May 27, 2015 by bluenosebible
No matter how good or bad the team in general has been, Blues goalkeepers have always tended to be one of the best players in the side. In my lifetime the roll call of Bennett, Vaesen, Taylor, Hart, Foster, Myhill, Butland and Randolph as first choice Keepers is one heck of a roll call for a club that in that time has bounced between the first and second tier of English football. Six internationals (three of them England internationals) including one in Joe Hart who is one of the very best Keepers in the world, if not the best. Even if you go back before my lifetime, Blues fans of an older age than me talk about how bad it was to lose to Altrincham in the FA Cup in the eighties, yet stood between the sticks for us that day was a very young David Seaman. And that’s not even mentioning the names well descended into the mists of time such as Jim Montgomery, Paul Cooper, Gil Merrick and Harry Hibbs, the latter two who again were England number ones. Yes, Blues have always tended to have a good ‘Keeper.
So whoever comes in to replace Darren Randolph has big shoes to fill. Randolph isn’t universally popular with Blues fans, but for me he was a very good shot stopper and someone who did well generally in the penalty area, and for me he generally improved a lot in the relatively short time he had under the management of Gary Rowett and looked a lot more confident. He may have been slightly unorthodox in the way he kept his goal sometimes and he may have had the odd ricket in him, but for me he saved Blues a lot more points than he lost us and that is all you can ask of a goalkeeper really. Where he goes from here will be interesting. There have been reports linking him to West Ham and although I don’t see him displacing Adrian straight away, I do think he could do a job for a Premier League team if they needed him to.
But it won’t just be Randolph who will need replacing, but also Colin Doyle. The giant Irishman has been Blues’ back up goalkeeper for what seems like an eternity. Of course he did have a brief spell as the number one choice, when Maik Taylor lost form during our promotion season of 2006/07 and Doyle came in for the end of season run in. He was superb, no more so than at Molineux in the penultimate away game of that season; saving a last minute penalty which got us three crucial points against the Dogheads and got us a long way towards achieving the aforementioned promotion to the Premier League. He had a shocking start to the following season thereafter though, and once he was replaced in the team by the very same Maik Taylor who he had initially usurped he was never again the first choice of any Blues manager.
There have been Blues fans who have criticised and even mocked Colin Doyle for staying at Blues for so long when he has barely got a game, for taking home a wage packet every month for sitting on the bench. I think this is unfair and unkind. First of all, the lot of a goalkeeper can be a hard one; whereas an outfield player can be in and out of the team depending on the form of numerous players or the shape of the side or the approach a manager wants to take with his team selection, there can only ever be one goalkeeper. And unless a goalkeeper starts making errors regularly or suffers an injury then there is little chance his deputy will get much of a look in. But for those two reasons, a club does need a backup goalkeeper in case the first choice is out of the side; a club needs a Colin Doyle who is professional enough to maintain focus and discipline in spite of the frustration he must suffer with long spells on the sidelines. Blues fans should be thanking him for his services, remembering the brief blaze of glory he enjoyed in the latter part of the aforementioned 06/07 season, and let be that.
With regards to who will be our number two, Gary Rowett has hinted that Nick Townsend will be promoted through the ranks to take Doyle’s regular seat on the bench and I’ve got no real problem with that. I must admit I haven’t seen him play much, but from what I’ve heard he’s done well in our Under 21 team and out on loan at Lincoln City and he’s built like an outhouse so the ingredients are there for him to be good keeper in the future. Why not give him some exposure to the first team?
The far more pertinent question will be who is going to be the man to replace Darren Randolph as the new first choice goalkeeper at Birmingham City. It’s obviously going to be someone brought in to the club from elsewhere. We’ve been strongly linked with Wes Foderingham of Swindon and their fans seem fairly sure he will be coming here. Again I admit I don’t know that much about him, except that Paolo di Canio once subbed him off during a game after about twenty minutes or so and proceeded to bawl him out in the post-match interview, but di Canio is known for being tempestuous with his players so we shouldn’t necessarily hold that against him. He’s twenty-four, so very young for a goalkeeper and therefore has a lot of time on his side, but he’s played over one-hundred and fifty games at Swindon in Leagues One and Two so he has plenty of Football League experience and seems to be rated highly by Swindon fans. The fact that he would be coming on a free transfer because his contract at Swindon has ended can only be a good thing when Gary Rowett won’t have infinite amounts of money to spend this summer.
No matter who comes in as our first choice Keeper though they will have a huge amount of responsibility. Generally I think the goalkeeper is one of the most important players on the pitch; what is the point in having a team able to score goals if the fella at the other end can’t keep them out? I think having a goalkeeper who is a liability can undermine a whole side; if a defence is nervy about a goalkeeper and what he may or may not do, then they will play like they are nervous and that nervousness can spread to the whole side. On the flip side, if a goalkeeper has the trust of the players in front of him, then that can make a side play with more buoyancy, they can play with the confidence that the man behind them is unlikely to drop the side in the doo-dah by making a mistake and is more likely to save them if they make the mistake which gives the opposition a chance to score.
Farewell then to both Darren Randolph and Colin Doyle. Randolph has generally done well for what were at some points very challenging times to be the last line of defence in a shaky Blues team during the two seasons he has been at the club. Colin Doyle’s service to the club has been perhaps less notable in recent times, but again Blues fans should thank him for the professionalism he has shown during his time at Blues and wish him and his family (who, without going into detail in this piece, may have been a massive reason why he’s stayed at Blues for so long rather than look for first-team football elsewhere) all the best for the future.