Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 6 October 2008

Let's all have a go at the 'keeper...

I realise I might be a lone voice in the wilderness here, but I'd just like to stick up for Robert Green if I may.

In the light of West Ham's 3-1 thumping at the hands of Bolton yesterday afternoon, I could easily jump on the bandwagon and take issue with the part he played in conceding all three goals. God knows everyone else has been over the last 24 hours or so, but I'm inclined to take a different view.

To begin with, I'm not defending Green just because I support West Ham. Far from it - The Hammers played pretty poorly yesterday and probably deserved to be punished accordingly. My main bone of contention is with the criticism he received from the Sky Sports commentary team covering the match and everyone else that followed suit thereafter.

So let's take all three goals in sequence and see what Robert Green supposedly did wrong.

Scenario 1:
Jlloyd Samuel crosses in from the left of the field towards Bolton's Kevin Davies on the edge of the West Ham penalty area. Green comes out to catch the ball, but in doing so spills it in front of Davies who pokes it into the vacant West Ham goal.

In Green's defence it wasn't easy to hold onto the ball once caught due to Davies and Hammers defender Ilunga standing right in front of him. Anyone that can catch the ball in mid-flight and not be distracted by the prospect of falling onto or colliding with two people in your immediate proximity is probably a better man than I am. Add to that the appallingly wet conditions that may well have affected Robert Green's grip on the ball and you see that it wasn't as easy as it looked.

Scenario 2:
Gretar Steinsson volleys the ball towards the West Ham goal from 20 yards out. Green dives to save it but could only block the ball which falls into the path of Gary Cahill who finishes off the move to make it 2-0 to Bolton.

It may not have occurred to any of the pundits sharpening their knives by this stage but when the ball is hit so hard on such a wet pitch, it's actually quite difficult to hold onto (let alone block) the ball when its flight and bounce are as lightning quick. I'd challenge any keeper to hold onto a ball from a shot like that in those conditions and would happily predict the same outcome occurring accordingly.

Scenario 3:
Matthew Taylor hits a direct free-kick from 40 yards out which screams into the far corner of the West Ham net.

Not much Green could do about this at all, to say nothing of the West Ham defensive wall. When seen from behind the goal, the ball clearly swerved massively en route to its destination. Some question Green's positioning here, but given the ferocity of the shot, he'd have been hard pushed to stop it wherever he was stationed.

Taking all that into consideration, if I had to pick one of those three where Green could have done better, perhaps I'd go for the first one as fundamentally it was more preventable than the others, but this is to deviate from my point. It'd be my guess that almost all those people criticising Robert Green in the media have never pulled on a pair of goalie gloves in their lives, let alone played in that position professionally.

It's all very easy to sit back in your favourite chair, watching the action from many miles away, harping on about the poor standard of goalkeeping when you've never even tried it yourself, but believe me, it ain't easy. Not that I've ever played at professional level, I admit, but I've certainly played between the sticks often enough over the last thirty years to know it's a thankless task that requires more skill than you'll ever get credit for.

So to all the journalists out there that picked out Robert Green as an easy target, go easy on the fella. Nobody's perfect and mistakes can happen, but that aside, just stick to criticising stuff you have some experience of or temper your argument with an element of balance.

Here endeth the lesson. :)

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