as the years went by. At Leicester City, he gained a reputation for making many a fine and spectacular save and before long he was getting selected for England. Sadly, just as he was getting into his stride after Gordon Banks' retirement, he made arguably his biggest faux pas of all.

During a World Cup qualifier that England had to win against Poland in 1973, Shilton allowed a relatively comfortable shot to squirm beneath him and into the net. Poland went on to win and qualify for the 1974 World Cup, leaving England - and Peter Shilton - considerably red-faced.

Though he went on to have a successful spell at Nottingham Forest during the 1980's, the end of the decade saw Shilton's responses and reflexes start to slow, and this was particularly in evidence during Euro 88 in West Germany. By the time Italia 90 arrived, Shilton's inability to dive quickly and react to dead-ball situations was all too noticeable and even in the Third-Place play-off there was still time for one last calamitous vignette where he lost control of the ball, allowing the Italians to score. A case of a great player being used well past his sell-by date, many would say.

So there you see it - anyone wanting to be an England 'keeper is almost certainly destined to a future of shame and humiliation in one form or another, and we didn't even get to Peter Bonetti. Hopefully tonight Scott Carson can do enough to prove he can buck the trend, but give it a few years and you can be sure he'll be cast on the scrapheap, just like almost all his recent predecessors.

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