Liverpool’s Brad Jones has been the lucky recipient of football’s equivalent of a double lightening strike. With both Pepe Reina and Alexander Doni both receiving red cards within the last week, Jones has now been pushed into the starting line-up for Saturday’s F.A. Cup semi-final against Everton.
After the trauma of losing his son to leukemia last November, if anyone is due a slice of luck, there’s no-one more deserving than Jones. But what of Liverpool’s goalkeeping resources? If lightening can strike twice in the form of two red cards, a third strike may be made even more likely due to the lack of game time Jones has had this season. You can train all you want but if you haven’t had any recent game time then your decision making and perception of the game can be totally off, resulting in the occasional rush of blood to the head. Doni’s sending off is the perfect example of this.
If that was to happen again, could Liverpool rely on a young, inexperienced keeper to take them into the final? Bring in the Merseyside derby factor and not only does Kenny Dalglish have to decide if Danny Ward or Jamie Stephens are good enough to step in if needed, he’d have to decide if they were capable of handling it mentally, too. There’s no point having all the talent in the world if you become overwhelmed by the occasion and if there’s one position this is crucial, it’s between the sticks.
If Dalglish wants to make sure he has all his bases covered goalkeeper wise, surely he has to smash open the ”In case of emergency” glass box and apply to bring in an experienced keeper to fill the gap. An appeal to the F.A. for special dispensation to bring in another goalkeeper can be made, although there’s no guarantee it will be met with approval. That said, after their disappointing league performances, it must be worth a try given that a successful season for Liverpool hinges on this one game.
Jens Lehmann came back with some success and helped Arsene Wenger in his hour of need, Andy Goram pulled on his old knee supports and answered the call from Sir Alex in 2001 to play two games for Manchester United and John Burridge made a name for himself towards the end of his career as the prototype emergency option and that’s exactly what King Kenny requires.
if you haven’t had any recent game time then your decision making and perception of the game can be totally off
Luckily, it's a position that has a major plus over all the others. Goalkeepers are different to outfield players in as much as general fitness isn’t an issue. A goalkeeper who keeps himself in reasonably trim condition can more easily slot into a game rather than a central midfielder who would be found wanting in the second half of a game as his lack of stamina started show.
So who are the candidates he could choose from? Unfortunately, due to a fractured ulna I’ve had to rule myself out of the running but here’s five who could help Liverpool out.
1: David James - Bristol City
It’s the first name that springs to mind. Having lost his place to Andy Gerkin at Bristol City, James’ is now twiddling his experienced thumbs down at Ashton Gate. He’s done his time in front of the Kop and played at Wembley for Liverpool so he’d be perfect. Well, he would’ve been perfect if he hadn’t been cup-tied
2: Steve Harper - Newcastle
Having waited in the wings for his chance to topple Shay Given as Newcastle’s number one, Harper has again found himself not only in the shadows of the substitutes bench but in the complete darkness of being left out of the match day squad all together. After a Championship winning string of performances two years ago, Harper has been overtaken by the outstanding form of Tim Krul, which eventually forced him to take a loan deal at Brighton earlier this season. There’s no problem with being cup-tied either and he might even be worth a place in the starting line-up too.
3: Manuel Almunia
Whatever you think of Almunia, he has the big match experience to handle the big games. He may have seemed erratic at times but for this situation he could prove a canny, albeit temporary acquisition. Possibly the weakest and least reliable on this list but has appeared at Wembley before.
4: Craig Gordon
Looking increasingly likely to become an end of season casualty due to his high wages, Craig Gordon might just prove to be a more longer term answer to filling out Liverpool’s strength in depth. It was always going to be difficult for him to live up to the ridiculously over-inflated fee of £9 million but injuries haven’t helped his cause either. It might not be the best career move to swap the Stadium of Light bench for that of Anfield’s but if it’s not Liverpool, somebody else will definitely get themselves a bargain this summer.
5: Jerzy Dudek
This one’s the left field option. After becoming the penalty saving hero of Istanbul, Dudek’s life became one of serene siestas with the occasional appearance for Real Madrid thrown in. He may have retired at the end of last season but as long as he hasn’t put away too much paella while he was in Spain, an encore from Jerzy may be the short term solution to ease Liverpool’s red card crisis.
Who do you think Liverpool need to call, or will Brad Jones relish the occasion? I hear Neville Southall’s available for £90 an hour these days.
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