So season 2018-19 is over and the Stevie G Express managed to reach its destination on its maiden voyage, if slightly late.
Being a former goalkeeper I find I tend to watch the defensive aspect of our games closely. Obviously I love attacking play and goals galore as much as the next man but if you don’t lose goals you cannot lose games.
This season has seen are marked improvement for us defensively (wouldn’t have been hard right enough) although there is still a lot of room for improvement. There have been many instances where lapses have went unpunished due to the level of opposition we face regularly domestically, but warning signs are there that we must strengthen defensively if we are to reclaim our rightful place at the top.
I’ll go over our defensive performers in the next couple of blogs and give my opinion (and it is only my opinion before any of you start) on how they performed and whether or not we need them replaced with better (within reason).
Allan McGregor – I’ve already written a piece admitting I got it mostly wrong with him. I didn’t want him back as at being four months older than me I saw no benefit bringing someone of his age in. It also rarely goes well when a player returns to Ibrox for a second spell. Whilst I always rated him as a good goalkeeper I’ve never gotten carried away with the ‘cult of personality’ that surrounds him. There were just too many mistakes in him over the course of a season although admittedly I was spoiled growing up with Woods, Goram and Klos – three more consistent goalkeepers you’d struggle to find in the history of British football, let alone Scotland.
All that being said, Allan came back and has been very good – great at times – proving me wrong somewhat. He has brought a level of assurance that Foderingham simply didn’t. He’s a winner that commands respect and he marshals his defence well. McGregor was a big reason we managed to qualify for the Group Stages of the Europa League, even if I do think a lot of his saves were overhyped on social media by non-goalkeepers, he made them nonetheless. In the first half of the season his consistency levels increased greatly compared to his first spell and perhaps there were only a couple of goals where you could say he was at fault.
The second half of the season is a bit more questionable. He lost 4 or 5 goals that a top class goalkeeper shouldn’t be losing but he has just enough credit in the bank for his positive performances to allow for those. But he does now look like a 37 year old goalkeeper and whilst I have no issue with him being number 1 next season I think it’s imperative we identify his successor for the following season, whether that be promoting the promising McCrorie or looking elsewhere.
His petulant behaviour is the one real black mark against his copy book. I have no problem with goalkeepers looking after themselves, I did it myself. We get a lot of fly kicks and elbows thrown our way that largely go unnoticed and therefore unpunished. But he has taken it to new levels at times this season - Incurring two suspensions, one retrospectively, for kicking out or leaving a boot in. In this day and age, with the amount of cameras on a football pitch he really needs to stop this as he was lucky to get away with it over the season a couple of other times. This aspect more than anything is why I believe he didn’t win any Player of the Year awards.
Overall he gets an 8/10 mostly down to how well he played in the first half of the season.
Wesley Foderingham – Went from being our Number 1 who played an awful lot of games over the course of his first two seasons. Was a mainstay of the team that won the Championship and helped us back to the top flight. Deposed of the Number 1 shirt in the summer making way for a better goalkeeper but to be fair to him has been a more than capable deputy whenever called upon this season due to McGregor being injured or being a nugget. He made a fantastic reaction save at Rugby Park in the league cup earlier in the season. Likely to leave this summer in search of games, and he would go with my best wishes. Unfortunately had to come off injured at Rugby Park in what will likely be his last game. Very glad for him that he signed off at Ibrox with a clean sheet in the 2-0 victory over Celtic, as he has been on the receiving end of a few doings from them.
Done well when called upon, which wasn’t often so it would be unfair to give him a rating. He did well when he played this season and that’s really all you can ask of a Number two goalkeeper.
Andy Firth – Young Englishman came on to replace the injured Foderingham on Sunday at Rugby Park. Was unlucky not to save the penalty as he went right way and got a touch on it. That was basically all he had to do. I’m not sure what the plan is for him for next season. He may very well be promoted to Number 2 with Robbie McCrorie again going out on loan to get games and experience.
That covers the goalkeepers that made appearances for us this year. Next time I’ll look back at the season our full backs had.