Totally Football League Show regular Sam Parkin apparently had a better offer this week so our friend and yours, ex-goalie, broadcaster and keeper coach for Ostersunds David Preece sat in for the big man.
And with Preece in the chair, what better chance to kick off our rundown of the Championship’s best players by position than now. We asked David for his pick for the top five goalies in the second tier, and these are the five he chose. Well, actually he chose six…but who’s counting?
5) Kiko Casilla (Leeds United)
“He’s been a lot more stable than he was last year. He’s come from Real Madrid to Leeds, from a certain style of football and they’re in a promotion battle, there’s a lot of pressure on and it got too much towards the end of the season. He was responsible for a few goals, making bad decisions – it was a bad time for him. This season, there’s a calmer look about their defence and he’s making a difference, making saves and better with his feet.”
=4) Brice Samba (Nottingham Forest) and Bradley Collins (Barnsley)
“Samba was bought as a back-up keeper, and everyone expected Ari Muric [on loan from Manchester City] would be in the side. He’s not a kid, got a lot of experience from Caen. To me he looks like the prototype of a Manchester City goalkeeper, the type that’s further down the ladder in their academies: very athletic, great left-foot, his distribution has been brilliant and looks like he’s going to be an asset for Forest.
“Collins has made his mistakes, but this is his first season at this level, he’s a very young keeper having come in from Chelsea, but his numbers are up there with the rest of them – save percentage, expected save percentage – even though Barnsley aren’t doing well, when teams aren’t doing well it’s a great opportunity for keepers to impress.”
3) David Raya – (Brentford)
“I really liked him when he was at Blackburn. He suits Brentford’s style of play, and he’s developed really well. Brentford play a really good style of football – we had Brian Riemer their assistant manager come over to Ostersunds to watch training and have a look at how we did things.”
2) Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough)
“He’s a great goalkeeper even though he’s not in the side at the moment [Randolph is out with a thigh problem]. West Ham are apparently looking at to take him back. He’s got the experience, got the quality – he’s prone to the odd mistake, but aren’t we all? He’s a real, solid goalkeeper and it’s a shame he’s out of the side because Middlesbrough need his experience.”
1) Sam Johnstone (West Brom)
“Again, we talk about goalkeepers that suit styles of play – West Brom are a strong, physical side and he’s a strong, physical goalkeeper. He’s dominant and it’s so important to have a goalkeeper like him if you’re going to do anything in this division. He’s solid, reliable and that’s why for me he’s the best in the league.”
There was obviously one significant omission – or it might have been a significant omission a year or even a few months ago: Jack Butland. The Stoke stopper was in the England squad not so long ago but endured a calamitous start to the season for his club and spent a good chunk of the campaign on the bench.
“I can see him having a renaissance somewhere else – I don’t expect him to be at Stoke in January,” said David, of Butland.
“I did leave him out for a reason…there’s a lot of context to that with the team that’s in front of him, but if you’re an England goalkeeper and you’re expecting to be back in the Premier League, you have to be making the difference. Sometimes you need that change in environment to get back to where you were before, because mentally it hasn’t been great for him and you can see he’s not been the same player [as he was before].
“It doesn’t mean he’s a bad goalkeeper: he’s just a good goalkeeper having a bad time.”
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