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Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Robert Green bears the scars of career full of trials as he focuses on saving season
Robert Green’s hands bear the scars of his goalkeeping trade, including a finger going east while the rest point north. His mettle has also been tested, following a mistake with England and the challenge of a famous rival at Queens Park Rangers, yet the 33-year-old is sanguine, keeping life and its many tribulations in perspective.\
By Henry Winter, Football Correspondent
“I was coaching some little kids yesterday and one of the first things they brought up was: ‘We YouTubed you, watching you against America,’" Green recalled of that moment when he misjudged Clint Dempsey’s shot in 2010. “Fair enough! I turn it around and say not everything in life goes according to plan – look at England since 1966.
“I pick myself up, take it in my stride because otherwise you disappear and that would be the bigger shame. If the worse that’s going to happen to me is I get little kids saying ‘you messed up in the World Cup’, then bring it on, I’ll do it again. They are brilliant life experiences.
“I know what I’ve done, how hard I’ve worked to get here, the previous achievements, the saves I’ve made. I could play 200 games again and not make a mistake like I did against America. It’s the nature of being a keeper. Look at David Seaman, who had a fantastic career. People straight away go: ‘Nayim’, ‘Ronaldinho’. As a keeper, I’ll remember that save against Paul Peschisolido for Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final [in 2003].
“The abuse I get on the pitch, the stuff written about me, doesn’t really bother me. People either rate you or don’t. That’s why it comes with the rewards and the adulation. I’ve had half a lifetime of people taking pictures of me. It’s when it affects the family is the toughest part.”
His family was besieged after the Dempsey incident. “My dad was a civil servant, my mum a driving instructor, my sister a mother of two and my brother-in-law a structural engineer. It [high-profile football] is not their walk of life. My sister had just had a kid and people [media] were climbing in her back-garden. My brother-in-law got quoted in the paper through shouting a remark through a letterbox. When it upsets them, and I’m in a training complex in another hemisphere, the feeling of powerlessness was tricky. But I never thought of coming home. No, no, no. This was the biggest point in my career.’’
Green’s not enjoyed the greatest luck with England during his 12 appearances. “I got sent off against Ukraine, I got injured [against Belarus before the 2006 finals]. When – rather than ‘if’ – I get a chance with England again I’ll be in such good stead because these things have happened. I’m stronger. You can’t throw any more at me.
“If everyone fit and playing there’s a wealth of goalkeeping talent. John Ruddy has done fantastically. Fraser [Forster] has been outstanding for Celtic. It must be so hard for him to get noticed. He has six group games and a couple of knockout games in the European Cup to get noticed all season because you’re going to stand and watch the rest of it with the team winning the league by 30 points.
“But people around Europe don’t rate English goalkeepers. Joe [Hart] has started to buck the trend but still come in for criticism, even from his own manager. Why did that happen? Jeez, the lad saved Manchester City so often in the last two seasons. If Manchester United had City’s goalkeeper last season they would have won the league by 10 points, not lost on goal difference.’’
Keepers are increasingly challenged by the movement of the modern ball. “It goes up and down, left and right,’’ said Green. “Frank Lampard is incredible. When we were away with England, Frank asked what I like and don’t like as a shot. I know next time I play Chelsea he’s going to use stuff I’ve told him! Chelsea will line up a free-kick and John Terry will be at the end of the wall, looking at me and then running straight at me to distract me. Frank will then make the ball move.
“Gareth Bale has started to do it, with that dip. They practise to hit the valve. It’s like a topspin tennis shot. Owen Hargeaves was brilliant at getting the ball up and over the wall. Loic [Remy] has got the lack of backlift so a keeper can’t get set. It’s whipping and dipping into the corner. Jermaine Jenas can do it.
“Look at Michu’s manipulation of the ball. We played Swansea first game of the season and he virtually walked on to the ball, no backlift, and whipped it in top corner, perfectly placed. Bale will probably win [PFA] Player Of The Year hands-down: outside of the boot, inside, he can manipulate the ball.” Luis Suárez? “I don’t think Suárez is going to win the black vote, that’s for sure. Suárez has been phenomenal but Bale has turned into this player like Cristiano Ronaldo did at United: he has come inside and can intimidate a whole team with the ball. He’s taking it to another level. He’s got the confidence to score from anywhere.’’ Perils for keepers also lurk when opponents come running at them.
“Any contact you risk a penalty and you’re off. When I got sent off against Ukraine, the Italians [Fabio Capello and his coaches] said: ‘Unlucky but think about it next time, 11th minute and we’d rather you conceded the goal and play from one down with 11 men.’
“Theo Walcott said to me: ‘I don’t like playing against you because you never come off your line.’ I said: ‘It’s because you’re that quick. I’m 33, you’re a whippet. It’s not a competition.’ They go at such high speeds, you get the slightest of touches and at times there’s nothing they can do [but go down].”
Simulation by some opponents has made life even more hazardous for keepers. “Of course, now more than ever. They talk about winning a penalty as an accepted thing.”
At QPR, Green has had to stay strong with Julio Cesar arriving as the season started. “A heads-up would have been nice rather than finding out on Sky News that he’s signing. They told me I could go but who needs a goalkeeper with one day to go in the transfer window? Julio is a fantastic keeper, a nice guy unfortunately, that makes it harder. I’d love to hate him but I can’t! We have two experienced keepers. Other than Spurs, who does? Manchester United have got two lads. Arsenal are paying the price now. There’s the lad Pantilimon at City.”
Green has been playing and playing well for Harry Redknapp. “He gives people belief. The number of times he’s told us in the past few months: ‘You are good players.’ You hear it enough times and you believe it.” QPR will need it today against Aston Villa in a real relegation scrap. “My brother-in-law is a QPR fan. I was born eight miles from the training ground, so I feel more of a duty to a local club. It’s getting to the point of the season where it’s s--- or bust but we are catching up.’’
Briefly, Green’s mind focused on plans for when he eventually retires in five or so years. “There’s a list: go skiing, go and watch a game of cricket in India. My mate’s out in a music festival in Texas. Although the rewards are ridiculous, after giving the first 25 years of my adult life to football I’d want to do something else for a couple of years.’’
As for now, Green keeps recovering from the knocks. Telegraph
Rangers won 2-1 with goals from Mick Leach and the never to be forgotten Keith Bradley own goal.
Rangers were in the top Division for the first time
Also on the touchline Ricky Orsmond (club mascot), Alan Wilks (sub) & Ron Woolnough (physio)
Left to Right:
Rodney Marsh, Ian Morgan, Roger Morgan, Keith Sanderson, Ron Springett, Frank Clarke, Mick Leach, Ron Hunt, Tony Hazell, Mike Keen & Alec Stock.