On our goalkeeping options ahead of the coming season
As we approach another season I thought I`d go through our squad and have a look at the players we have to fill different positions. To start with, here`s my assessment of our goalkeeping department:
We`ve seen three big Bolton Wanderers goalkeeping names leave the club this summer, with Adam Bogdan joining Liverpool, Andy Lonergan joining Fulham and coach Lee Turner joining Charlton Athletic. In case you cared, Paddy Kenny was with us for a few months during the season as well. I think it`s fair to say that over the years, this position has probably been amongst the least of our worries- we had Jussi Jaaskelainen, one of the best goalkeepers in the country for the best part of a decade, we had Ali Al-Habsi whom we never used but sold for a healthy profit, Adam Bogdan who impressed with his reflexes and did resemble us of his Finnish mentor and Andrew Lonergan who was also among the best in the Championship last season.
With all of them now gone, let`s have a look at who we`ve got left among our ranks.
Ben Amos: Amos joined us from Manchester Unite following a successful loan spell. I like him. I think he`s a very good Championship goalkeeper and I`m happy. He`s still only 25 years old (fun fact, he`s more than half a year younger than Rob Lainton? remember him?), and as a goalkeeper has a lot of growing still to do. His distribution is much better than many of our previous goalkeepers and I think that we can be quite happy with him. I understand that he did blow a big chunk out of our tiny budget and while we shouldn`t be judging his performance relative to his value for money, I think it`s worth noting that signing Amos on a four year deal is a big investment. However, at this point I think it`s clear to say that this will probably prove to be a prudent investment and provided that he doesn`t get injured or suspended, he should play all 46 league games this season. One could argue that goalkeepers can lose form- just look at the likes of David De Gea, Simon Mignolet, Joe Hart and Iker Casillas but I think it`s worth noting that when you play for a club like Man United, Liverpool, Man City or Real Madrid there are certain expectations that have to be met, and if they`re not met just once, you`re in for criticism from all angles which can deteriorate confidence; form and confidence go hand in hand. That shouldn`t happen to Amos here.
I`ll rate him an 8/10
Ross Fitzsimons: I`ll admit to having jumped to the conclusion that Fitzsimons was a totally incompetent ‘keeper just from having seen him in goal during matchday warm-ups. I saw the ball literally run underneath him at 1 mph and it did look like he was trying. However, following some strong displays with the first team, it does look like Fitzsimons is a good Championship youth team goalkeeper. Whether that`s good enough for a Championship number 2 just yet, I`m not so sure but then again, do we want to direct our limited funds towards signing a backup goalie who may not ever feature throughout the course of the coming campaign? Not so sure about that. Some have suggested that we keep Fitzsimons on the bench and loan in an emergency goalie if needs be- i.e. if Amos gets injured but if we lose him against Derby during our opening game and all of the good prions have already been taken, do we want to be left with Paddy Kenny or Arran Lee Barratt again? I don`t think so.
Hard to judge but I`ll give him a rating of 7/10 for a U21/Reserve team ‘keeper, and a 4.5/10 for a backup Championship ‘keeper.
Names have been mentioned with regards to finding a ‘number 2` for Amos- an obvious one is Jussi Jaaskelainen but he looks set to sign for Bradford City. Lee Camp and Chris Kirkland both boast a wealth of experience at this level, but I do wonder as to whether they`d be value for money. While we don`t want Amos to be backing out of duels because he`s worried that he`ll get injured/suspended and if he is suspended we`ve got no one, I have to say once again that I don`t think we`re in a position to pay Championship/high end League 1 wages for someone who may never feature for us.
I`ve thought outside the box a little bit here, and I`d actually go to suggest that we re-sign Jay Lynch who`s now at Salford City. He won`t be much to buy, and he`ll be on very low wages but I always rated him quite highly and his release from us was a surprise. He played League 2 football (and actually did very well) for Accrington Stanley before he was dismissed in unclear circumstances. I think he`d be a reasonable option. I`ve also suggested the more experienced Paul Rachubka who`s just been released by Crewe Alexandra (yes I mentioned them again). Like Amos, he`s played in the Premier League for Manchester United; he`s also represented Blackpool in the top flight. While he`s not played an awful lot of football in recent years, I think he`d be an excellent and very inexpensive option.