x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Keepers need helping hands

It was a bad weekend for the men between the posts while N'Zogbia returned to haunt Newcastle.

Edwin van der Sar, left, the Manchester United goalkeeper, gave schoolboys a bad name with his error that gifted West Bromwich Albion a point on Saturday at Old Trafford.
Edwin van der Sar, left, the Manchester United goalkeeper, gave schoolboys a bad name with his error that gifted West Bromwich Albion a point on Saturday at Old Trafford.

Worst keeping I: Van der Sar

There is nothing like a footballing blunder to prompt some casual prejudice. "That is not even schoolboy stuff," Andy Townsend, the Abu Dhabi Sports pundit, said when summarising Edwin van der Sar's contribution to West Bromwich Albion's fine comeback against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday. "It is schoolgirl!"

Battle of the sexes aside, Van der Sar's drop was a mistake of epic proportions, which was all the more surprising as the Dutchman has built a long career on being reliable. Perhaps the eyes are going: he is 40 next month, after all. There, some casual ageism to boot.

Somen Tchoyi, the West Brom midfielder, has taken a roundabout route to the Premier League.

He is unlikely to have scored many easier goals at any of his former clubs, Union Douala, in his native Cameroon, Odd Grenland in Norway or Austria's Red Bull Salzburg, than that which he was presented with at Old Trafford.

Worst keeping II: Carson

West Brom's No 1 has that immediately recognisable demeanour of the tortured England goalkeeping fall-guy, condemned to a life of footballing purgatory by a significant blunder on international duty.

Robert Green's got it. Paul Robinson has, too. David Seaman had it, the last time anyone saw him. Even Ray Clemence has a hint of it, 34 years after letting one in through his legs against Scotland.

When Scott Carson presented his gift to Javier Hernandez at Old Trafford, patting a free kick down at the striker's feet, he could have waved his arms around and blamed snoozing defenders for not getting back quickly enough to clear.

He opted instead to take his medicine. His body language said: "Yep, my bad. I'll get abused for it - tell me something I don't know."

But, no, a lifeline. Hurrah for Van der Sar. Saturday was not a day for goalkeepers.

Worst stereotyping: Pleat

Liverpool supporters have swapped two American owners for one and David Pleat had some sage advice for John Henry from the commentary box.

"Of course, there will be lots of new rules for them to learn, so they should just sit there quietly and take it all in," Pleat said during the Merseyside derby yesterday as the cameras panned in on Henry, Liverpool's new American owner chatting with the chairman, Martin Broughton.

Perhaps Pleat could have been a little more patronising if he had tried really, really hard.

Moments after, Tim Howard in the Everton goal tipped over a goal-bound header from Fernando Torres, the Liverpool striker. Not bad, that, for an American. And no shoulder pads or helmet, either.

Best advice: Tottenham fans

Whenever the ball bobbles in the direction of Tom Huddlestone, he is left in no doubt as to what his side's supporters expect from him.

If he is in the opposition half and in space, he is usually met with a chorus of: "Shoot!" And he might as well do, given that he has a cannon for a right-foot.

While his latest 25-yard special clinched victory at Fulham on Saturday and further endeared him to the travelling faithful, another Tottenham Hotspur man nearly caused irrevocable damage to his own relationship with said fans.

Having arrived from rivals Arsenal, William Gallas was hardly starting from a position of power, and followers of his new club have not warmed to him so far.

Huddlestone's goal was initially chalked off - before being reinstated - on the basis Gallas was offside in front of the goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer.

The French defender should be thankful for the small mercies that the goal was allowed to stand.

Best name check: N'Zogbia

That is pronounced Nn-zog-bee-ya. Not in-som-nee-ya. Got that? Joe Kinnear, the manager who famously got Charles N'Zogbia's goat by confusing him with an acute case of sleep deprivation, has long since departed St James' Park.

However, the French enigma is clearly still peeved by that sorry episode, judging by his uncharacteristically determined display in Wigan Athletic's 2-2 draw at Newcastle United on Saturday.

If the home fans were initially surprised to see him making an effort for once, they were probably shocked when he then netted a bullet header that was reminiscent of Duncan Ferguson or Alan Shearer in their pomp.

His second, drilled left-footed into the roof of the net, was at least a revision to type.

N'Zogbia's display was of even greater annoyance to the Newcastle fans, given that their latest maverick French winger, Hatem Ben Arfa, was conspicuously absent and facing up to a long spell out of the game with his broken leg.