Drama in goal for City
Never mind Footballers' Wives. What about Goalkeepers' Lives as an alternative drama?While Norwich City first choice David Marshall has demonstrated a very safe pair of hands as the only ever-present player in the first team this season, all manner of ins and outs, injury and intrigue seem to have surrounded the rest of the Carrow Road goalkeeping fraternity - and not all of it confined to the current playing staff.
Never mind Footballers' Wives. What about Goalkeepers' Lives as an alternative drama?
While Norwich City first choice David Marshall has demonstrated a very safe pair of hands as the only ever-present player in the first team this season, all manner of ins and outs, injury and intrigue seem to have surrounded the rest of the Carrow Road goalkeeping fraternity - and not all of it confined to the current playing staff.
With number two Matthew Gilks still on the road to recovery from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since November, England Under-21 squad member Joe Lewis, who suffered two serious facial injuries during his loan spell at Morecambe - to the extent that he was described as looking more like Joe Louis - is now considering a reported £400,000 move to another League Two club, Peterborough, where he could become the club's record signing.
The absence of these two has handed 18-year-old Steven Arnold a place on the bench for the last 10 Coca-Cola Championship games, though Marshall's form and fitness have been such that Arnold has not been called upon to make his debut.
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There has been more chopping and changing on the training field.
The briefest of statements on the club website yesterday confirmed what had become increasingly apparent to those watching the players warm up in recent games - that goalkeeping coach James Hollman has left the club. The statement included the customary line “with immediate effect”, but the other stock phrase, “by mutual consent”, was not rolled out on this occasion.
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“James Hollman has left the club and that's as much as we're prepared to say,” said Roeder yesterday, shedding no further light on the reasons for Hollman's sudden exit after six years at Colney.
The announcement came a matter of hours after it was reported that former Northern Ireland 'keeper Tommy Wright was expected to resign as manager of Ballymena United to take over as City's goalkeeping coach, but he has now turned the job down.
“This has not been an easy decision but after much soul searching I feel I have made the right decision,” said Wright.
“The thought of what I have at Ballymena and not wanting to leave the job unfinished was a deciding factor.”
In the meantime, Bryan Gunn has been helping the 'keepers prepare for the past few games in addition to his liaison role at Colney.
Amid such a rapid turnover of players and staff, not just in the goalkeeping ranks, another exit went almost unnoticed as Paul Gallacher's contract was terminated by mutual consent on New Year's Eve. It was followed swiftly by the news that he had signed for Scottish Division One club Dunfermline - under their newly-appointed boss, 37-year-old Jim McIntyre - until the end of the season.
The 28-year-old Scotland international, son of former Clydebank goalkeeper Jim Gallacher, has been on loan at East End Park since August and admitted it had not taken long to agree to a permanent return north of the border.
Gallacher said yesterday: “I have had first team football week in, week out, so it was an easy decision to make.
“I'm more settled now. I knew most of the boys when I came here and I played for three years in the same team as the new manager. I feel I have done well and am delighted to stay.
“I still have to go back next week and pack up my stuff at Norwich.”
But Gallacher said he had no regrets about his move to Carrow Road from Dundee United in the summer of 2004.
After waiting nearly two years for Nigel Worthington to give him his debut, he eventually made 36 senior appearances, the last of them in a 3-2 win at Luton last February, before former boss Peter Grant dropped him for the third time.
“I don't regret it - no, not at all. I played at a high level in some high-profile matches and I enjoyed my time,” he said.
“A different set of managers came in who didn't fancy me and that was a bit of a stumbling block.
“But going to Norwich definitely improved me as a goalkeeper.”
Gallacher's move has rescued Dunfermline from a goalkeeping crisis with Roddy McKenzie out since August and understudy Sean Murdoch missing with a hip injury, and the Pars, desperate to return to the Scottish Premier League, rose from second from bottom to fourth in the table during the caretaker reign of the man just appointed as manager.
“Jim McIntyre has had six games, won four and drawn two, so that's not a bad start to a managerial career,” said Gallacher, who has kept seven clean sheets in his 18 appearances so far.
Gallacher admitted that his departure had been finalised without him having had any conversation with City boss Glenn Roeder.
He said: “I haven't actually spoken to the new manager. It's a bit strange, really. But fair play to him, he's got his own ideas and he wants his own people in, and they're getting some good results.”
t Among my son's Christmas presents was the new Xbox 360 game, Fifa 08, opening up a whole new world of fantasy football matches.
Apart from the thrill of seeing City thrash Ipswich by double-figure scores, you can stage all manner of unlikely fixtures. The other day, I'll swear I caught him playing Dagenham & Redbridge v Brazil.
It reminded me of the Subbuteo games I played in the late 60s where a Norwich City side that read Keelan, Stringer, Mullett, Lucas and so on, would take on the Inter Milan of Facchetti, Mazzola and Domenghini. As if those two clubs would ever meet . . .
Needless to say, the 21st century has brought much greater sophistication and each player in Fifa 08 has his own personal rating.
The City ratings, based on the squad at the start of the season, certainly make interesting reading.
The player with the highest score? None other than Julien Brellier with a 72. Then, after David Marshall and Darren Huckerby with 71, comes Ian Murray with 70.