Peter Cech once reasoned:
“Have a look at every club in the world and try to find a second-choice goalkeeper playing more than 10 league games. You’re not going to find it. If you are the young sub, you can come on 10 times for 30 seconds and you get the medal but the goalkeeper plays one game and saves the game, wins the three points and he doesn’t get the medal. I think this is not right.”
True perhaps, a ninety minute display by the man in net can be the difference between success and failure, arguably to a greater degree than any other player on the pitch. But there are those that seem to have made a career out of playing the support role. There are even some that seemingly seek out a seat on the bench forgoing regular first team football in favour of the easy life.
In spite of being some of the most physically imposing members of any professional squad, the second choice goalkeeper has the capacity to go years without being noticed. Until his teammates are posing with a trophy, then its front and centre, shin pads hastily strapped in, kit sparkling. So here's my top five Premier League number two's. A tribute to them and their agents.
5. Mike Pollitt - Wigan
Worthy of a place for the sheer ambivalence of his career. Starting out in 1990 with Manchester United, Pollitt has spent an incredible 22 years plying his trade at 17 different clubs. Finally made his way to the Premier League in 2005 after signing for Wigan, he's been getting splinters ever since, managing only 36 appearances in that time. On object lesson in not pushing your luck and keeping your head down, Pollitt is the model for any would be second stringer.
4. Pegguy Arphexad - Liverpool
The words "Match Day Squad" are amongst the sweetest in the second choice keepers vocabulary, no one more so than Frenchman Pegguy Arphexad. The substitute extraordinaire managed to amass an impressive six medals all as an unused sub, and became particularly adept at featuring prominently in any celebratory press photos (Liverpool's Uefa cup triumph in 2001 is a particularly shameless display). In a sixteen year career he has managed the incredible feat of playing only 39 games. Won the league cup twice, an FA Cup, Uefa Cup, a Charity Shield and an European Super Cup for good measure. His presence coincidentally coinciding with one of the most successful periods in recent history for the Reds. Unfortunately for Brendan Rodgers he retired in 2005, thoroughly well rested.
3. Massimo Taibi - Manchester United
His time at Manchester United has become something of an apocryphal tale, a warning to managers who feel the urge to give their number two a chance. However Taibi was very real and in the goalkeeping merry-go-round that took place at Old Trafford after Schmeichel’s departure. The Italian’s torrid tenure is the low point. A permanent fixture in any retrospective goalkeeper list of any kind. Except best goalkeeper. The blind Venetian, played in a 5-0 rout against Chelsea before cementing his place in Premier League folklore and on this list with an all time classic Premier League blunder against Southampton and Le God. It was his studs fault, apparently. Only managed four matches before slinking back to Italy.
2. Stuart Taylor - Arsenal
A mere 60 premier league appearances in 13 years tells you just about everything you need to know. Never managed an appearance for Manchester City in the four years he was their, playing second fiddle to Shay Given, Joe Hart and eventually Costil Pantillimon. Given a free transfer by The Citizens before being re signed on a two year contract nine days later, he was apparently the only person who knew how to get the coffee machine working. Remains the second choice at his latest Premier league club newly promoted Reading, behind world beater Adam Federichi. Does have a Premier League title, an FA Cup winners medal and Two Charity Shields to his name though. All won at Arsenal. His agent was last seen turning water into wine.
1. Steve Harper - Newcastle United
Known around the Newcastle United dressing room as "Are you still here?". Harper is Surely the watermark by which all second choice goalkeepers should be judged and proof that playing second fiddle does not necessarily entail a lack of ability. Has watched patiently whilst four different goalkeepers have been picked ahead of him by no less than eight different managers in his 19 years. Despite numerous loan moves at no point did he fancy a permanent change of scenery. Fair play, I suppose... Harper is also, rather bizarrely, a fully licensed Football Association referee and has talked of taking it up professionally when he retires. Would make a better fourth official perhaps...
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