A Tribute To Backup Keepers

Football – FA Premier League – Liverpool FC v Swansea City FC
Meilyr Powel

Meilyr Powel

Monday, 26 Nov 2012, 09:30

Seeing Gerhard Tremmel lining up in Swansea’s first team these days has made me think of those poor goalkeepers who’ve had to wait for their chance – and in some cases still waiting!

Following an injury to Michel Vorm at the Etihad Stadium last month, the tal German had to don his gloves and step on to the field to face Tevez, Aguero, Balotelli and co. Four weeks and five games later, the former Hannover, Energie Cottbus and Red Bull Salzburg shotstopper continues between the sticks for Michael Laudrup’s side.

Tremmel was signed last Summer by Brendan Rodgers as backup to Michel Vorm, and following Vorm’s impressive performances Tremmel was forced to make do with just three appearances in Swansea’s first season in the Premier League – with just one of those coming in the league.

And so, as a tribute to those keepers who bide their time, I’ve come up with a collection of names (some familiar, some not so!) to raise awareness for this lonely role in the modern day football squad.

The first is former Swansea goalkeeper, Jason Jones. Wrexham born Jones spent his youth days at Liverpool but soon moved to South Wales in 1997, signing for the Swans as backup for the legendary Roger Freestone.

But unfortunately, Jones managed just 10 appearances for the first team, spending loan spells at Rhayader and Rhyl before leaving the Swans in 2002 to join Llanelli. Poor old Jones.

As a Swansea supporter I must also include Brian Murphy on this list. The Irishman was signed by Brian Flynn in 2003 and had a solid start to his Swansea career, playing 13 games in the 2003-04 season.

But the following season, the charismatic Frenchman Willy Gueret arrived at the Vetch and Murphy did not play again for the Swans, returning to his native Ireland to join Bohemians in 2007.

Murphy returned to these shores in 2010 when he signed for Ipswich Town and he is currently a Premier League player (believe it or not!) with QPR! But after spells with six clubs (Man City, Oldham, Peterborough, Swansea, Ipswich and QPR) and nine seasons in the English leagues, Murphy has managed just 34 league appearances – giving him an average of 3.7 appearances a season!

Outside Swansea, one obvious name which comes to mind on this topic is Stuart Taylor. Currently with Reading, Taylor has been with nine different clubs since signing his first proffessional contract with Arsenal in 1997, including a spell with Cardiff between March and May 2009.

But remarkably, Taylor has managed just 68 appearances (five as a substitute!) in 15 seasons! Taylor’s average therefore, reads 4.53 apperances a season.

The next name will be familiar to many Welsh fans. Jason Brown made 126 league appearances for Gillingham between 2001 and 2006 before joining Blackburn Rovers. But in the six seasons since joining Blackburn, the current Aberdeen goalkeeper has played just 36 times. Brown’s average? 6 games a season.

I could add Jerzy Dudek to this list (having played just 11 times for Real Madrid between 2007-11) but to be fair to the big Pole, he did manage 400 league appearances before joining the Spanish giants in his autumn years.

But I’ll finish with a great example of how perserverance and hard work is rightly rewarded.

After signing for Newcastle in 1993, Steve Harper spend several loan spells with Bradford, Gateshead, Stockport, Hartlepool, Huddersfield and Brighton, and between 2000-2006 Harper made just 7 league appearances. That’s right, 1.16 appearances a season!

The reason for this was Shay Given’s outstanding form. But between 2006-11, Harper finally got his chance, and made 127 league appearances for the Magpies, and fulfilled his dream of playing regularly for his favourite club. And in August 2012 Harper became the longest serving player in the club’s history, having spent 19 years at Newcastle.

And during his long career, Harper has earned a Football Association approved licence as a referee in addition to gaining a degree in the social sciences from the Open University.

Now I don’t expect Tremmel to enroll on a BA course for Welsh Medieval History, but it’s certainly pleasing to see the German, like Harper, finally get his chance to prove his worth after spending so much time watching on from the dugout.

All the best Gerhard!