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Goalkeeping Greats And More Reasons To Love Sorensen

  At the core of all the best football teams is a great goalkeeper. When England won the World Cup in 1966, the ‘keeper was none other than Gordon Banks, probably the greatest goalkeeper of all time, the same Gordon Banks who kept goals during Stoke City’s finest hour, the 1972 League Cup victory over Chelsea at Wembley. The only goalkeeper who comes close to rivalling the achievements of Banks is the great, if less well known Russian, Lev Yashin, who won the Soviet League with Dynamo Moscow five times from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, as well the the European Championships with the USSR in 1960. In modern football, the effect a great goalkeeper has on his side remains clearly visible. Few would argue that two of the best goalkeepers in the world right now are Italy’s Gianluigi Bufforn and Spain’s Iker Cassilas, and it’s no coincidence that it was these two nations that won the two most recent major football competitions that Europe is involved with, with Buffon playing a key role in the penalty shoot-out that won Italy the 2006 World Cup final against France, and Casillas producing a string of fine performances as his Spanish side emerged victorious from last summer’s European Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

We were lucky to have true greats, like Gordon Banks grace the Victoria Ground

  So, when Stoke were promoted to the Premier League last May, it was clear that to increase our chances of staying up, which at the time looked slim, we would have to bring in a quality goalkeeper. Steve Simonsen, who has served the club very well over the past four years, was the only senior goalkeeper in the squad, but few believed that he would be quite good enough to make the step up to the Premier League. The dawn of an impending battle against relegation is no time for sentimentality, so it became clear that the signing of a Premier League quality goalkeeper needed to be made.

  In mid-July, it emerged that we had been chasing, and subsequently had had a bid accepted for young Liverpool ‘keeper Scott Carson, the prospect of signing him, a player with good Premier League experience after spending last season on loan at Aston Villa, as well as some international football, albeit catastrophic, for England behind him, made me and many other Stoke fans very excited. It was therefore with some disappointment, and a degree of anger, that I learned that West Brom, whose scouting system at times seems to consist solely of copying Stoke, had entered and were winning the race to sign him, Carson soon joining them for a fee of £3.25 million, saying he chose West Brom as he felt they had the best chance of staying up of the clubs interested in him. Well, they say goalkeepers are crazy. This disappointment was only partially relieved when two weeks later Stoke completed the signing of 32 year old former Sunderland and Aston Villa ‘keeper Thomas Sorensen, the Dane joining on a free transfer. I admit that at the time, had I been given the choice, I would definitely have chosen Carson over him. After all, one was an ageing goalkeeper who had seen little recent first team football, the other an up and coming 23 year old who had kept him out of the Villa side.

The goalkeepers we could have had, and eventually did have

  I’m happy to say I’ve been proven wrong. While Carson and West Brom have been floundering on their way to near certain relegation this season, after re-discovering his form, Sorensen has gone from strength to strength with Stoke, keeping more clean sheets than more than half of the Premier League’s goalkeepers, despite playing most the season for a club in or around the bottom three, and has been a key part of the defence that has conceded just three goals at home in 2009. It is fair to say that he has been crucial to our recent successes. With fine shot-stopping abilities, and command of his penalty area better than any other ‘keeper we have had in recent years, he was always bound to become the fans’ favourite he has, but the one thing that has really fast-tracked his way into the supporters’ hearts is the passion he has shown for his club and his clear desire to succeed with Stoke City. After any victory it is a pleasure to watch his animated celebration, be it a high-speed slide in front of the Boothen End or his favourite move, the charge up behind his teammates and hug till they can’t breathe.

It’s been a season of blood, sweat and glory for Sorensen

  Like Banks, Yashin, Buffon and Casillas before him, Sorensen has become a vital part of his team’s successes, and while Stoke’s achievements are hardly comparable to a World Cup or European Championship win, to have competed so well in the Premier League with a limited budget and an initial lack of quality in the squad is something of which all connected to the club should be very proud. Though there’s no way the inspirational Abdoulaye Faye won’t win our Player of the Season award, and rightly so, Sorensen has shown again what a good goalkeeper can do for the side, and in my opinion, he should come in a very high second.

Stoke City's goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen (back) and team mate Abdoulaye Faye celebrate their sides win
Sorensen and Faye, the two stand-out players of our season, embrace

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  1. Nicholas Boote

    21 April, 2009 at 09:26

    I totally agree with your positive comments about Sorensen. I also saw Banks play several times – including Stoke City v Santos at the Victoria Ground when Pele played. Banks was the greatest goalkeeper ever – without question.

  2. David

    21 April, 2009 at 11:53

    I agree about Sorensen also, one of my favourite goalkeepers after seeing what he has done for us this season. He has a cool head too, he doesn’t rush his kicks out and makes sure everyone is in position before releasing the ball. He was actually getting a lot of balls to Sidibe when he was playing from the goal kick, helping us retain possesion or have the chance to flick on for a quick attack.

    Love his celebrating after games, joy to watch like Faye running around the Britannia at the final whistle last week.

  3. I*T*P*L

    21 April, 2009 at 17:11

    Thanks Nicholas and David, unfortunately I’m too young to ever have seen Banks play for us, but I now dare to dream that there will come a time again that we are able to attract players half as good as him again.

    You’re right about his kicks David, they are usually very well placed and productive, though nothing on Robinson’s on Saturday, which have to be the longest in the league.

    The thing that I like most about Sorensen though is his command of the area, though he often chooses to puch the ball, he always gets there well and gets good contact on it, which is very good to see in our ‘keeper as this has always been Simonsen’s weakest point.

  4. Must admit, I do rate Sorensen very very highly, good shot stopper, good commander of his box and able to kick!

    All the qualities of an immense goalkeeper. One of your best signings, with Beattie!

  5. Steven Goran Erikkson

    21 April, 2009 at 19:18

    Good article VJ,

    You make some intersting points, and you argue convincingly about Sorensen. He seems to have, in the limited amount of matches I have seen of Stoke, to be a very good ‘keeper, one who inspires confidence in his defence.

    I disagree, thanks to the Times, with your first sentance, which states that “At the core of all the best football teams is a great goalkeeper.” There was an article in the Game which recently argued against this point and I am afraid that I too will disagree with you.

    United – Van Der Sar – Old
    Chelsea – Cech – Has looked very shaky this season
    Liverpoll – Reina – Makes some mistakes
    Barcelona – Valdes – Never been capped by Spain, and also prone to errors.

    Although there are many more, these are only some examples of grwat teams who do not have great goalies.

    Just one more thing, and you need to reshape the picture of Kuyt and Sorensen, it just doesn’t look right.

    But, as I said before, good article.

  6. Also Steven, I disagree with two of those keepers above…

    Reina has been outstanding and has more assists than Kompany this season! As for Valdes, I think he is a terrific keeper, but who can break the mould of Casillas in the national side…no-one?

  7. Steven Goran Erikkson

    21 April, 2009 at 20:43

    Casillas is first choice, and Reina is second.

  8. I*T*P*L

    21 April, 2009 at 20:56

    Thanks Steven and Matt.

    Steven – why don’t you paraphrase the Times article into your blog? That was what you did with the nicknames one? 😉

    In response to your specific teams:

    ManUre: Yes he’s old, but he’s still pretty decent, his defence helps a lot, but did you see the feature in the Times that proved that Jagielka was a better defender than Vidić? Very interesting. I still don’t count them as a really great team though, I’m talking about your multiple honours winners, Ajax of the 70s, AC Milan a little later etc.

    Chelsea: Before his head injury Cech was fantastic. Before his head injury Chelsea won two league titles and an FA Cup. Since it they have won nothing. Need I say more?

    Liverpool: Not a truly great team either, but Reina’s consistently the best ‘keeper in the Premier League in my opinion.

    Barcelona: Valdes is hardly a bad ‘keeper, but I think Barca fit the point you are making best, because of the attacking talent they have and the fact that their football is so built around the “we’re going to score (at least) one more than you” philosophy, they are something of an exception.

    As for the photo, it’s the sizing that’s the problem, the proportion is all ok. It was originally very big so has lost some of it’s clarity in the re-sizing, so there’s nothing I can do really.

  9. Steven Goran Erikkson

    21 April, 2009 at 21:02

    Fair enough, but I was just making the point.

  10. I*T*P*L

    21 April, 2009 at 22:10

    Aye, and a valid one too.

  11. I*T*P*L

    22 April, 2009 at 18:10

    JP, as I’ve said before, stop spamming my blog with links to random products. I’ll just delete them straight away so it’s a waste of time for both of us.

  12. David

    23 April, 2009 at 09:02

    It’s not people posting links, it’s robots submitting to the form. You (well, Blogs FC) need to get CAPTCHA on the reply forms.

  13. I*T*P*L

    23 April, 2009 at 14:32

    Right, thanks David, I didn’t realise that. I’m not in control of anything like that, but admin, if you see this you may be interested. For now I’ll just keep deleting them.

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