Ruddy v McGovern: which one’s a keeper?

Goalkeepers: from school, through to your 5-a-side team, they are always the last to be picked. Jon Rogers asks which of Norwich’s ’keepers will be left out in the cold

Ah, those playground days.

Scruffy kids doing their best to organise two teams out of 25 kids during 20 minutes of lunch time.

The anguish and stress as the two best players decide teams so considerately, like they were choosing which parent is about to be taken away and shot. On my patch, the ghetto streets of Gorleston-on-Sea, the last two kids to be chosen were always the same.

Without fail.

Samuel Jarred and Stephen Harrison.

They both loved football. Adored football. Issue was, they were both shit at football.

So poor, they were automatically put in goal with fingers crossed that the ball would accidentally hit them.

A human traffic cone. 

Which, in my mind, proves ­– without any fact or scientific proof – no-one who can play football, and was in their right mind, would want to be a goalkeeper. They are the quintessentially odd. A loner in the world of team games.

Everything about their choice to be a ’keeper sets them out to be a tad peculiar. The fact they want to use their hands in a game called football should be enough M’lord, but there are some other reasons too.

1) It’s more expensive to be a goalkeeper as they have to purchase one more piece of kit than anyone else in the team. And wearing those gloves for more than eight seconds make their hands smell like the water you find at the bottom of a bin. And they seem ok with that.
2) They never wear the team colours. Joining a team and wearing a different kit to everyone else is bordering on sociopathic. If that wasn’t enough, they normally dress them in some garish, bright pattern that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Ab Fab.
3) They get called shit by over 5,000 people every time they take a goal kick.4) The most important one for me: they are actively encouraged and praised if they stop the ball using their face and/or private parts.

Talking of private parts, John Ruddy.

Last season was a tricky one for him. His form was below his usual ability and was punctuated with some costly mistakes in important games. He was dropped to the bench for the first time in his Norwich career, and then that camera phone footage was paraded about of a daft late-night scuffle that had the hallmarks of a home-made episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show. If I was him, I wouldn’t purchase this season’s highlight DVD. It’s not worth it, John. It’s not worth it.

There is a bright light though. Ruddy has never been the same since his muscle somehow pulled away from his bone like well-cooked meat on a Sunday in November 2012. But when he came back into the team late on in 2016, he started to look like the trimmer, commanding Ruddy which got him England recognition and multi-million pound bids from Chelsea.

Despite his improved form, this could be the last season at Norwich for John. A poor to average season in the Championship and Alex Neil has shown he isn’t the guaranteed first name anymore. On the horizon, Michael McGovern is impatiently waiting. Neil knows him, like an old work colleague. He trusts him. He has a man who can fill the gloves at any given moment – and if that happens, I doubt Ruddy will ever get them back again.

McGovern, who had little to do in the Coventry friendly, apart from a few bits of simple handling and a couple of smart saves, hasn’t come here for a free season ticket on the bench.  Sure, it’s not a bad seat, it’s near the tunnel, centre of the pitch but the view is impaired by an agitated Scotsman prowling about who swears too much.

The Euros were fantastic for McGovern. People who had never heard his name before were raving about his solid performances in a successful Northern Ireland team. And, as Neil has had issues with his number one, that can’t be ignored.

John Ruddy used to be first name on the team sheet, boldly written in black sharpie. Now, he is a lightly pencil drawn with a question mark next to name. Any little hiccup this season, and he’ll be just like Samuel and Stephen, last to be picked.

You can follow Jon Rogers on Twitter at @BigGrantHolt