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Joe Lewis – The Answer To England’s Goalkeeping Problem?

Much has been made of England’s current ‘golden generation’ that puts us amongst the favourites for the upcoming World Cup tournament in South Africa but there is, arguably, one position that the ‘Three Lions’ are weak in; goalkeeper.

Joe Lewis’ form at Peterborough, the Championship’s bottom club, has been nothing short of remarkable this season. Despite ‘The Posh’ having a poor defensive record, they have conceded 59 goals in 37 Championship games this season, Lewis’ form has meant this record is far better than it could be, saving crucially on numerous occasions.

Lewis, who is 6ft 6 inches tall, was brought to Peterborough back in the January of 2008 from Norwich City. He was a record transfer for ‘The Posh’ being brought for 400k, perhaps not the biggest of sums when compared to the millions of pounds being spent in the Premiership, but for a League 2 club, at the time, of Peterborough’s stature, this was a huge outlay of money. Much of the reason transfer for this was the performance of Lewis when he played against Peterborough, when on loan at Morecambe, chairman Darragh MacAnthony admitted since that game “Lewis had been on Peterborough’s radar”.

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In his time at Morecambe Lewis achieved his first England U’21 call-up. He made his debut for England, at this level, in July 2008, just 6 months after joining Peterborough United, when he replaced Joe Hart, at half-time, against Wales. During his time at Posh Lewis regularly was in the U21 squad, although Hart and Scott Loach, both playing higher level football at the time, were favoured for the more regular first team spots.

Perhaps his greatest honour to date at international level came in May 2008 when he was selected to be in the full England squad to play Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S.A. Lewis was an unused substitute in both fixtures but was picked ahead of many ‘keepers playing at the top level, including Scott Carson, which shows that Lewis is highly regarded by the England hierarchy. Upon hearing the call-up the tall goalkeeper admits that he, at first, “thought it was a prank”.

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Lewis went on to add that, despite not playing “It was a great experience, and one I am very proud of, I have learnt a lot from being around top class players and coaches”. Lewis’ form continued to be strong and he was one of the catalysts behind Peterborough’s back to back promotions from League’s 1 and 2. However the goalkeeper did make some horrific errors during the clubs League 1 promotion season. Lewis put it down to “not concentrating”. This spell was probably Lewis’ lowest as a player and he was receiving a barrage of abuse from some of the home fans at London Road; During this period Lewis left the field visibly in tears against Yeovil, a game in which he made two inexplicable errors which cost ‘The Posh’ the match. Lewis was sent to Carrington, Manchester United training ground, to regain his confidence. Even this poor form did not stop manager Stuart Pearce picking him for the U21 squad though. He was selected as part of the 23 man squad for the ‘European Under 21 Championships’ and played as a striker for the team against Azerbaijan.

This season has seen Lewis enjoy his best form though. He is arguably Peterborough’s player of the season and has without doubt been their most consistent performer regular making key saves. The young ‘keeper appears to have eradicated most of the weaknesses that were in his game in previous times. Lewis put in the best performance of his career so far against Tottenham Hotspurs in the F.A Cup this January. He made a succession of world class saves and even had the Spurs fans singing “Tottenham’s number 2” to him as well as bombarding message boards urging manager Harry Redknapp to sign the young ‘goalie’.

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It looks likely that Lewis will leave Posh this summer, most likely to a Premier League club after being rumoured with a move to numerous teams at this level in the current campaign. With Lewis already being a well known player around the England camp it is surely only a matter of time before he achieves a second full international call-up and pulls on a ‘Three Lions’ shirt for the first time. Could he even be an outside shot for a place in South Africa this summer?

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