OPINION: Does Mark Warburton really need a new goalkeeper at Nottingham Forest?
Mark Warburton has made no secret regarding his intention to sign a new goalkeeper for Nottingham Forest - but do we really need one?
My own take on the matter is that we can do a lot worse than Jordan Smith.
He has performed admirably since being thrown in at the deep end last season. But, like the majority of football supporters around the world, I’m not a keeper so it’s difficult to provide an expert opinion.
That’s why I’ve once again enlisted the help of Darren Wheater-Lowe, a former team-mate and the owner of Keepers Only, a development school for aspiring young shot stoppers in Nottingham.
Daz provided some excellent analysis for my piece about Dorus De Vries last season and was my first port of call for the Jordan Smith debate.
I asked Darren, why Mark Warburton is looking for a keeper when he seems to have some decent stoppers within the club?
He replied: “Probably because he doesn’t have an experienced keeper in his ranks that he can rely on, or that he isn’t confident about their passing game.”
No sooner had he mentioned the word passing, the penny dropped.
It’s no surprise that the Forest gaffer is a total football advocate, especially when it comes to playing from the back. As Darren went onto say: “It’s his way of football where the keeper becomes the eleventh outfielder.”
Kicking in general is an area that Smith needs to work on but it’s been more than evident that he’s not been very comfortable with the short passes at pace.
Many fans have noticed that Warburton’s insistence on making his keeper start the attacks doesn’t suit the 22-year-old, but is it a necessity for a goalkeeper to play from the back?
Darren raised a very good point: “Sometimes you don’t need the tippy tappy at the back, yes, it looks great when 27 passes later the team score, but the finger of blame will soon be pointed back at the keeper if it goes wrong from the starting point. However, using the feet is part and parcel of goalkeeping, with a 6/1 ratio of footwork to hands being used in games.”
My own take of Nottingham Forest custodians past and present is that, as a club, we’ve always produced decent understudies. Shilton to Woods (League Cup Final), Van Breukelen to Sutton, Sutton to Crossley, Camp to Darlow, Darlow to De Vries and finally De Vries to Smith. I’m not a keeper myself but I’d argue that the production line has served us well down the years; there’s a common denominator amongst that list which proves it’s no fluke either. Steve Sutton has played with or coached every single one of the aforementioned stoppers in that list.
It seems odd then that Sutton suddenly resigns and into the club comes Jim Stewart; as Daz quite rightly pointed out; new managers surround themselves with their own goalkeeping people whilst they tend to the outfield players. Ironically, Steve Sutton was Darren’s own coach during a brief spell at Grantham Town where the former Forest man impressed him with his “get the basics right” approach to the game.
Something that Darren was quick to point out was the fact that despite a new management team over at Notts County, they retained the services of Mark Crossley.
So what now for Jordan Smith? Well, his performance against big spending Middlesbrough and in particular, his personal battles with Britt Assombalonga, was outstanding. Shot stopping, one on ones and an array of difficult crosses were mastered with a real competence on Saturday, he’s not going out without a fight.
“If the inevitable happens and the manager does replace him, Smith may just have to concentrate a little more on his passing game than all his other keeping duties,” said Darren.
As a season ticket holder and a lifelong fan, this for me is one area that Mark Warburton could have left alone. We had an outstanding coach in Sutton and an amazing young talent in Smith; if it isn’t broke then don’t try and fix it!