Chelsea Goalkeepers (By Gary Watton)


IMG_1159Maybe I’ve got too much time to think, but I have been considering in my pretty little head the merits or otherwise of Chelsea’s goalkeepers over the course of the last 25 rollercoaster years. I am not an expert on goalkeepers, ’tis true, but in my defence [if you excuse the pun], I used to keep goals as a little nipper for the school team!

Okay, without further ado, let’s briefly review the following heroes and villains. I’ve given marks out of ten for each. Feel free to agree or more likely chastise me for my twopence worth. Incidentally, can any of you recall any crucial saves or blunders from the geezers below that stick in the memory?

Dave Beasant: I always considered big likeable Dave to be way over-rated. His reputation has always been based on that 1988 FA Cup final penalty save. However he had a bad tendency to parry shots instead of holding them with both hands. As a result he must have been the favourite goalie for most strikers as he was liable to palm a shot straight into the path of an onrushing centre forward. Dave also famously got injured when he dropped a bottle of salad cream or ketchup on his foot – not very good behaviour from someone expected to be a safe pair of hands! (5/10]

Kevin Hitchcock: Everybody liked Kevin. He was a faithful member of the squad for about a decade. He did have a knack of saving penalties, but he was a bit inconsistent. I noticed recently on videos of past performances that he flapped at crosses. I also hold him responsible for Chelsea failing to close out an FA Cup sixth round home win against Sunderland in 1992. He came out of his goals and Byrne headed the ball wide of him and Kevin tried to scurry back but the ball bounced beyond him. If he had stayed on his line, he would have bought himself extra time to deal with the header. As it was, we missed out on an FA Cup semi, but glory eventually came five long years later! [5/10]

Dmitri Kharine: West London’s favourite Russian [sorry Roman!] had a couple of peculiar traits. This renowned shotstopper always ludicrously wore tracksuit bottoms, come rain or shine, and he always had the continental bad habit of punching the ball from crosses instead of catching it. This flawed tactic meant that sometimes the punched ball landed at an opponent’s feet and therefore it did nothing to relieve the pressure on goalie and defence. [Do our coaches never speak to our players about such matters?] He also blundered badly at home to the high-flying Magpies in an FA Cup third round clash in 1996 when we were running the clock down and the big muppet scuffed a clearance, enabling Les Ferdinand to steal an equaliser and a replay, which we remarkably won on penalties [a collector’s item!]. I also think that Dmitri should have made a better fist of Cantona’s two cup final penalties on that awfully wet afternoon in 1994. The nation and beyond would loved to have seen Cantona’s penalties saved.  [6/10]

Frode Grodas: At a time when Chelsea’s transfer policy was to purchase the best that money can buy, Grodas seemed an odd appointment. There was probably at least thirty English goalkeepers who could have done the job at least as well. In the event, there were fears going into the 1997 FA Cup semi-final that his vulnerability under high balls would be exposed by a barrage from Wimbledon. However, the Norwegian came through this test with a clean sheet and repeated the trick in the final, albeit against a mediocre Middlesbrough. [5/10]

Ed De Goey: Big De Goey was a definite step-up in class for the Blues. He was a commanding presence in goals. The big Dutch maestro made a crucial last-minute save in the second leg against Vicenza which sent us through to the final of the 1998 European Cup Winners’ Cup whereupon he collected a clean sheet, and then he repeated that trick in the 2000 FA Cup Final. On the debit side, he did concede a farcical goal on that disastrous Saturday afternoon in October 1999 when we conceded three late goals to Nwankwo Kanu of Arse-nil. De Goey rushed out of his net while Leboeuf rushed back to the goal-line. It never bodes well when your goalie decides to become a centre half and your centre half chooses to become the goalkeeper! [8/10]

Carlo Cudicini: I think that everybody loved Carlo. He was brilliant in the first half of his Chelsea career, but through time he became erratic and was rightly replaced by big Petr. Alan Green once amusingly observed that with Cudicini as our replacement goalkeeper, Chelsea had the two best goalkeepers in the Premiership! Who will ever forget that night at Reading when Cudicini sufferd a sickening injury and yet ended up less wounded than big Cech who experienced an innocuous-looking challenge and nearly died! Happily, when Carlo relocated to Three Points Lane, he did little to lift Tottensham out of their mediocrity, so all is forgiven.  [7/10]

Mark Bosnich: I almost forgot about him, probably because his brief stint at the Bridge is best forgotten! Bosnich was a big hit at Villa Park, but unhappily the Aussie maestro proved not to be one of Ranieri’s most inspired signings. [4/10]

Marco Ambrosini: The rather unfortunate Ambrosini was plucked from third choice to deputise in goals at the business end of the 2004 Champions League campaign. Yes he coped with the so-called ‘Invincibles’ of Arsenal [who weren’t so invincible against us!]. However, Ambrosini conceded a couple of soft goals in that nightmare semi-final away to ten-man Monaco [who weren’t exactly world-beaters]. Ambrosini was the equivalent of the barman who is asked to step in and sing at his pub because the cabaret act didn’t turn up. [4/10]

Petr Cech: The main man. The guy is a Chelsea great. His clean sheets in 2004-5 and his penalty save on that tricky winter’s night at Blackburn are the stuff of legend. Of course, having had a prolonged career, Mr Cech has had his howlers too, but his importance to Chelsea’s success rates alongside Schmeichel’s importance to the glory years at Old Trafford. On the negative side, he probably could have saved one or two more penalties than he did. [He failed to save a single penalty when we were defeated by Liverpoo in a Champions League semi-final shoot-out in 2007 and he was also unable to save any ManUre penalties in the 2008 Champions League final.] Some would argue that he has never been the same exceptional goalkeeper since that near-tragedy at Reading. [9/10]

Hilario: Hilarious Hilario was definitely not one of our better Portuguese purchases. Admittedly he did start his Chelsea career with an important penalty save at Sheffield United, but Hilario never inspired any confidence in his goalkeeping abilities. We always seemed vulnerable when he was between the sticks, a fact emphasised by our 2-4 defeat at home to Manchester City which threatened to derail our 2010 Double-winning campaign. [4/10]

Ross Turnbull: Fortunately for Chelsea, Ross played few times for the Blues. I thought that he was a bit mediocre to be Cech’s understudy. I shudder to think what would have happened if Petr the great had been sidelined for many months and we had to make do with Turnbull. [4/10]

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Posted by Gary Watton

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3 thoughts on “Chelsea Goalkeepers (By Gary Watton)

  • jonesy

    Some nice memories there Gary ,good article , I often remember Hitchcock`s poor performance in the first-leg play off up at Middlesborough, which did us few favours come the return game and relegation followed !

  • Thank you, Jonesy. Yeah, a bad goalkeeping performance can cause lots of damage. Mind you, Chelsea should never have allowed themselves to end up in the play-offs that year, and Kev can’t be blamed for that.

  • You forgot to mention the great, ahem!, Roger Freestone, who remembers him? No cant say I do either but his name vaguely rings a bell with me, somewhere in the late 80s if I remember correctly. I also remember Gerry Peyton who I think was signed on loan as cover from Fulham? he came on as a substitute in his one and only game for us though I cant remember whom he replaced?? then there was John Philipps who was the great Bonetti’s understudy in the 70s, so 3 Welsh keepers played for us, Phillips Freestone Niedwiecki

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