A Goalkeeping Conundrum


North End have done well for goalkeepers, for the most part, in my years supporting the club. My earliest memory of a goalkeeper at North End was David Lucas but those memories are largely hazy as I was only 2 years old when he signed pro with the club. Saying that I was still only 7/8 years old when he made his breakthrough in the side in the 1998/99 season.

In terms of what I actually remember, Iain Turner aside, the likes of Thorsten Stuckmann, Andrew Lonergan, Carlo Nash, Declan Rudd (in his loan spell), Sam Johnstone, Chris Maxwell in Simon Grayson’s last season and of course the now England number 1, Jordan Pickford, have all been really very good for us in the years I’ve been supporting the club. We have had some real quality in the stick over the years which is why, I suspect, our fanbase can get quite heated when it comes to goalkeepers.

Just a side note, our author Oli called the Pickford thing…

The Current Situation

The past couple of seasons have shown exactly how heated some North End fans can be when it comes to the two keepers (aside from Connor Ripley) at the club in Chris Maxwell and Declan Rudd. Some were and probably still are in the Maxwell camp, others in the Rudd camp, some in neither and some not bothered, you can see why social media was an interesting place to be at times.

The fact is though, both of these keepers have had good spells in the sticks while playing for North End under whatever manager and that will undoubtedly play a part in some people’s thinking but what really matters is what the gaffer actually thinks.

For the record, I personally don’t think either of them will be at the club come the start of the season. If the club are to be believed and we are in fact serious about pushing for the Premier League and being in the top 6, if I’m being brutally honest, I don’t really think either of them are good enough anymore as a regular number 1 in order for us to be challenging at the top end of this league.

If you’d have asked me around the time that Alex Neil came in, I would have told you Maxwell was the answer but I suspect he has almost certainly played his last game in Lilywhite if what some folk have said on social media about him is to be believed. I also have a sneaking feeling that Alex Neil isn’t entirely sold on Declan Rudd either.

There was talk when Neil first came in after Rudd had signed that he wasn’t too keen on the former Norwich stopper and I think from the time that the two have been at the club, I feel like there’s always been some sort of underlying tone there but Neil’s hand was somewhat forced this season when it came to playing Rudd.

The 2018/19 Season: A Goalkeeping Story

This season was one that started with so much optimism but for one reason or another, it ended with quite the opposite feeling to that and there were some absolute goalkeeping howlers thrown in there too. In fact, there’s been a catalogue of errors this season and unfortunately, Declan Rudd tops that list.

Fortunately, Dec’s not the only one that’s had a bad time of it this season. Chris Maxwell needlessly got himself sent off in the game away at Ipswich Town for recklessly challenging Kayden Jackson out of his area and he got his marching orders with a second yellow.

Then, there was that Doncaster game which will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. As good as Donny were that day, and they fully deserved to go through, we were woeful and that epitomised by the debut performance of Michael Crowe who had an afternoon to forget.

Declan Rudd is one who I don’t think will be sitting down with his grandkids and watching a compilation of saves from the 2018/19 season in 30/40 years time. There were many moments from this season that certainly won’t live long in his memory.

The 2-0 loss at Pride Park at the end of August Rudd was easily beaten down at his near-post from Keogh’s header, very soft and to be honest, a keeper at this level in my opinion absolutely shouldn’t be being beaten at his near post like that.

Things didn’t really get better from there. In the game away at Leeds United in September, Leeds’ third goal saw Declan attempt a quite laughable kung fu kick after he dived the completely wrong way. Then, there was the Rotherham free kick, he again dived completely the wrong way as the ball came over the wall and attempted to kick the ball away while in mid-dive.

Dec’s crowning moment, for all the wrong reasons, was in the game away at Birmingham City in December. Maikel Kieftenbeld picked up the ball just inside the North End half after a poor clearance and he had a very soft shot at goal which slowly bounced toward Rudd in net and he just seemed to let it slip through his hands and roll into the back of his net. A moment that got Dec some presumably unwanted media coverage and it will certainly be on a few blooper reels in the coming seasons.

All of the above, I would imagine, hasn’t gone unnoticed by the manager and this is why I think there’ll be a new keeper coming into Deepdale this summer as number 1. I’ll take a look at a few potential keepers below that we could see starting come August.

Adam Davies

The Welshman is out of contract at Oakwell this summer and is allegedly “mulling over his future” according to some online news sources. There’s been no link made to Davies but he’s a good age at 25 at the moment and he has plenty of experience with Barnsley at Championship level.

He’s clocked up over 200 appearances for Barnsley with 81 of those coming in two seasons in the Championship. Ryan Giggs has also named the former Sheffield Wednesday stopper in some of his recent Wales national team squads with current North End keeper, Chris Maxwell.

Davies also ticks another big box for North End with him being out of contract this summer.

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John Ruddy

Now, this may be an ambitious one and it’s very probable that he’ll be out of range as far as wages go but as a loan option, he’d be a possibility. Ruddy has plenty of experience at this level having played a huge part in Wolves’ promotion bid last season.

Ruddy made 45 appearances for Wolves in the 17/18 season keeping 24 clean sheets (53%) as Wolves marched on to the title. To add to the Championship experience, he’s got plenty of Premier League experience with 118 appearances in the top flight, plenty coming under Alex Neil’s guidance at Norwich.

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Joe Hart

Joe doesn’t really need much of an introduction to most of you reading this being the former England and Man City number 1 but after being linked with him in January, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Alex Neil revive his interest in the current Burnley keeper.

He’s currently being kept out of the Burnley side by Tom Heaton and it’s expected that he’ll be surplus to requirement so there’s a chance that Burnley could let him go out on loan in order to get him some playing time and a move down the M65 wouldn’t be too far-fetched. However, a move not quite as far down the M65 has been mentioned with Rovers apparently being interested in getting him into Ewood Park.

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Aro Muric

Now, this one won’t really be much of a surprise to anyone as his name has been out in the open for a while now but I had heard that he was Neil’s number goalkeeping 1 target this summer. I can only presume from this that we’ve still got a good relationship with Man City if we think there’s a chance of landing him.

In terms of game time, it’s been limited for the 20-year-old Kosovan but one of the world’s finest coaches, Pep Guardiola saw enough in him to bring him in as his number 2 for the season after Claudio Bravo picked up a season-ending injury before the season even began.

Again, I suspect this one would be a loan for the season but I reckon there’s a chance we could see the 6′ 4″ stopper at Deepdale come August.

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I think it’s safe to say that the goalkeeping situation has been a problem one but hopefully, we bring a bit of stability to the number 1 spot this summer. If you’re wondering why I’ve failed to mention Connor Ripley, that’s largely because it’s tough to judge a keeper on two appearances after being out injured for a couple of months. He could be the man to take us forward, it’s hard to say either way at the minute.

What do you think, is there anyone you would like to see us bring in or would you like to see the current incumbents stay at Deepdale and given another opportunity to stake a claim for the shirt? Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and to like the Facebook page.