If there are any players that seem to make the big jump from the lower divisions, they are goalkeepers, why? Some football fans argue that the shot stoppers don’t get enough credit and are underrated. Here are my top five Championship goalkeepers who I think, could make the big step into even a top four club in the Premier League.
5. Adam Federici – Reading
Despite being limited to just eight international appearances for his country, he has been regarded by Reading fans as Australia’s number one. After spending ten years in London with loan spells at Maidenhead United, Northwood, Carshalton Athletic, Bristol City and Southend United, the Australian made his claim for the number one shirt upon his return to the club in 2008 in place of Marcus Hahnemann and the Reading faithful haven’t looked back since.
It only took six months for Adam to get his first and respectfully, probably his only goal for Reading after a dramatic late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at home to Cardiff on a chilly Boxing Day.
Federici, 29, is renowned for his athleticism and distribution as a bonus to doing his best to keeping that ball out of his net. Adam won’t be too keen on looking back at 2014, currently sitting in the bottom half of the Championship with his Reading side having conceded 40 goals in 25 league games so far this season.
4. Darren Randolph – Birmingham City
Probably one of the only goalkeepers you could mistake as a wide player due to his not so daunting stature between the sticks for Birmingham. The former Charlton and Motherwell goalkeeper has surprised many in Blue this season with potentially a Man Of The Match award in almost every game he’s played. Birmingham fans may seem more hopeful when their defence doesn’t seem to have the best of days with Darren in goal, which seems to be the case for most of this and last season.
Having conceded 38 goals so far this season, Randolph will be looking for his back four to make a lot of improvement going into the second half of their Championship campaign.
Randolph made his debut for the Republic of Ireland in a friendly against Oman in September 2012 coming on as a substitute in a more than convincing 4-1 win. His second and, so far, last appearance for his national side was against Spain in June 2013 when pulling off a fantastic fingertip save from Arsenal attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla in a respectable 2-0 defeat.
3. John Ruddy – Norwich City
Unlike the figure of Randolph, Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy seems to obtain the stature of two colossal and intimidating goalkeepers. The 6’4 giant has represented England on one occasion and has a great reputation amongst the Norwich City faithful, as well as a number of Premier League followers. They took well to the Canaries shot stopper in their three year stay at the top level of English football. However, some Ipswich fans may state that he simply falls over too quickly, but hey, that’s football rivalry for you.
Ruddy seems to be a fans favourite since joining the club in July 2010, managing over 151 appearances for the Canaries after finding it difficult to settle at previous clubs, having spent almost a dozen loan spells elsewhere.
Ruddy was named Norwich City player of the year in the 11-12 Premier League season, but was to be relegated the following season. Arguably Ruddy has had a better season than either Adam Federici or Darren Randolph, with his club currently sitting 7th in the league ladder and having only picked the ball out of his net 30 times so far this season.
2. Kieron Westwood – Sheffield Wednesday
Westwood, 30, is a former Manchester City youth product who has already proved himself in the top tier of English football, having made 19 appearances for Sunderland. Westwood found chances limited when competing with current Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, whom at the time was pulling off a series of brilliant performances which eventually led to a £11 million move to the Merseysiders.
Westwood is known for his positioning which enables him to pull-off a number of point black saves to prevent a huge roar from the opposing fans. In 2009, he caught the eye from a number of Championship clubs after one of his best spells in his career with League One outfit Oldham. He enjoyed a similar length of a career with his next club Coventry City in the Championship, having made over 131 appearances for The Sky Blues.
Westwood’s current Sheffield Wednesday side boast the second best defence in the Championship so far this season, having conceded 21 goals and keeping 12 clean sheets in the process. Westwood will be happy with his water-tight defence this season, but will be looking for more positives at the other end of the pitch.
1. David Marshall – Cardiff City
How this man isn’t at a top five Premier League side, I, like many others, will never know. A keeper who almost single-handedly plucked Cardiff out of the relegation zone, a voice behind the back four who can see almost everything but the passionate crowd behind him chanting: “Scotland’s Number One!”. There may be a case for some critics claiming that goalkeepers don’t make good captains after David was chosen to skipper the side by former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but surely there can be an exception for a goalkeeper such as Marshall’s stature.
Joined Cardiff in May 2009 following Norwich’s relegation to League One and has shown quite a transformation since arriving to South Wales. Marshall had his praise and his critics from the Cardiff fans, praised for his athleticism to pull off world class save in almost every game, however, was also criticised of his handling of the ball to ease the pressure off his defence.
Following the sacking of former Southampton and Wolves manager, Dave Jones, Cardiff welcomed in manager Malky Mackay and his own back-room staff in the 11-12 season, who helped Marshall improve his few flaws. The 12-13 season saw Cardiff promoted to the Premier League as champions with Marshall earning many plaudits. If Cardiff fans thought the Scotland international had a good season when gaining promotion, he attracted worldwide attention in the Premier League making the most saves by the end of the season and with quality too.
Marshall’s recognition in the Premier League was proven by winning a place in the Sky Sports’ Premier League ‘Team of the season’. With relegation to the Championship for the 13-14 season, Marshall has seen his side embroiled in many controversial incident and debates, which some say are the reasons for the wobbly season at this halfway point. His Cardiff side currently sit 11th in the Championship having conceded 35 goals in a more than disappointing season so far.
Marshall has been keeping quiet from the media this January transfer window, with speculation of a move to Everton with current Toffee’s goalkeeper Tim Howard facing yet a month on the sidelines.
by Sam Hardwell