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Should back-up goalkeepers get winner’s medals?



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A couple of days ago, David Hytner raised a very interesting case for the second and third choice goalkeepers. Premier League regulation states that the winner’s medal will be awarded only if a player has made ten appearances over the course of the season.

Unless there is a major injury to a club’s first choice keeper, you would not find a second keeper to have made ten appearances in a course of a season. Whereas the outfield players are much more likely to be regulated.

The thing with the goalkeepers is that, professional jealousy aside, they always work together as a team in training and they always support each other when one of them spends tremendous 90 minutes on the field or makes a huge blunder.

It is a job like no other in football. Goalies are expected to stop everything that is kicked at them. When they make an exceptional save, it is usually forgotten as soon as there is a goal scored or even if Cristiano Ronaldo’s attempt from 40 yards out misses the goal by a good ten yards. But if a goalie can’t stop a shot, he’s just not good enough and he should be subbed off instantly and thrown out of the club.

Coming back to the topic, Chelsea’s shot-stopping squad Petr Cech, Henrique Hilario and Ross Turnbull made a point by talking about their double winning season in which the latter two did not receive league winner’s medals because they did not appear ten times during 38 games of the season.

Petr Cech
Petr Cech
Cech raised a very valid point:

“Have a look at every club in the world and try to find a second-choice goalkeeper playing more than 10 league games. You’re not going to find it. If you are the young sub, you can come on 10 times for 30 seconds and you get the medal but the goalkeeper plays one game and saves the game, wins the three points and he doesn’t get the medal. I think this is not right.”

Hilario and Turnbull agreed. So do I (being the first choice goalkeeper of my university’s football team). The whole of the subs bench does not contribute to the outfield players as much as the two substitute keepers do to the first choice keeper.

Secretly praying for him to get injured or sick is one thing but when it counts, they’re there. If a first choice keeper has good second and third choice keepers, they will only push him to bring the best out of him. Because he knows, if he takes it easy, those two guys are working hard to take his place.

Henrique Hilario
Henrique Hilario
It’s not just the case with Chelsea that the keepers have formed a ‘team within the team’, as Hytner hinted. I believe it is the case with most of the teams. The goalkeepers are truly a team within a team.

Back-up goalies are like the emergency service of the club – intensively working hard to keep fit and mentally alert to respond in case there is a call up during the game. They know that it will rarely come but when it does, they have to make every minute of their on-field presence count.

Hilario was the number one goalkeeper at the Portuguese club Nacional and he accepted former Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho’s offer to join Chelsea on a free transfer in 2006 to become the number three to Cech and Carlo Cudicini. Turnbull had played in 22 of Middlesbrough’s Premier League fixtures in 2008-2009 when he stepped down and later joined Chelsea, also on a free transfer.

Turnbull, who did not play in a single FA Cup tie for Chelsea but played in two Premier League matches against Bolton as a sub for Hilario and West Ham when Cech and Hilario were both injured, pointed out a contradiction in the rules of FA Cup and Premier League. He said:

Ross Turnbull
Ross Turnbull

“I got the Cup winners’ medal but it just felt that I probably deserved it more for the Premier League. It’s a bit of a disappointment because it felt like it was a whole squad effort and you were part of that squad, even if it was just a small contribution.”

The case remains undecided: Should back-up keepers be given league winner’s medal despite their number of appearances? My answer is yes and I have a perfectly sound reason for that. One goal conceded or one goal saved can change the course of the rest of the season for a team.

We have witnessed leagues being decided on goal differences. We have witnessed clubs falling out of the title race after losing or drawing a game. We have witnessed second choice keepers come on and make crucial saves to win the three points for their team. So, to recognize the effort that stipulation should be tossed out and the medals should be given to each player on the squad.

Please let us know with your take on the topic with your comment below.