It is repeatedly said that to become a goalkeeper you have to be a little bit mad, but it appears the trait modern goalkeepers must possess most is an unwavering self-belief because, from what I have seen, being a modern goalkeeper could destroy lesser characters.
It doesn’t seem to matter that a keeper can have an outstanding game but if they make one slip, one mistake, one split second of madness that costs their side they are treated like a pantomime villain. The stick that can get can be so fierce they need hides as thick as traffic wardens or call-centre sales people.
Take Scott Carson for example. He was outstanding for West Bromwich Albion on Saturday for 89.59 minutes of the game. He kept his side in the game with a string of impressive saves, marshalled his defence, dominated his six-yard box and dealt with everything Villa could throw at him – well nearly everything.
Unfortunately for Scott, who is a thoroughly decent man off the pitch, what will stick in the mind won’t be his brilliant one-handed stop to deny Steve Sidwell from close range or any of his other saves, it will be that heart-shrinking moment when Gabriel Agbonlahor’s shot not only slipped under his body but deflected in off his back.
It was the pivotal moment of the game and that moment will be added to his high-profile collection of gaffs that have wrongly tainted him as a calamity keeper.
Carson is not a bad goalkeeper, far from it. He is a very good keeper with bags of potential but also a very unlucky one.
It seems whenever he has made a mistake it has been in a high profile game or it has been crucial. He hasn’t been able to get away with anything.
Because he has been high profile for a number of years, it is easy to forget that Carson is only 23. That is young for any player in any position but in goalkeeping terms, he is still a baby. Like fine wines, keepers get better with age and Carson has a big career ahead of him if he is mentally strong enough to cope with the negative publicity.
And I think he is.
He has already taken more than his fair share of criticism but has dealt with it with resilience and maturity you wouldn’t expect from a player so young.
That is why I believe he will become England’s number one. He will follow in the footsteps of David James, another keeper who has made his fair share of mistakes but is still widely considered the best keeper in the country.
Some may argue that James is only England’s number one because the quality of his rivals is so poor and they may hark on about the golden days of Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton, but football has changed since then and life for a keeper is even more difficult.
The modern Premier League footballs remind me of the old plastic balls I used to buy for 99p from the newsagents when I was a kid. When you kick them you just don’t know where the ball will go. They have a life of their own and it must be tough for any keeper.
Yes, keepers are paid to make the big saves and not to make mistakes but sometimes it is a thankless job, as Carson has found.
You do have to be mad to be a keeper.