Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Season review part 1: Goalkeepers

As the season approaches a merciful end, the Eagle Eye team assesses each aspect of the Palace squad, starting with the keepers…

Overview: Palace have had a problem with goalkeepers for years, in fact we still haven’t properly replaced Nigel Martyn. This season has seen chaos between the sticks with no less than four different keepers employed. Of those, the three that actually belong to us have all been in and out, hit and miss and we end the season with more uncertainty over who our number one will be.

Positives: An experienced, potentially brilliant keeper who is an established international (albeit with the eternally useless Hungary), he ended the season in good form. Gabor’s style is unorthodox, although he seems to have tempered his bizarre positioning at corners. He is an erratic talent but still makes mistakes and still makes great saves. His handling has improved greatly – aerially, he commands his area better than any recent Palace keeper. Distribution is erratic, often to the point of being a liability.
Negatives: Uncertainty has lingered over his future for the last two seasons. He has made encouraging noises about wanting to stay with Palace if the club ‘shows ambition’ to get back into the Premiership and, presumably, if we can afford to pay him. For someone capable of brilliance, he has conceded some poor goals, which resulted in him being dropped and then loaned to West Ham and then Aston Villa although Peter Taylor’s apparent punishment seemed over harsh.
Keepometer 7 A confident on-form Kiraly is an asset and would save us the expense of having to buy a new keeper. He's by no means perfect but he's the best we can hope for. It will come down to money and that means he may well be off in June.

Positives: A loyal understudy to Kiraly, he has waited patiently for his chance and played well when called upon just before Christmas. Was then unlucky to get injured, preventing him from having a longer run in the side. Has been given the final three games of this campaign for Peter Taylor to have a look at him, which in a way speaks volumes – he’s been here three years and we still don’t know if he’s up to it.
Negatives: After a number of past calamities, many fans don’t have much faith in him and it seems that his defenders might feel the same way.. Can we afford to take a chance?
Keepometer 5 Out of contract this summer, probably not worth the risk of another contract.

Positives: Arrived from Barnsley with only a handful of games under his belt but with England under-20 honours and a good reputation, aided by apparent interest from Chelsea. Now gaining experience on loan with the Seaweed with okay reports. Flinders is the only example of us getting someone from Taylor’s fabled ‘little black book’ of young stars.
Negatives: No reflection on the player, but this deal was a complete waste of money. Palace doing their ‘big mouth’ bit signed him in a blaze of £1m reports only to be forced to backtrack after a series of disastrous autumn performances. Even if it turns out that the fee was ‘only £400,000’ it was hardly money well spent – buying expensive young keepers is a mug’s game, shades of Matt Gregg or Chris Day here? We’ve had no return on him in his first season and it’s doubtful whether he will be ready next term. By the time he fulfils his potential, he’ll be out of contract.
Keepometer 6 Hold onto him, we’ve paid the money hopefully one day we might see a return on it, but not yet. An expensive one for the future.

Positives: Looked the real deal during his loan spell from Everton, showed confident handling and produced one or two cracking saves of rare agility. Unlucky with his injury.
Negatives: Now on loan at Sheffield Wednesday who, should Everton decide to sell (and they would be stupid to do so), will undoubtedly be in pole position to snap him up.
Keepometer 8 Not ours to keep, but if he became available would be a very good buy. Best we can hope for is that our ‘Brownie points’ having given them AJ will secure a year’s loan deal.

Conclusion: Peter Taylor’s handling of our jeepers keepers has been poor and contributed significantly to the autumn slump - a self created crisis. We really want to avoid spending money on goalkeepers as there are so many outfield areas in desperate need of strengthening (i.e. all of them). We may have a difficult job to find someone better than Kiraly, but that may be out of our hands. Speroni or Flinders as number one? Not an enticing prospect.

Players linked: Iain Walker of Bolton (ex-England and Spurs journeyman, bad hair, dodgy photos) has been mentioned in the Sunday People. Expect Taylor’s old keeper at Hull, Boaz Myhill, to be mentioned as well.
Emerging talent: David Wilkinson.

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