Ask your mates down the pub or people at work about the Premier League’s best goalkeepers and you will pretty much have a similar conversation. Most people will reel off names like Joe Hart, Pepe Reina, Petr Cech or now even young keepers like Tim Krul or Wojciech Szczesny, players who are the goalkeepers at the top clubs. You wouldn’t be surprised if veterans of the Premier League such as Brad Friedel, Tim Howard and Shay Given also got a mention.
There is no doubt all those named above are top goalkeepers, but some of the Premier League’s best don’t play for glamour clubs, they have been given the opportunity to shine for some of the teams in the bottom half of the table whose future in the Premier League at the start of the season was less than certain. These guys have kept their teams in matches by pulling off some true wonder saves week in, week out and are kept busier than most. We only need look to the action from the weekend just gone to see how good these goalkeepers are. In my opinion you can keep your big-name keepers, these boys are where it is at:
Michel Vorm – Swansea City
In football these days spending £1.5million doesn’t really get you a lot…well, it doesn’t unless you are Brendan Rodgers and you are spending it on a largely unknown Dutch keeper called Michel Vorm. Despite the modest fee, Vorm has been a revelation at Swansea and has firmly established himself as one of Swansea’s best players, whilst becoming an instant club legend in the process. Legendary status is not easily gained at Swansea, but this is a testament to the class of Vorm and shows what an impact he has made at the club – he has come a long way from when he first signed and the fans asked ‘Michael who?’.
After five seasons as number one at FC Utrecht, the opportunity to come to the Premier League arose and Vorm has grasped it with both hands, exchanging one closely-knit family club for another, he has instantly felt at home. Vorm has seemingly had no trouble in adapting to Premier League life and his performances so far show why he is pushing for the Dutch number one jersey and also why he was taken to the 2010 World Cup. Now nicknamed the ‘Penalty Killer’ (a nickname that Vorm did not have whilst in Holland) he has shown Swansea fans why he is a strong contender for the ‘bargain of the season’ award having already saved two penalties.
At only 28-years-old, Vorm is now coming in to the peak of his career and if he can keep performing at the same level, he will establish himself as one of the best keepers around. His performances have been so impressive that he has already been linked with moves to Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, but the modest Dutchman will be in no rush to leave Swansea. At 6ft tall Vorm is not the biggest keeper by any means, but his presence on the pitch is huge and he has already had 9 clean sheets this season. There is no doubt Vorm is a major factor as to why Swansea are doing so well this season, he will no doubt contribute to keeping them up, the question will be can Swansea keep Vorm in the summer.
John Ruddy – Norwich City
Not many football fans battered an eyelid when John Ruddy left Everton to join Norwich City in July 2010. Ruddy seemed as though he was just another number 2/3 who would probably spend the majority of his days like the Carlo Cudicini’s or Steve Harper’s of this world and warm the bench somewhere. To those inside the game who knew Ruddy’s qualities, and also to Ruddy himself, being a perpetual benchwarmer was not an option. At only 25-years-old, Ruddy has already played for 12 clubs after being regularly farmed out on loan by Everton a couple of times a season after joining the club as an 18-year-old from Cambridge United. After Ruddy’s performances so far this season we have all be shown why Everton’s loss was Norwich’s gain.
David Moyes knew the quality Ruddy possessed, but couldn’t give him the first team football he needed at Everton. Moyes would have ideally wanted to keep him, but couldn’t hold back a keeper he tipped as a ‘future England goalkeeper’ any longer. Norwich have been impressive this season in the Premier League and a lot of what they have achieved is down to having a top-class goalkeeper. Ruddy has pulled off some wonder saves and helped secure points for Norwich on a number of occasions; you can understand why there are calls for him to be called-up for England.
If he can keep up the form he has shown so far this season and continues to keep the Premier League’s best strikers largely at bay, then there is no reason why Ruddy won’t be at the European Championship’s this summer rather than on honeymoon with the Mrs. I am joining the cause…Ruddy for England! #RuddyForEngland.
Ali Al-Habsi – Wigan Athletic
Try to name a 30-year-old goalkeeper who has managed to play more times for his country than he has competitively for any club during his career and you will struggle, but for Ali Al-Habsi it is a harsh reality. Al-Habsi’s rise to prominence is well overdue; after being discovered by John ‘Budgie’ Burridge whilst he coached in Oman, Al-Habsi could have moved to either Manchester United or Manchester City earlier in his career after Burridge recommended him, but he could not fulfill the criteria for a work permit and had to spend three seasons in Norway.
Al-Habsi finally came to the Premier League when Sam Allardyce bought him to Bolton as understudy for Jussi Jääskeläinen and he seemed another player who would spend his career as an unknown quantity. After growing frustrated with a lack of playing time at Bolton, Al-Habsi was shipped out to Wigan on loan where his form between the sticks lead to them signing the keeper permanently in a £4million deal last summer.
Since joining Wigan, Al-Habsi has only got better and if it wasn’t for him this season, Wigan’s plight would be a lot worse. Many have already credited Al-Habsi with having made the ‘save of the season’ after he pulled out a wonder save against Wolves, but he has been making wonder saves every week.
Since getting his chance in a league Burridge tipped him for early on, Al-Habsi has shown he can become one of the Premier League’s best and if Wigan do depart the league this season, things would have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for Al-Habsi. He is one of the few goalkeepers who you can Google on a Monday morning and read about another ‘worldy’ save as standard, this man has some serious talent.