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It's Like a Marriage

Written By Justin on Thursday, May 12, 2011 | 12:06:00 AM

"My relationship with Lehmann is the same as ever - we don't really have one."
--Manuel Almunia, Arsenal, January 2006

“I do not remember ever saying that. When he left Arsenal we were talking and no problems. We have a good relationship.”

--Manuel Almunia, Arsenal, January 2011

If you play in goal at any kind of organized level, it is likely you are not the only goalkeeper in the squad. Let's hope you're the number one choice, but you may be number two, or even three. In any case, some kind of working relationship with the other goalkeepers is required. Happily, in the majority of cases, even those goalkeepers in the greatest competition tend to put this aside and work harmoniously, often as the best of friends. But as we know, this isn't always the case.

Sadly, as is often the case with disagreements, when two goalkeepers in competition do not get along, each seems to feel the other is to blame. Spend any time on goalkeeper forums and you'll read the stories: "I try to help him, but he's only interested in himself"; "I don't know why the manager picks him, I was playing far better, and now they both act like I don't exist." When you find yourself in a goalkeeping relationship that isn't working, the first place to look is the mirror, especially if you're the one not getting a game. Let's be honest: it's very rare that the source of trouble is the keeper who's playing. It's the disgruntled understudy. If that's you, you know the drill: work hard in training, showcase your ability, and hope for a chance. Don't make things worse by causing friction and complaining (or whining on the internet!).

If you're the number one, and your troublesome number two is making life difficult when you should be enjoying your football, you have a couple of options. The first is to focus on yourself, not worry about anyone else, and get on with your football. This is a good option if you're playing at a senior level. The hurt feelings of grown men and women aren't your problem, just as long as you don't go out of your way to make them feel worse.

If you're a bit younger, though, you might need to concede that not everybody matures at the same rate, and that friction from a number two probably stems more from frustration and insecurity rather than dislike or genuine ill will. Keeping that in mind, sometimes small gestures go a long way. Make an effort in training to include him in your preparation; ask his opinion, offer encouragement. Don't overdo it, just let him know he's part of the team. His fear is that he's not needed.

Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton famously maintained a close friendship through years of swapping the England number one shirt. Others squabbled but then made up. The Almunia-Lehmann feud had a happy ending, as did the Lehmann-Kahn feud. The Lehmann-Tim Wiese feud is not going so well, sadly. Jens is suing him.


JOHN said...

I´ve been a fan of your blog for some time now. Don´t know if you expect feedback, but I think every goalie should read your posts and comment every once in a while, so here´s my 2 cents: the last time I won a trophy was during my academy years, and it happened with me being a second choice goalie.I didn´t necessarily like it, but the whole group was strong, and the starting eleven was almost always the same, so all of us backups became a pretty tight unit. Anyway, the starting keeper wasn´t really my friend, but no one in the whole group ever lost sight of the final objective, and that contributed a lot to us being champs. And besides, the games I did play showed the starting gk (and the coach)there was no room for complacency.

Justin said...

Thanks John, I do like to hear feedback and wish people would comment more. That sounds like a pretty good scenario - everyone respected each other and worked for the same goal, even without being close friends.

Andy said...

Two words: Hope Solo. Good article, I'll definitely be back to read more.

Justin said...

Thanks, Andrew. Hope Solo, wow. I forgot all about that. "I would have made those saves." Not the most supportive teammate ever - even if she was right.

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