Title: When it Rains it Pours
Article description: If you’re a Derby goalkeeper anyway…
Just what is it when it comes to The Rams and goalkeeping catastrophies?
In the last two seasons events have conspired against the men between the sticks with a series of bizzare events or untimely injuries.
The most recent cluster of problems began with the news that back-up stopper Saul Deeney suffered an injury on Monday, the day before the important home fixture against Hull City.
The ruptured tendon in his right shoulder requires surgery which is expected to keep the former Burton keeper out of action for around five months.
No matter, we won’t be needing him anyway with first-choice custodian Stephen Bywater reasonably reliable when it comes to matters on the pitch.
Off the pitch, his subtle brand of tasteful art and aspirations of cage-fighting once he retires from football have led to many questioning his off-field antics.
This season, however, the questions haven’t been about his leisure-time exploits, but his ability on a Saturday afternoon, with his distribution a constant source of frustration for supporters, but the fact that he has been a key part of the Derby side for the best part of five years is undisputable.
Anyway, the Hull City game came the day after the news of Deeney’s absense surfaced, and nobody, aside from the most pessimistic of supporters, was worried about it.
James Severn, Derby’s fourth-choice goalkeeper (third-choice Ross Atkins was on loan at non-League Tamworth at the time but has since been recalled) was named on the substitutes bench as a precautionary measure.
Lo and behold, midway through the first half, Bywater began to clutch his side in clear discomfort.
After battling through to half-time, it was clear he couldn’t continue, so on came 19-year-old novice Severn for his first-team debut.
The England under-20 international put on a decent display, but his Steve Cherry moment came 19 minutes from time as he let Robert Koren’s corner drift over his head, allowing Hull defender Anthony Gerrard to knock the ball into the empty net from virtually on the line.
It’s hard to blame a young goalkeeper for having a rush of blood to the head in his first pro appearance, but the harsh reality is that injuries had struck to leave The Rams with an unproven keeper who, ultimately, cost Derby the points.
But this is not the only time that the footballing gods have conspired against The Rams to leave them short in arguably the most important position on a football field.
Not once, but incredibly, on two more occasions in the last couple of seasons.
The first came on a dull March night in Berkshire with a fixture against Reading in the 09/10 season.
Normally, Championship midweek games are scheduled for Tuesdays, but as this round of fixtures took place on Wednesday I was in action for my legendary 6-a-side team, with a name as typically bad as it is unprintable, so I put my girlfriend on update duty, with a strict mandate to send a text about anything important, so when I traipsed off the pitch after another terrible team display, I thought the 20 odd messages waiting for me indicated either: a) a wind-up, b) that my demand for absolutely accurate updates had been taken a step too far, or c) that I’d done something wrong.
In fact, it was none of these scenarios.
After working out from one update that ‘Dini’, a player red-carded on his debut, was not an Italian from the academy or an emergency loan who had slipped under the radar, but sub keeper Saul Deeney, I knew that we were in trouble.
He had come on for Bywater with the score at 1-0 to Reading, and conceded a second goal minutes later, which made the score 2-1 after Arsenal loanee Gilles Sunu had equalised for The Rams.
Skipper Savage was the most ineffective player on the pitch, according to Rams manager Nigel Clough, so he donned the gloves and performed much better in net for 50 minutes, than he had in the previous 40 in the middle of the park.
Deeney’s red card for a foul on Reading winger Jay Tabb also resulted in a penalty, but Savage’s flowing locks and chicken legs put off Irish striker Shane Long, as he blasted the penalty high over the bar. Ironically, he beat Bywater from the spot in this season’s clash with Reading at Pride Park.
Savage pulled off a couple of great saves but, inevitably, two more goals followed to condemn Derby to a 4-1 defeat.
Just one of those things.
But, typically for The Rams, it wasn’t just one of those things.
Earlier this season, Bywater broke a finger in training. That’s the official line anyway. It’s been rumoured that some over-enthusiastic paintbrushing on his latest work really did the damage, but that’s just speculation.
Within days, the sad news arrived that Saul Deeney’s father had died in an Irish hospital.
Of course, the death of a family member is never a pleasant experience, but as well as meaning Deeney was understandably allowed to leave the club on compassionate leave, it also left the club short of a goalkeeper who had ever played in the Football League.
Step forward Frank Fielding from Blackburn Rovers, who presided over a run of six wins in ten games in Derby’s successful early-to-mid-season form.
Now Fielding returns to help The Rams out in their hour of need, as the latest in a now long line of goalkeeping crises hits, with Bywater and Deeney ruled out.
The fates of Derby’s two top permanent goalkeepers seem to be cosmically linked, so Rams fans will be hoping Fielding can be brought in on a permanent basis himself, and that he will have a similar impact this time around to help the side halt their slide down the table.
Goalkeepers have a history of sustaining injuries when you least expect it.
Ex-Forest stopper Dave Beasant broke a toe by dropping a salad cream bottle on it.
England international David James strained his back reaching for a remote-control.
Diminutive former Leicester man Kasey Keller smashed in his teeth getting the golf clubs out of his car.
Manchester United legend Alex Stepney dislocated his jaw shouting at his defence and Brentford goalkeeper Chic Brodie was forced to retire after a dog ran into him during a game and broke his kneecap.
All of these injuries seem too ridiculous to be true, but if any of them were to happen to a Derby goalie, I, for one, wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
When it rains, it pours….
Title: When it Rains it Pours