14WINTER 2010So who's on OUR Side?Strikers, referees, ball manufacturers, sometimes even your own defenders - they're all out there making life as difficult as possible for today's goalkeepers. One of the goalkeeping greats - Bob Wilson OBE - looks at the changing face of 'keeping over five decades and concludes that the job isn't getting any easier.Few goalkeepers have 'been there, done it and got the T-shirt' as many times as Bob Wilson. Just a season away from his 70th birthday, Bob looks back on a career on and off the pitch bejewelled with achievement: international honours with Scotland; 11 years and more than 300 appearances for his beloved Arsenal; the League and Cup Double and becoming the UK's first ever full time goalkeeping coach, spending 28 years pioneering new methods and nurturing talents such as Pat Jennings and David Seaman. From dominating the penalty box, Bob headed for another box and a new career, first with the BBC, as the face of Football Focus, then to ITV, fronting their coverage of Euro '96 and France '98. A few short months after that memorable finale in Paris, Bob's life changed forever, following the tragic death from cancer of his daughter Anna. In her memory, Bob and his wife Meg set up The Willow Foundation, a local charity providing special days for 16-40 year olds diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. In those 12 years, this small charity has blossomed into a national institution and to date has raised more than £14 million. Today, tomorrow and the next, Bob will be out on his bike in training for his biggest challenge yet... to cycle from his 'ancestral' home in Glasgow, heading south to visit all 20 Premier League clubs, to raise funds for The Willow Foundation.Before today's 36-mile training ride, Bob takes time out to give GK1 his thoughts on the ever changing life of a goalie.EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWBob Wilson
WINTER 201015: The first month of the season averaged 3.2 goals per game, way above the norm. Tony Pulis suggested good defending was a dying art. Is good goalkeeping a dying art?BW: Far from it! There are lots of reasons for the increase in goals. Full backs used to defend. Now they're being told to push on more and more and often leave themselves exposed at the back. Tony's right about the art of defending, but it's not the main reason. Plainly and simply, it's down to the modern ball. 'Keepers already have to defend 192 square feet of goal. That's 8 foot by 8 yards - a big enough chasm without having a ball which does so many tricks in flight. I've studied this season's new ball and it's not that bad. Certainly it's better than that joke ball they used in the World Cup. That was almost a beach ball. But the inconsistency of goalkeeping and the increase in goals scored is down to the ball. : So bad news all round for 'keepers?BW: The authorities and the TV networks; everyone who puts their money into football wants goals and unpredictability. So no, not good news for goalkeepers. If a game finished nil-nil even though they can be smashing games, people just wouldn't want to watch them as much. There are certain teams in the Premier League who play in a certain way and you see their grounds half full. What it's about now is that you have got to have goals. We used to reckon on making about half a dozen serious mistakes during the course of a season. Nowadays, I think most goalies can make 2 or 3 mistakes in a game because of the change of rules and the ball. It's a far more difficult position to excel at. : So is goalkeeping today that much different to when you were playing? Surely the principles are the same?BW: That's only partially the case. We were always told to catch, catch, catch. Unless you were in Mexico or South Africa, the ball rarely deviated. It just maintained its course. Even before I stopped coaching the ball could move about 4 or 5 yards in the air. And somewhere along the way it could go up, down, right or left. Goalies nowadays don't know what it's going to do. In my day, I'd get my feet moving within about 5 yards of him striking it, hopefully catching it or deflect it for a corner. Today goalkeepers dare not move until the last 10 yards of the ball's flight. It's often at this late stage it does the weird bizarre things, swerving all over the place! Where we caught, caught, caught, the modern goalie only has a split second to decide whether to catch or deflect. More often than not, they go for safety first. I worked for 16 years with David Seaman as his coach and he had a brilliant way of angling his wrists so the ball hit his hands and his gloves and flew well away from the danger area. For a young goalie these days, that is a very difficult art to master.: So have changes in the laws of the game helped or hindered 'keepers?BW: The changes regarding back passes and time wasting have meant that 'keepers have had to become more assured with the ball at their feet. That's fine for someone like Edwin Van Der Sar who is so incredibly calm and has great control but for the majority of the lads, they just clear their lines. I think of the cup final I played in '71 and I caught a corner in the last minute of extra time and I spent that minute dribbling the ball round the box, no punishment or anything, and then I picked it up and bounced it and the final whistle went. It's good that has stopped, but unfortunately I think it also has a down side because there's no skill in seeing a 'keeper hoof it into the stands all day long. : So which keeper for you deals best with everything that the Premier League can throw at him?BW: In 'keepers, you look for consistency and last season I would have to go for Pepe Reina. He won games on his own for Liverpool last season. I've always been a big admirer of Petr Cech but for me, I think he should get rid of the cap. He's not been quite the same goalie since that challenge (with Stephen Hunt, Reading v Chelsea, 14th October 2006). For me the chance of him getting the same injury again is so small. Great 'keepers feel unbeatable. In '71, when we won the Double, I just felt as if nobody was going to beat me. Whoever wins the league this year, you can guarantee that their keeper will have had an exceptional season.: Top keepers seem much older these days. Reina, Cech, Van Der Sar, Almunia: terrific talents, but foreign talents. Is there a lack of young home grown talent?BW: It takes a very brave manager to put a 22 year old in a first team. On the whole they don't risk it. In the 70s, an 18-year old called Peter Shilton forced Leicester City to sell England's World Cup winning goalie Gordon Banks and they got away with it! Shilton was brilliant and Banksy had to go to Stoke City. Pat Jennings was signed by Spurs from Watford at the age of 18 and was stuck straight in the first team. Because the price of failure is so high these days, the majority of teams just dare not risk throwing in a young goalie. Arsenal have a brilliant young goalie called Wojciech Szczesny. He was absolutely brilliant on loan at Brentford and at this moment, Arsene Wenger is very reluctant to use him because of the enormous pressure that would be upon him. With so much at stake, Champions League, FA Cup and the league.