So, Michael Conroy said in the ALS Group Chat… “Got an article idea. A team of Good and Bad, formation 4-4-2. We take a position each and do a piece on memorable players in that position. One great, one crap. Giles Mooney, you probably want goalkeepers? GO!” BEST GOALKEEPER? EASY. How about a player who we’ve named bits of the stadium after? A player who is the record appearance holder. A man who won the cup almost single handed (well, technically, two handed. Single handed and I doubt he’d have kept Lorimer’s shot out). A man so great that even the statue outside the ground is running towards him. The choice of Hendon’s own, Jimmy Montgomery can surprise no one. Even if you take out the cup final, he’s still a club legend, player, coach, ambassador for the city and, let’s not forget, thanks to a former Sunderland team mate he’s also a European Cup winner. Debuting for his hometown club at 18 and playing on until he was 34, Monty has been present at the highs and lows at our club for 60 years. He came into a team with Hurley and Anderson protecting him and Clough scoring the goals. He left it with Watson and Malone in front of him with Rowell banging them in. Extraordinarily for any young fan to understand, he played under three Sunderland managers across those 17 years (the last 17 years have seen 15 permanent managers) and, from what I’ve heard, none of them could fault him for his commitment, his control of his defenders, his distribution, his bravery and his well-known extraordinary shot stopping ability. I have had the fortune of spending time talking to him about the club and about goalkeeping generally. I’m not sure which topic he’s more passionate about. Combine the two and he’s unstoppable. And what impresses me most is not his free-flowing opinions, but rather that he’ll back them up with an explanation and then detail how to improve the situation. We discussed Lee Camp once. Within two minutes he was explaining the angle that the full back and the central defenders were forming and why that wasn’t helping Camp when playing against pace. He then explained the drill to correct the defensive weakness and which players he’d played with who had struggled with it and improved as a result. ‘Mind’ he said: ‘he still doesn’t like he could catch a cold’. So, greatest Sunderland keeper? For his work between the posts and further afield, Jim.
THE WORST IS HARDER TO DECIDE ON Camp, of course, deserves a mention. I always disliked Hesford as a kid but I’m not really sure why. I grew up in football at a time when Sunderland goalkeepers were ‘alright’. Not great, not ropey, just OK. The only thing they had in common was that they were staggeringly boring. Others had Grobbelaar or Higuita. We had Norman, Chamberlain, Coton. In a rock star world, we had geography teachers. But then we got a personality between the sticks and I missed them. My worst ever is Lionel Perez. A man so utterly bemusing that he didn’t even understand what the elbow pads were for on a goalkeeper shirt. A man who, completely out of position and somehow off balance when simply moving forwards against Eric Cantona, managed to be on the titles of Match of the Day for years purely for standing in the ideal position to be chipped. To be a bit techy for a moment, he was always too near his left post and wanted to dive further left. He is for the Cantona goal and he was for at least two goals one afternoon in 1998. Perez’s contribution to Charlton reaching the Premier League was far greater than Clive Mendonca. Watch that 98 game again, if you can bring yourself to. Watch how many times he takes a ‘nothing to worry about here’ situation and turns it into panic in the 18 yard box. Watch him for Rufus’ goal. To this day I can’t work out what the hell he thought he was doing. Perez’s career fizzled out after that game having never really burned brightly at any stage. They say you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper and I think that’s true. My greatest madly believed he could make that save in 73 and that it was sensible to throw himself at the feet of strikers. My worst poked someone in both eyes in a touchline altercation with a big grin on his face. Madness. Stay Safe, Haway the Lads