x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Vorm starts as he means to go on at Swansea City

Michael Vorm has made an immediate impression in goal for Swansea City after joining in the summer.

Michel Vorm has made an impressive start to life in goal for Swansea City in the Premier League.
Michel Vorm has made an impressive start to life in goal for Swansea City in the Premier League.

"A goalkeeper is a goalkeeper because he can't play football," Ruud Gullit once famously said.

The notion of a shot-stopper as a subspecies was propagated by a man from the land of total football.

Swansea City would beg to disagree. They embarked upon a search for a goalkeeper who could play football and, having found one in Gullit's Dutch homeland, have discovered he is still better with his hands than his feet.

On his Swansea debut, Michel Vorm made 11 saves, more than any goalkeeper managed in any top-flight match last season.

On his first competitive appearance at the Liberty Stadium, on Saturday, his penalty save from Wigan Athletic's Ben Watson earned the Welsh club their first Premier League point.

And yet, as Brendan Rodgers, the Swansea manager, said, it was his prowess as a passer that prompted Vorm's signing.

Another Dutchman, Dorus de Vries, had occupied the Swansea goal for four years before opting to join Wolverhampton Wanderers when his contract expired and Rodgers said: "What we had last season with Dorus was 11 outfield players when we had the ball.

"For us it is more than shot-stopping. Our goalkeepers need to understand the game and how we play because we go back to him to build and construct our game."

Swansea's possession game has earned them plenty of plaudits. Yet, but for Vorm's acrobatics, they would have had two defeats, with the loss at Manchester City a probable thrashing with a lesser last line of defence. A small club have a small goalkeeper, with Rodgers bucking conventional wisdom about the physical requirements for the job.

"Other English clubs may have believed he was too small, but for us he is perfect," he said, comparing Vorm, who is 6ft (1.83m) tall, to Barcelona's Victor Valdes, another comparatively short custodian.

"He can help control the game for us and he is a big personality," Rodgers said. "People will look at him and say he is not 6ft 4in, but he will make stops other goalkeepers of that size won't because he is so fast."

Speedy in the penalty box, Vorm has been quick to make an impact. He only joined Swansea on August 10, ending a summer-long search by Rodgers.

"I think we were linked with every goalkeeper in the world this summer apart from Edwin van der Sar, and he was retiring," the manager said. "But we needed to be patient to ensure that we got the right one, and I think everyone can see now that we have done that."

Vorm cost £1.5 million (Dh9.1m) from the Dutch Eredivisie club Utrecht, his only previous team apart from a season-long loan at Den Bosch, where Ruud van Nistelrooy started his professional career.

The 27 year old was a member of the Dutch squad that won the European Under 21 Championships in 2006. Four years later, he was on the bench again, understudying Maarten Stekelenburg for the senior side, meaning he has a runners-up medal from the last World Cup.

While his progress was recognised by Bert van Marwijk, the national team coach, Vorm came to attention partly for his fine record from 12 yards, which earned him the nickname "penalty killer". It is something he has downplayed.

"For a couple of years I had a very good record but I know you have to be lucky," he said. "It's not something I work on particularly, I just focus and step away from the noise of the crowd to work out what I'm going to do."

Repelling Watson's spot kick on Saturday was, he said, the result of doing his homework.

"Last week I saw Match of the Day and I saw the same player take a penalty [against Norwich] and the corner he put it in," Vorm said.

"He scored then so I thought, 'why would he change it?'."

That apart, his second game was quieter than his first, which had the added impediment of coming a mere four days after he signed.

"My distribution is better, but it was about getting to know the team too," he said.

"I trained a couple of times before the Monday's game and I didn't know everyone's name. But the way the Dutch national team play is normal to how Swansea play so the more we are together the better we will be."

Vorm's own form has already prompted suggestions he will be a bargain.

"People will see that we have a top goalkeeper," Rodgers said. "You hear it the whole time and it's right, a good goalkeeper will get you up to 10 points a season."

And that, for Swansea, could well be the difference between spending next season in the Premier League or the Championship.

sports@thenational.ae