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Can James answer England call?

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Phil McNulty | 22:33 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

David James is hooked on television series "The Wire" - but even that particular drama might struggle to match some of the harrowing storylines Portsmouth's England goalkeeper has been forced to cope with this season.

James was in danger of being last man standing as Pompey lost a host of high-profile stars, briefly gained a new owner, then stood on the precipice after it was revealed players had not been paid.

So it was understandable that James was able to relax and finally enjoy moments of reflection in the opulent surroundings of England's Hertfordshire hideaway after life finally took a turn for the better.

Portsmouth ended a run of seven straight Premier League defeats with victory at Wolves, Saudi business tycoon Ali Al Faraj completed his takeover of the club from Sulaiman Al Fahim, those missing pay packets finally appeared and James was back with England.

If those outside Fratton Park regarded Portsmouth's problems as a little local difficulty, the next question facing this most rounded of individuals is of major national importance.

Can he solve England coach Fabio Capello's biggest problem as the countdown to the World Cup starts?

The auditions to find England's goalkeeper for South Africa start in the Ukraine on Saturday and this most crucial of roles is still up for grabs - and a major cause for concern.

James has never achieved true consistency, a failing emphasised by the statistic that his 48 England caps have been won over an international career that will have spanned more than 13 years by the time the campaign starts in June.

And are England's hopes really safe in the hands of a time-served Premier League veteran who will be within touching distance of his 40th birthday when the World Cup starts?

David James has not played for England since April's game with Ukraine David James has not played for England since April's game with Ukraine

This will only be answered once the action gets under way - but none of England's goalkeeping contenders have mounted a convincing case and there has to be a worry that Capello may be forced to bank on a keeper who has often been tried but rarely trusted.

It is a tribute to James's professionalism and enduring ability that he is still in pole position to take the England goalkeeper's jersey in South Africa, but also a stark illustration of the lack of serious alternatives available to Capello.

Sound judges such as Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who James played under at Portsmouth, still regard him as England's finest goalkeeper by some distance. And yet if he does play in South Africa, he will be accompanied by the uncertainty of many observers.

West Ham's Robert Green, like James, has been unable to offer total reliability despite his game developing at Upton Park. Gianfranco Zola rates Green highly and is no doubt quick to press his case to fellow countryman Capello.

The smart money appears to be on James getting the nod if he is fit, a selection that undoubtedly carries an element of risk but which may ultimately be the best Capello can do - not exactly the ideal circumstances in which to fill arguably the most crucial position in England's World Cup team.

James, of course, would be following in the footsteps of Italian legend Dino Zoff, who led Italy to World Cup success in Spain in 1982 at 40.

He was a boyhood hero to James, who revealed he used the money from his grass-cutting job, a task he says saw him electrocute himself on the day Spurs faced Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup Final, to buy a pair of replica Zoff gloves.

This is the same James who was labelled "a danger to his own players" by a Spanish daily newspaper during Euro 2004 and whose surname has had the tag "Calamity" attached to it on a regular basis when high-profile errors have been made.

With Manchester United's Ben Foster playing himself out of contention on a weekly basis, it now appears a straight fight between James and Green - and Capello may offer an indication of his thinking when he names his line-up in Dnepropetrovsk.

And the brutal truth is that the position that used to be regarded as England's greatest strength is now their biggest weakness as Capello plots for success in South Africa.

Capello's first-choice line-up looks set in stone in most places. The right-flank spot is still a source of competition and Joe Cole will look to enter the equation, but the goalkeeping position is wide open and none of the contenders have made a compelling case to be the undisputed first choice.

James is used to living with the doubters, but the man who is a keen artist, an illustrator of children's books and a passionate supporter of the National Literary Trust, copes with it via his own development and the help of his trusted sports psychologist Keith Power.

If his confidence has been dented by events on and off the pitch at Portsmouth it does not show, and he was even able to deliver some black humour when he said: "It's probably just as well we didn't win before we beat Wolves because we wouldn't have been able to afford the bonuses anyway."

It was a remark that reflected James' maturity and admirable ability to handle all aspects of the game, qualities that will serve him well if he is the goalkeeper England eventually turn to once the build up to South Africa is concluded.

He could get the opportunity to silence his critics once and for all on football's greatest stage - but the simple fact that doubts still hang over who will be England's goalkeeper in South Africa is confirmation that this is the biggest cloud over their World Cup ambitions.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Personally I feel David James is the keeper I have most faith in (I can't believe I'm saying this!), but Robinson is on good form too and could prove his point. Also, if Foster gets enough of a run he could rediscover his form he showed at Watford, but I do think confidence is a big issue for him and I don't see him even making the 23 man squad for the world cup, disappointingly.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree Phil. Seaman (the last great goalkeeper in my book!) was passed it years before his final England game, Foster needs time and experince, Green has arguably been given too much time. What ever happened to Kirkland and Carson?

    I'd go with David James and hope the defence holds strong and thus minimise the number of saves he has to make so it's less of an issue!

  • Comment number 3.

    I have always been a fan of Chris Kirkland, and would like to see him given some opportunities. He is big reason for Wigan's ability to hold most opponents.

  • Comment number 4.

    to be honest, i'd trust Kirkland if he wasn't so injury prone, James if he hadn't made past errors, Robinson if he wasn't so confidence based, and Green if he had played better in our last matches. in short, none of our goalies are perfect by any stretch, gonna have to go with the one you mistrust the least, rather than trust the most.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good article Phil, if a little repetitive at times.

    Are we really going to be taking 'Calamity' James to the World Cup Finals as our No.1 keeper? There is the argument that keepers can go on a lot longer than outfield players but I think it is just too risky that James will make a big mistake at some point which will end up eliminating us (think vs France Euro 2004 careering into Henry to give a penalty away)

    Remember how swiftly David Seaman was dropped after he committed a couple of howlers? You just can't afford to have a liability as your last line of defence in a big tournament im afraid, and they dont come any bigger than the WC. Foster is looking less and less like the top keeper he is supposed to be developing into so unless there is a big change in his form I would go for Rob Green. He's shown himself to be an accomplished and reliable keeper at West Ham and I think he could come into his own a the WC and help us end 44 years of hurt!

  • Comment number 6.

    England simply dont have any world-beating keepers right now. We probably haven't had one since Shilton in reality. And that was Shilton in the mid-80s.

    The Premier League has maybe 6. Cech, Given, Jaaskelainen, Van der Sar, Friedel and Reina.

  • Comment number 7.

    Kirkland could be the man to step up, injury permitting of course! Commanding presence.

    If Sir Alex drops Foster, you could see him missing out on the 2010 squad altogether.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well France won with Barthez in goal, so clearly a reliable keeper isn't essential to World Cup success. Taffarel was always a bit suspect for Brazil too, and he won one and made it to the final of another.

  • Comment number 9.

    No mention of Joe Hart? certainly better than Ben foster! Id like to see him between the sticks David has had his go and hasn't really impressed.

  • Comment number 10.

    England's Goalkeeping situation has been dire ever since Seaman played on at least 3 years after he should have been dropped, living on reputation. Martyn was a better keeper than the aging Seaman, but wasn't given a chance to grow into the role.

    I can't really understand what's happened to Paul Robinson.. the curse of Tottenham?! He seemed to loose it when he moved there.

    I bet that our opposition wouldn't mind seeing James between the sticks next summer...

  • Comment number 11.

    The thing about being a keeper is that it isn't an exact science. There is a major problem with comparing goalkeepers because we just don't know whether goals let in by some keepers would have been saved by others.

    To highlight David James mistakes is wrong. It does not make him a bad goalkeeper. Fernando Torres misses the odd chance for Liverpool but does that make him a bad striker? When a striker misses a golden chance he has cost his team a goal, just like a James has in the past with his mistakes. But Torres has scored way more than he has missed and so people forget the mistakes. James has saved goals way more than he has cost them but people don't remember this because he is a goalkeeper and Torres is a striker. Strange logic but unfortunately one that it appears here to stay.

  • Comment number 12.

    With Portsmouth being as bad as they are, he is a keeper getting a lot of practise at the moment. He can be outstanding at times and I think if he is England's keeper next year, he will prove his worth. The big stage won't phase him and for those still unconvinced of his abilities, he will have a point to prove.

  • Comment number 13.

    Paul Robinson's woes began with a totally unfortunate backpass in Zagreb which was not his fault at all. The press mauled him and his confidence suffered. Prior to that he had served England with some distinction for about 40 caps. He seems to be returning to that form again; I'd stick with him.

  • Comment number 14.

    What about Almounia? Any chance of him getting the Zola Budd treatment?

  • Comment number 15.

    Unless any of the contenders have a massive change in form between now and the World Cup, I believe that James will be the first choice for England.

    Keepers are often judged only on their goalkeeping skills, but in a situation like this where there is no significant difference between the contenders, it's everything else that makes the difference. Leadership and mentality will definitely be called into play. Off-the-ball actions such as helping to organise defenders when he is not actively involved in play are also important in a keeper. How comfortable the rest of the team is with him is also important; if a defender is not confident in his keeper, he may decide to make a rash tackle (resulting in a penalty or a sending off, for argument's sake) in order to prevent what he perceives to be a dangerous chance.

    I would think that the rest of the England squad would be most comfortable playing with James in goal, if for no other reason than that they've played with him the most. That little extra confidence boost in the players can make a big difference, and I doubt Capello would ignore that (again, barring any dramatic changes in form for any of the keepers).

  • Comment number 16.

    The lack of concesus and contrasting opinions highlighted by the first 13 posts further illustrates this predicament. It's rather odd that no English keeper has excelled consistently this decade, forcing Capello to put his trust on one man from a very average bunch of candidates.

    Age should not be an issue and forget this nonesense of 'blooding' them. We are trying to win the world cup, not trying to gain experience for an assault next time round! If David James is the best candidate then so be it. Experience is an invaluable skill for goalkeepers and furthermore James at 39, is fitter than most keepers 10-15 years his junior.

    Anyway, there's a good chance that already are some English keepers playing in the lower leagues who may possess the skill and potential to develop into world-class players. Unfortunately, these gems are highly unlikely to be ever noticed by the right people and will disappear into history as another stastic, another professional footballer.

  • Comment number 17.

    IMO James has got to be no.1 for England in the world cup! he is a great shot stopper and is not as bad for mistakes as many people say. Foster hasn't covered himself in glory, Green has been good but not as good as James. I agree with people saying Kirkland for the squad but not for the starting 11

  • Comment number 18.

    The future lies in Joe Hart, he just needs some experience. Give it to him in these spare qualifiers.

  • Comment number 19.

    The fact is James has always been an outstanding shotstopper. But Phil how many times have we seen him pull off a string of excellent saves only to do something utterly ridiculous later on. He earned the calamity nickname for a reason.
    As good a goalkeeper he is, I would never bet against him making at least one notable mistake every game. Many he gets away with and so aren't picked up on. But even when he was superb a few seasons ago, he was still making silly errors. You can't have that in a WC.
    As someone before mentioned, Robinson was really consistent and a great keeper for England until 'that backpass'. He seems to have regained his confidence. For me it should be between him, Green, Hart, and Foster (if he gets past his poor run currently).

  • Comment number 20.

    I have seen Chris Kirklands name mentioned a couple of times. That has got to be a huge joke...he is an appalling keeper.
    Unfortunately we dont have an obvious choice, but I think it might be better to rule out the worst keepers, and whoever is left is the best guy. David James will end up being that man.
    Robinson is not a man to play under pressure. Carson simply never amounted to anything. The kid at united has been hopeless, despite playing behind one of the top defences. Green has had his moments but has no presence.
    So James it is.
    Perhaps the only other choice would be a reall close look at some of the keepers in the lower divisions, see if there is anybody who has slipped under the Premiership radar. So many prem teams automatically default to foreign keepers, its possible a good keeper has been missed.

  • Comment number 21.

    Post 19 should have stopped after one sentence. James is an exceptional shot stopper. But to say he'll make one mistake a game is a bit tough, unless you count a slightly mis-hit clearence as an error. He's human so there is always the chance of a mistake but these days he makes less major errors than any of his competitors for the the England number 1 shirt. Indeed, post 11 has made a good point that as a goal keeper errors tend to get exaggerated and I think that this is the case with his 'calamity' nick-name which, let's not forget, was gained back during his liverpool stint some 10 years ago. He is a much more consistent keeper these days. Essentially, i'd agree with the sentiment of post 15. If you asked England's starting back 4 (Cole, Ferdinand, Terry and Johnson) who'd they prefer between the sticks behind them I think they'd all say James which is why Capello will have him in his starting line-up in S.Africa (injury not withstanding).

  • Comment number 22.

    Steve Harper need i say more

  • Comment number 23.

    Yep, Joe Hart to be the next England no. 1. He is a reliable shot stopper, and he's pretty good coming out for the balls floated in. A bit more international experience perhaps? Definitely one for the future.

  • Comment number 24.

    Goalkeepers are like drummers; you rarely notice them until they make a mistake. To be fair to the current crop, I remember Shilton and Clemence making some real howlers on a regular basis when playing for Leicester and Liverpool. And how about Clemence at Wembley vs Scotland? Or Shilton at Italia 90? The truth is the fans and press weren't as rabid then as they are today. James can do a job, although all the negativity and chopping and changing doesn't help confidence, and confidence is key to a Keepers performance. Clemence was often forgiven and mistakes forgotten because Liverpool still invariably won the title. I wonder if the same charity will be afforded to Foster? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree with jakethebug! Steve Harper has to be considered, remarkably similar to Given in talent/ability.

    Is there are requirement that a keeper must be selected from the premier league? Because Harper is better and more consistent goalkeeper than any of the players in the mix so far.

    Although in the end the Socceroos are going to beat you Poms anyway ;)

  • Comment number 26.

    Someone drew the analogy of strikers to goalkeepers and made the statement that it seems like the basis for evaluation is unfair.
    Unfortunately it is unfair. Whereas a striker can miss a shot, he has failed to win the game.
    If a goalkeeper makes a mistake and concedes the goal, he could have effectively lost the game.

    It follows that there are many opportunities to win the game and only one needs to be successful - for the striker to earn his pay. Conversely, The goalkeeper only needs one opportunity to loose the game and it will be remembered forever.

    Coming back to the question, Im glad that I dont have to make the decision, because when compared to Reina or Chec, Most that are in contention for the England job simply dont compare.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think the comments to consider goalkeepers playing in the Championship are quite fair. There isn't to much difference in selecting players from the bottom of the Premier League (Wigan, Portsmouth, West Ham) or the top of the Championship.

  • Comment number 28.

    No, no, no

    I'm sorry but James will be a liability. Hes a good keeper, no worries about that but hes not nicknamed "Calamity James" for nothing. he has a history of blunders and I fear that he'll make a huge one that causes us to be knocked out.

    Once he gets back to fitness and form, England should have as No. 1 Manuel Almunia.

  • Comment number 29.

    Can dive.

    Can punch.

    Can work connivingly with his defence, allowing them to clear.

    Stick Gerrard between the sticks.

  • Comment number 30.

    Robinson lost it at Spurs (post 10)? Er, no! He got to be England's regular No. 1 whilst at Spurs. As has been said elsewhere here, he lost it after a Neville back pass and the subsequent press slaughter. Up until then the press were commenting upon him being one of England's essentials.

  • Comment number 31.

    Almunia? Very average. Most of his saves are for the cameras.

    I'm sure the reason Kirkland doesn't play for England is the same reason as Ledley King - fitness issues.

    Good case for Steve Harper but he has done himself no favours by being understudy to Given for so long at Newcastle. I'm all for loyalty but he could have made a name for himself at almost any other Premier league club. He is 35 now with no England experience so that basically rules him out. My 3 keepers going to South Africa, in order of preference, would be 1. James 2. Robinson 3. Green

  • Comment number 32.

    You can generally tell if a keeper is not world class when all people can say about them is 'great shot stopper.' All of the candidates for the England side are great shot stoppers but in a way this is the easiest part of their game.

    The great keepers have a mental approach and an authority that means they 'own' their penalty area and they 'own' their defenders. James makes me nervous primarily because of his mental approach to games. That is not to say that he isn't confident or that he doesn't put the work in, but more that if there is any dent to his confidence or any hiccup in his preparation, it seems to affect him far more significantly than it should.

    Having said that, I think he is the leading candidate with Green pushing him hard. Hopefully we'll have a better idea after Christmas. Any later than that will be too late I think.

    Just a thought: I don't think its the way Capello would do things, but what do people think about consulting Terry and Ferdinand over this? Assuming they're fit, they'll be the first choice pairing at centre back and their relationship with the keeper is absolutely crucial. I wonder if they get sounded out. Imagine that Capello is a bit more of a dictator than that though (and I'm not saying that's a bad thing!)

  • Comment number 33.

    Also think that the comments made about Robinson's unfair mauling in the press after the Neville backpass are quite correct. He does need to be made of sterner stuff but if he hadn't been torn apart by virtually everybody for a hugely unlucky incident that wasn't his fault, then I think he could well have been our #1 for the past few years. Would have been a much more comforting position to be in.

  • Comment number 34.

    If none of the keepers are good enough the maybe England could go the ice hockey route and forego the keeper and play an extra outfield players.seriously though with the two top keepers playing for teams in the relegation zone and with Foster trying his best to wrest the calamity tag from James this issue shouldn't cloud the fact that the qualifiers went on without too much of a hitch between the sticks.Whoever gets picked will do a good job James>Green>Hart should be the keepers picked for the World Cup!

  • Comment number 35.

    22. At 04:39am on 08 Oct 2009, jakethebug wrote:

    Steve Harper need i say more

    I couldn't argue with this. He is as good as Given.

  • Comment number 36.

    At the moment we have nobody capable of taking the lead as last defence, as everyone is saying James, Green, Robinson etc are all great shot stoppers but prone to simple errors.
    Which one of them would bark at Terry to leave the ball?... answer none attackers are going to play on that weakness and exploit us.
    We get too hung up on the premiership keepers being the best lets look further down the line, Steve Harper would be a great keeper but he has been in the shadows for too long and has no international experience.
    It all goes down to one of 2 things experience or shot stopping and unfortunatley there are only 2 who have WC experience of this, lets forget the past and go with an open No.1 shirt for the rest of the qualifiers between James and Robinson. Green, Hart, Foster and Carson are the future lets not open them to media criticism due to poor management decisions like James and Robinson have had in the past and nurture them to be the last defence in the future.

  • Comment number 37.

    Blah blah blah!! We've scored 31 goals in 8 qualifiers, who cares who plays in net!? It's the World Cup and we have a real chance of doing well yet people are already worrying which goal keeper will make the mistake that costs us the tournament. We have a wealth of scoring talent and some pretty solid keepers to pick from.

    My biggest concern is which outfield player bottles it in the all decisive penalty shoot out in the quarters......

  • Comment number 38.

    On their day we have 4 top keepers. Unfortunately, like everyone they're prone to a few errors. Even Casillas and Buffon have made high profile blunders but do they get slated every week? No, so let's start backing our guys.

    James and Robinson have the experience so would be 2 of my 3 and then it's a toss up between Green and Hart. Probably plump for Green at the mo as he's been playing for England but Hart seems to have all the credentials to be our next long term no1 so I can see the benefits of picking him.

    Personally I'd like to see Robinson picked, but he's pulled out of the latest squad which may well cost him his chance to impress.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'd go for James. yes he has not always been reliable but he is a confidence booster withg his saves. You can see how much the Pompey defence appreciates it when he pulls off a cat like save and with a commanding john Terry and hopefully a fitter and better Rio ashley cole in the form of his life and Johnson hopefully improving his defensive side he will be good enough. Green is decent at best but other then that it is a problem. One side track is Capello picks players on form but he picks Wes Brown and I missing something. Don't get me wrong in Capello I trust but its a question I wouldn't mind answered.

  • Comment number 40.

    What a drama! Premier League footballers not getting paid for a week! I'm suprised the world is still turning. However did they cope.

  • Comment number 41.

    Good blog Phil, James is the only man for the job in my eyes. His age means nothing; he's not the typical chubby 40-year-old keeper, if anything he seems fitter than ever and his game just gets better with age.

    He's the main reason we kept Everton at bay for so long a couple of weeks ago and allowed us to hold onto the slimmest of leads against Wolves last time around. As you mentioned, his maturity is one of his biggest assets and could be the difference between success and familiar failure in 2010.

    Only criticism: it's Ukraine, not 'the' Ukraine. It does make a significant difference (ask a Ukranian if you don't believe me)

  • Comment number 42.

    I hope capello has watched more of David James during his Portsmouth career than anyone on this blog, including Phil McNulty.

    I'll admit when he joined Portsmouth i put my head in my hands and cried "NOOOOOOOO..." and braced myself for a string of calamitous errors which would cost my club dear. However I watch James week in week out for Portsmouth, and have to say that if people saw what the fratton faithful saw week in week out, this blog would not even exist, and there wouldn't even be a question over who Englands no.1 was going to be.

    Everyone who has doubts over the England keepership should actually watch Jamo, every game, for the rest of the season, and then write a blog apologising for questioning his position in the first place.

  • Comment number 43.

    I can't understand what happened with English goalkeepers. If you think about it, we've got Kirkland, Carson, Robinson, Green, Hart and Foster who were all, at one time or another, in blistering form.

    We have a tendency to not let a goalkeeper get a chance in the England set-up until they've lost form.

    My memories of James in England games are rash decisions (flying out of the area and missing the ball completely), flapping at the ball, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights and generally passing on a total lack of confidence to the back four, which made the situation worse.

    Maybe the other choices don't fully convince but taking a near 40 year-old with a history of making matches an uphill climb is not the way forward.

  • Comment number 44.

    In regards to Foster we surely can't be taking a goalie who isn't even a first team regular, when Van der Sar returns he'll be benched again. Think it's unfair on all week in week out goalkeepers (Green, Kirkland, Hart etc) to get undermined by a bench warmer at United. I would probably have James in goal for the WC, I think Rob Green has improved massively he was fantastic for us at Norwich (apart from the very rare howler), and has only improved at WHU, but James' experience should give him the nod. I'd take Kirkland as well he's as steady as anyone, maybe next WC for Foster and Hart.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hopefully Capello can persuade his fellow Italian Cudicini to play?

  • Comment number 46.

    It's quite nice for once to see people responding to one of Phil's blogs by not slating him and actually debating the topic in hand! ;-) ;-)

    The Goalkeeper position is something of an issue, but i'm not sure how much of an issue it actually is. At the end of the day, if our forward players actually did their job and scored some goals, then it wouldn't matter if our GK made a howler would it. Like someone said above, look how well France and Brazil did with Barthez and Taffarel. Both rubbish GK's, but the quality of both teams' front players meant they scored the goals.

    What's the point in having a world class GK who doesn't ever make any mistakes if we haven't got the forward quality or mentality to trouble the best defences? It'll end 0-0 all the time and we'd bottle it on peno's.

    Which is another thing. Bottle/mental strength. Have our players got it? Can they handle the pressure like the robotic German's or the charismatic Brazillians?

    We've got quality in almost every position now which is great. And Fabio "Grooverider" Capello is doing a great job of putting the pieces together. But, i think our weakest area is actually going forward. Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, they're all world class players. But if Rooney is playing badly in the WC, who are we going to go to for goals? Heskey?! I don't think so! Defoe? Not likely against the top defences. Carlton Cole? Not a chance. I personally think Michael Owen can do a job for us if he's fully fit.

    But going back to the GK position. I think it has got to go to James. He's a commanding presence between the sticks and is capable of some brilliant saves. Rob Green for the subs bench, and Joe Hart for the squad.

    Steve Harper shouldn't be anywhere near the squad. He might look good in the Championship, but that is nowhere near the quality of the WC is it! He can save shots from strikers that go 2yds inside the post, but how will he get on against the likes of Torres, Villa, Kaka, Messi, Robinho etc who all put it 2inches inside the post? It'll be a lot tougher for him!

    Kirkland has lost it completely and he looks like a clown in that baseball cap.

    Robinson is slowly regaining his form but i don't think he's ready for this WC. Maybe the next one.

    Almunia - jog on.


  • Comment number 47.

    Foster, at this moment in time, is a certain no go!! If the likes of Green or James were playing in a Man United team I'm sure they would have coped and made alot fewer mistakes than Foster has thus far this season!! The amount of saves Green has had to make so far this season, especially in comparison to the amount of mistakes he has made, is immense!! It's definitely James for the experience (depending on his performanes this season) and Green for pure shot stopping class!!

  • Comment number 48.

    James is undoubtedly the best choice out there. Hart and Green vying for back up. The issue i have is the numbver of keepers we take. Every squad going will have 3 keepers. I'd love to know how many third choice keepers have had to play a part in a World cup finals. To my mind it just does not happen. Yes you can argue that they may be injured but the evidence is that goalkeepers do not get injured. How many teams go a whole season with just one keeper. Joe Hart has been loaned out to brum for that very reason. The likelihood is that Shay Given will play all season. So why do we take 3 goalkeepers over a 6/7 game tournament. it does not make sense to me. I would take 2 and gamble. Free up the space for an extra forward. Someone who can win a game in a moment.

    I wish Given was English and talk of Foster is way off the mark.

  • Comment number 49.

    Don't agree that the GK is England's only weakspot.

    What if Rooney has a poor tournament or is injured? What if one or two of our first choice backs are injured or have a poor tournament?

    Who is there to back these people up?

    And that's not to mention an inherently weak psychology on the big stage, a rabid excitable media and a plain daft disregard of the strengths of the opposition. (I've already read some folk who reckon Brazil are not going to be any trouble!)

    GK is not our only weakness. So leave James et al alone.

  • Comment number 50.

    James is simply not a good enough keeper for England to have in goal and win something. He has made at least one big error in every single match he has played under Capello. The fact is he has never lost the "Calamity" tag because he keeps making mistakes that a top class goalkeeper shouldn't make and if we had dropped him 5 years ago then we would have keepers now with far more international experience.

    Capello had the chance to give the other keepers a chance and some experience in a number of friendlies but only now is he starting to do that and people complain that the other keepers are too inexperienced.

    Oh and as for Paul Robinson I presume he secretly wants to be a bird, after all he flaps like mad every time the ball is in the air!

  • Comment number 51.

    Without doubt James fitness is not a factor. He has proved beyond doubt he is as agile a keeper as there is in the Premiership. Out of all the other contenders only the all of a suuden maligned Foster is likely to be going into the finals with any of the confidence brought about by a successful league campaign (unless you bring Carson into the equation and I don't honestly belive Capello will take a player from the Championship as his No1). Robinson, Kirkland, Green, Hart and James will all be coming off the back of a relegation scrap and as stated by many of you, confidence is a key factor in Goalkeeping.

  • Comment number 52.

    I don't see James as England keeper and never have done but then James is simply the best of a bad bunch of English keepers so I don't see an alternative.

  • Comment number 53.

    I disagree snowJacuzzi007...

    Harper was outstanding last season in the premier league when Shay Given left for Man City, showing just why he should have been given a shot at England's first choice a long time ago. I understand that he hasn't had any international experience, but surely you lot should be trying all possible options in upcoming friendlies etc. None of your goalkeepers are world class, Robinson and James are unreliable at best. As a possible opponent in the WC, I would be more worried about having to get the ball past Harper than any of the rest. :)

  • Comment number 54.

    James should probably edge it due to his experience, with Green as deputy. Hart is very promising, and should be at a bigger club than Birmingham (albeit on loan from Man City).

    One point I have not seen raised by any experts (so I shall make it now) is that Green seems to be a very good penalty saver. I think it was two seasons ago than he made about 4 out of 5 penalty saves. For obvious reasons, this could be invaluable for us in a World Cup.

  • Comment number 55.

    I have to say I would like to see Paul Robinson back in the sticks for England. His performances for Blackburn have been outstanding, I think james is too old, i dont think Fosters good enough, Green is good but I think Robbo is better

  • Comment number 56.

    For me its David James. His shot stopping ability is awesome. And while Portsmouth were playing well and James was in the England squad i don't remember anyone complaining, but now Portsmouth are not doing so well - people are slamming him as an England choice?

    I think James and Green will be the first choices with Hart behind them at the WC finals.

  • Comment number 57.

    Rob Green is number 1 all day. He's the most improved keeper in the league and can only keep on improving by next summer! James is a realistic second choice, but by then he could be a Championship keeper, and do England really want a Championship keeper as number 1?

    As for Foster he's a good keeper, but in my opinion, you must be a club's first choice before you become your country's first choice. A transfer is required!

  • Comment number 58.

    Hi Phil,

    I believe that in current form David James is the best English keeper around. The truth that he is getting on now, should not discard the fact that he has been the most consistent English goalkeeper in the last couple of years.
    In the long run I think that Robinson will get the jersey back. Technicaly, he has all the attributes to succeed James, and will also be much tougher mentally, after the mauling he had after the Croatia debacle, and his subsequent fall.
    But ultimately, it all depends on Capello and what he demands of a goalkeeper. The modern goalkeepers should be able to start counter attacks, as well as being good between the sticks. I think two of the best in that business are Given and Reina. I am affraid that none of the English keepers have that ability, which is something that Capello would look to work on.
    Finally, I don't think that England will win/lose the World Cup because of a goalkeeping error, it will depend on the tactical and motivational ability of Capello.
    Squad wise my money is still on Spain.

  • Comment number 59.

    James is definitely the man for the job.

    He is probably the best shot-stopper in the Premiership.

    He commands his area.

    These so-called errors he makes are not as frequent as people believe, and are highlighted and replayed only when it is him making them.

    Watch any goalkeeper with similar scrutiny and you could justifably prefix their name with "Calamity".

    And that include the so-called superior foreign goalkeepers.

  • Comment number 60.

    The reason this debate exists, is a truly great goalkeeper is truly dominant in all facets of the position. We used to have plethora of keepers in this category but the numbers are slowly dwindling.

    We have a whole host of names in the bag who are great shot stoppers, you can put that tag to James, Green, Robinson, Foster, Kirkland, Hart etc. which keeper isn't a great shot stopper.

    The problem we have is that we have a number of goalkeepers who are gaff prone, reliability is a major factor for a goalkeeper, if you compare to an outfield player, a misplaced pass or mistimed run can often spell disaster, and as the last line of defence it is very markedly highlighted. You can't run the risk of a gaff prone keeper and Foster and James (you don't earn the moniker Calamity for no reason) fall into this category.

    However i feel the biggest problem is, the most important asset a keeper should have is complete dominance and confidence, we have been privileged to see some great goalkeepers in our time, who if they come off the line, take out everything and anyone in their path. The likes of Cech, Lehmann and of course Schmichael dominated the zone around the 6 yard box, anything in the air was theirs, and if you wanted to stop them the only way was a foul, and of course keepers are very protected. Not a single English goalkeeper in the premiership currently has this air of dominance about them, that is our problem!

  • Comment number 61.

    Good article Phil.
    It is sadly a choice between David James whose inconsistent perfomance is the only constant aspect of his work, and a long line of keepers whose names inspire even less confidence. James' Long career notwithstanding, he does does not inspire much confidence. The only saving grace is that there is a solid defense guarding him, and with such a line-up, he may be a little shielded than most.
    I had pegged Ben Foster to replace him, but he has been too disappointing. With VDS returning to Man U, I do not see him getting more chances to improve. SAF should probably loan him off for him to get that exposure and experience that comes from facing opponents bend on destruction and a leaking defense! That could strengthen his nerves and maybe uplift his confidence when he can make 15-20 saves in a match!

  • Comment number 62.

    Kirkland I do feel has the most natural goalkeeping talent but can never string a long run of games to get form together in. Foster's high profile errors are a result of playing for Manchester United, not just being a goalkeeper. James has a clanger in him in every single 90 minutes, usually missing or misjudging a cross or racing after a ball miles out of his jurisdiction as a keeper. Carson can't be considered as playing in Championship. Robinson might play his way into the spot over the season at Blackburn, I hope he does.

    I still think realistically Green is the current number 1. I'd like to see him, Robinson and Kirkland go to South Africa, though I fear James is always going to be involved in this upcoming tournament.

  • Comment number 63.

    Please change the link from "National Literary Trust" to "National Literacy Trust". Given that it is such a worthy cause (I'm well impressed that David James has supported it), it's important that you get the name right!

  • Comment number 64.

    Again, I repeat what a number of people have been saying on here...

    Steve Harper...

    Newcastle have never been strong defensively, but they now have the best defensive record in the league. A lot of the credit for that must go to Steve Harper. He's at least worth a look.

  • Comment number 65.

    Kirkland would probably be making England squads ahead of Robinson if he'd had more call-ups before now. Foster looks poor (i've never been a fan) and Kirkland would be ahead of him, but his lack of international experience will go against him in the picking of all future squads.

    James to go to SA next year but not as the Number 1. Green deserves the chance, and the fact that England could well be playing Upson will strengthen his case. Green is the right age, makes about the same amount of errors as James (less in big games, perhaps?), but will be more agile than a 39 year-old (remember how old men Shilton and Seaman got caught out late in their international careers?).

    Green will also be more hungry for success and has a better focus than the more posey/dippy James. The third keeper spot is always a waste of a squad place, but i suppose you'd take Hart along, as i feel he will be England's number 1 in 2-3 years time, and then for a considerable time (barring injury).

  • Comment number 66.

    Same old, same old, and really it's just part of the cause. We are looking for some kind of saviour that we can put between the sticks, and it's not going to happen. We have the talent, keepers like Hart, Foster, Green etc, they are perfectly good enough to represent England against international opposition, just as they represent their clubs in, arguably, the best league in the world.

    Great goalkeepers are made, by their successes and more importantly, by their failures. We aren’t allowing our goalkeepers to have the failures and therefore are preventing the successes. Ben Foster, talented keeper, but the spotlight that he plays under is creating mistakes. Ferguson knows it, hence he has repeated he has faith in Foster, and so should we.

    Just look at Iker Casillas, he made plenty of mistakes in his youth, look at him now. All of the big keepers have done it, they have all made mistakes, and they have learnt and become successes. Let’s give our keeper, and indeed all of our players, the chance to do so.

  • Comment number 67.

    As usual when a negative blog about England is written nobody is ever comparing our situation to other countries.

    David James may not be the worlds best keeper but I would still say that next summer they'll be only Spain, Italy, Brazil, and, if they qualify, Ireland and Russia with a better keeper between the sticks. France, Holland, Argentina and Germany will all have worse keepers playing for them also worse defences playing in front of them than Englands. I don't think the situation is that bad when you compare it to other countries woes.

  • Comment number 68.

    Age is indeed an important factor for goal keepers. With age comes experience and confidence. A fair mix of young and experienced members is vital in every major campaign. James looks a good bet for the forthcoming Expedition to South Africa. The net minder needs to be told well in advance of his utmost importance to the team's cause. Let's wish the young man fitness and form.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 69.

    "...a task he says saw him electrocute himself on the day Spurs faced Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup Final..."

    James may well have been 'electrified', but certainly not 'electrocuted' :)

  • Comment number 70.

    What has Green done not to be number one. JAmes is a joke, every game he makes at least one disastrous decision and, whilst not always costly, against strikers Like Villa and Fabiano, they will be punished.
    Watch Portsmouth games and you will see, whilst undoubtly a great shot stopper, he is poor in all other categories. He dosnt command his box, make defenders feel assured or claim balls with conviction.
    The fight for the jersey should be directly between Robinson and Green.
    The rest of the team, personally I would have J.Cole on the bench, start Lennon wide right and Gerrard wide left.

  • Comment number 71.

    what exactly has bob green done wrong in an england jersey? absolutely zilch. why are you trying to champion james for the england place, it is this kind of media pressure that will eventually lead to influencing the manager to wonder whether he has made the wrong choice in selecting green. whether the whole nation can see something he cannot, afterall you are our spokespersons. I hate this, James had his chance at Euro 2004 and blew it. He made a reckless challenge which led to an easily avoidable penalty vs France after an horrendous back pass by Gerrard. He never got close to either penalty, nor free-kick in the same game. Something that we cannot totally blame him for due to the sheer brilliance of the man administering them blows. However, he has never even looked like being a decent penalty stopper, his record must be amongst the poorest out there, and England have bowed out at 4 of their last 6 tournaments through penalties.

    Until Bob makes some bad errors, stick with him, let him generate the experience going into the tournament, and he may just flourish when he gets there, just as seaman did in '96. James had his chance, he failed.

    You draw comparisons with Zoff, maybe draw them a bit closer to home, ie the 40 year old Shilton in 1990 who performed well but whose 40 year old legs could not spring an extra inch to tip over a Brehme deflected free kick, and who guessed correctly for most penalties in the subsequent shoot-out but did not have the agility to keep them out.

  • Comment number 72.

    going on championship keepers i'd have to say stephan bywater.

  • Comment number 73.

    Green, Robinson, James in that order.

    I'm a Blackburn fan and think Robinson has been in fine form this season. Yes he shipped six goals at the weekend, but that wasn't Robinson fault. He had to endure an afternoon of having two full backs at centre back against a very fluent Arsenal team. Believe you me, they would have scored ten if it wasn't for Robinson! Getting back to the form that made him Number 1.

    Having said that, Capello has given the shirt to Green for the last handful of games and i don't remember him doing anything wrong to suggest it should be taken off him. So in my opinion he should be kept as number 1.

    All English goalkeeper will probably be near the bottom half of the table this season, but i can see Portsmouth struggling in particular. Would it be wise to take a keeper (who may even get relegated) on low confidence to a big tournement as your number 1? Not for me, 3rd choice at best.

  • Comment number 74.

    After watching the way he bottled out of a challenge with Louis Saha recnetly then I would not be comfortable with him in goal in a world cup tournament. He has always been a liability for club and country. Trouble is the replacements are not much better. Oh for the days when shilton competed with clemence for No.1

  • Comment number 75.

    Paul Robinson must be in with a shout. been playing really well for Blackburn. Joe Hart is a very good keeper, but meybe too young for the responsibility of being GK in a world cup. Chris Kirkland if he could stay fit would be right up there too. If Foster rediscovers some form then he should be a shoe in really, but at the minute, no way. Please please please lets not have James and Green as our 1st and 2nd choice though. James has rushes of blood to the head and Green has an unerring talent of finding opposition players in front of goal, with saves that should be simply pushed to the side away from danger.
    It doesnt look good does it!

  • Comment number 76.

    yea i was suprised too that robinson wasn't mentioned at all.

    never ever mention carson in conjunction with the england squad ever again 'luke'

  • Comment number 77.

    Green too often spills the ball into the six-yard box, leaving easy tap-ins for strikers. James is inconsistent, but can probably be relied upon to give the performence of his international career next year if needed, due to age and experience, and it being definitively his last chance.

    Don't think it matters unless the team improves as a whole. Holland and Spain games showed that it isn't a single position needing to be improved, but the whole team.

  • Comment number 78.

    13. At 11:32pm on 07 Oct 2009, Villa_90 wrote:
    Paul Robinson's woes began with a totally unfortunate backpass in Zagreb which was not his fault at all. The press mauled him and his confidence suffered. Prior to that he had served England with some distinction for about 40 caps. He seems to be returning to that form again; I'd stick with him.

    As a Spurs fan, I agree with this. I think after the press got on his back and destroyed his confidence, Robinson's confidence went and he needed a move. Seemed to do fairly well last season and has done better this season and deserves a recall. shame he has gotten injured and pulled out of the squad this week.

    Of the other keepers, it's got to be Rob Green, playing well for West Ham, the man in possession and done nothing wrong and also a good record of saving penalties.

    Of all the keepers I can't believe anyone sane would pick Ben Foster to go to the world cup. Has the guy played 20 games for Man U yet?? What has he done to deserve a call up apart from sit on the bench? Even now in his first run of games for Man U he's making big mistakes, yet still people put his name forward!

  • Comment number 79.

    If we get into a penalty shootout at any stage, there is only one man for the job.....Rob Green.

  • Comment number 80.

    maybe give jimmy walker a go

  • Comment number 81.

    Robinson before Calamity James for me anyday.

  • Comment number 82.

    Several people have commented on Kirklands injury record but his appearance record in recent seasons isn't bad. This season he's missed 1 of 8 league games, last season it was 6 of 38, before that it was 1 of 38. I have no idea if all the games he missed were due to injury.

    I had heard that he'd told England (McLaren?) that he didn't want to be picked until he felt his injury problems were behind him. Its probably nonsense but if it wasn't you'd hope he'd be happy for a call up now.

    Another comment I read is that its good that some of our keepers will be kept busy by being in struggling teams. I'd disagree with that. For England its not uncommon for our keepers to be largely spectators only called upon occasionally. That calls for a keeper with high concentration levels... which isn't David James.

    Having said that I don't have the answer either. I really don't think there is an obvious choice.

  • Comment number 83.

    DJ is only one can do the job for England, all others are experiments and you dont need to do that in the WC. Right?

  • Comment number 84.

    As others have posted.......James will get a regular opportunity to shine by playing for a struggling side. BUT so will all the other keepers vying for the No1 shirt bar Foster.
    At International level it seems to be more about a 'keepers level of concentration.
    This is where James has struggled before as have other keepers such Carson. Foster has shown that despite been a good keeper his decision making and concentration at Man.Utd. is still lacking.
    I think the jobs up for grabs right til the end of the season and expect it to be between Green and Robinson with James a third choice

  • Comment number 85.

    The trouble is we were spoiled with the likes of Shilton, Clemence and Parkes. In the current era people like Nigel Spink and Steve Ogrizovic would have 50 odd caps each. Great keepers who never got a look in. Capello should pick one and stick with him, chopping and changing won't help. And for the record - I don't think it should be James

  • Comment number 86.

    We should take Cudicini and Almunia.
    They are the best English keepers in the prem!

  • Comment number 87.

    James is the best of a bad bunch in my opinion. The only reason why the other contenders aren't called Robert 'calamity' Green or Ben 'calamity' Foster is that James copyrighted that name long ago. If they were all the same age I'd probably call Green, Robinson, or Foster more of a calamity than James is.

  • Comment number 88.

    arrggg so much nonsense it hurts to read it.

    "it now appears a straight fight between James and Green" So, Phil, you're immediately writing off Robinson, who has quietly been getting on with it and not been making lots of mistakes? He was the best keeper last weekend across, and I think is prime candidate.

    James maybe preferred, because he's old enough to not be the responsibility of anyone else, and people know what he's like. He's a great shotstopper, but still crazy at crosses. Green has been average at best, and done nothing to give us hope.

    Foster has all James' positives, except age. He's more agile but hasn't build up a rapport with a defence yet, and isn't the best communicator, but that will come the more he plays. He's a fabulous shot stopper. The problem is more his being so injury prone. As for him being behind a great defence at United, clearly, you haven't seen much of our defending recently... the goals are hardly the sole responsibility of the keeper, when you have backpasses the likes of which have been coming from Vidic and Rio recently. He's just lacking in confidence but is far and away the best keeper.

    For me, on current form its Robinson, and by the WC itself Foster will be the best alternative. Green isn't up to much and James is always a risk.

  • Comment number 89.

    David James is still the best we have at present. Chris Kirkland would be my second choice if he stays fit.
    Being a Pompey fan I see David James play on a regular basis and although he can be, lets say -a little eccentric, he is tall, strong and very fit.
    Dino Zoff represented his country at 40 -Capello may even have played in the same side, so I see no reason why DJ can't do the same.

  • Comment number 90.

    I think the England GK spot is far from a done deal and some good form from 1 GK could tip the balance. I am concerned about James' tendency to make errors but based on current form he would make the top 3. I'd probably opt for Robinson and Green in the squad as well if fit and keeping up current form. I'd expect Capello to pick James tbh, just because he's done ok in the qualifiers and he'll want a settled side as much as possible.

    For me Carson is a no-go because he just lacks any consistency and makes as many gaffes as anyone. Almunia is Spanish so lets forget about him and Foster isn't playing at the top of his game currently, and with VDS coming back soon things seemingly won't get much better for him. Hart for me is the future first choice but perhaps is lacking the experience for now, maybe he could go as 3rd choice for the experience of a WC. Capello hasn't really called him up much though.

    Harper is a good GK and very underrated, but I feel it's just a bit too late for him now. A shame really. Kirkland seems to struggle with injuries so tbh I can't see him in SA. Interesting point raised about Green's PK saving skills, could be a great asset to us seeing as we always seem to go to a shoot-out.

  • Comment number 91.

    there is a reason why James was "last man standing" at Portsmouth.............the England keeper, and no one made a move for him! Think about it.

    This is the same David James who at the age of 35, still said that being England keeper he was on a learning curve. Say no more.

  • Comment number 92.

    Form wise Green - best of an average bunch though Robinson is still the most talented and confidence is returning and has served England well in the past. Someone justifiably mentioned good at stopping penalties as well..
    James is (for a footballer) media savvy and not unintelligent which is refreshing. However on a football level he has no current claim to this spot - he had numerous chances and rarely shined and never inspired confidence.
    To the person who mentioned Taffarel or Bartez - both these (94 & 98) would walk into the current England team though neither were .
    To the person who mentioned James foul v France in 2004 - to be fair he had no chance once StevieMe had played it into path of Henry (at the time probably best player in the world). Please stick to the facts - that was Gerrard fault he should have booted it out of play.

  • Comment number 93.

    Why does a goalkeepers mind turn to jelly when they leave their penalty area? That is how David James got the calamity nickname, because excursions out of the area led to goals. Ben Foster did the same in the Manchester derby, dithered, and City scored. I think David James has largely cut it out now, and looks a very good keeper because of it. Good shot stopper, big, commands his area. He should be our number 1.

    If I was a manager I would tell any goalkeeper that if they leave the area to play the ball with their feet, try and hit the opposition corner flags. Do nothing else. Make it a rule. Then no more calamity James or dithering Foster.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    I would be tempted to give Harper a chance, but the trouble is he's never played for England before, so his first propperly competative match would be the World Cup!

  • Comment number 96.

    i agree with post #11. Goalkeepers are too regualrly judged [and remembered] by their howlers and not by the number of times they keep the ball out of the net. i have seen James make numerous doubles and even remember a triple save that he made a decade or so ago.
    Fact: we are going to let in goals at the world cup. personally i think that James is better equipped to keep the ball out of the net more times than our alternative choices.
    I also think our back 4 have more confidence in James than our other current goalies; this leads to better preservation of the back line, confidence in your keeper to come and collect / stay on his line meaning the defender will stick to his own tactically rehearsed position.
    I'd have Robbo as the No1 back-up.

  • Comment number 97.

    40. At 08:56am on 08 Oct 2009, Hookers_armpit wrote:
    What a drama! Premier League footballers not getting paid for a week! I'm suprised the world is still turning. However did they cope.


    Haha, I'm surprised it took 40 posts for someone to point out this particular piece of over-done journalism :)

    James, all the way with Green as backup. Thing is, for the first time since being alive and watching my national team play I actually have some quiet confidence that Capello will come good with this particular conundrum.

    If he's done nothing he's shown he has what it takes to mould a team and I don't think that will fail to reflect on our keeper solution.

  • Comment number 98.

    Have I seriously seen posts suggesting Cudicini?? And I'm a spurs fan. Can't believe he's in our team at the moment let alone England!

  • Comment number 99.

    78. At 11:58am on 08 Oct 2009, mtrenners wrote:
    13. At 11:32pm on 07 Oct 2009, Villa_90 wrote:

    Of all the keepers I can't believe anyone sane would pick Ben Foster to go to the world cup. Has the guy played 20 games for Man U yet?? What has he done to deserve a call up apart from sit on the bench? Even now in his first run of games for Man U he's making big mistakes, yet still people put his name forward!


    Not sure what you've been reading recently but very few are calling for him now and most are focusing on his errors.

  • Comment number 100.

    Paul Robinsonn is still as good as any english keeper there is. Idiots incorporated i.e the media skinned and fed on him at one time. Hes OK now though from what ive seen of him. Whats up? Your media mob looking for a change of diet?


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