The position of goal keeper can be a thankless one. One mistake and you’re in the headlines, and if the team is playing well then you’re the one player without a chance to impress. You can only really make a name for yourself if your defence lets you down, and even then quite often praise is reserved to ‘it’s what he’s paid to do’. It’s a harsh life.
In my lifetime City have been blessed with some really good keepers. Ian Bowling, Matt Dickens and Alan Marriott are three that spring to mind, and most recently Paul Farman has managed to cement his spot in Imps folklore by racking up over 150 first team appearances, and he looks set to make many more.
What of the disasters though? There have been a few and today I thought I’d run down my top four goal keeping disasters at Lincoln City. Enjoy, or not as the case may be.
4. Alan Judge
Alan Judge isn’t a name that will be recognised by the younger football fan, but for those of a certain age he’ll be recalled as a decent keeper who played for Oxford United and Hereford amongst others. He spent some time as a back up keeper at Chelsea and the thirty-something football fan might recall him from Panini stickers of the late 1980’s. Unfortunately for Judge his Lincoln City career wasn’t quite as solid as the rest.
In the 1985/86 season Lincoln City were on a downward trajectory. The squad lacked cohesion and as a club the effects of the Bradford Fire Disaster were beginning to be felt. The club looked to invest in the ground, and as a result the playing staff suffered. On our way to relegation we trialled several keepers, Dean Greygoose, Stuart Naylor and Trevor Swinburne. We also signed young Alan Judge on loan from Oxford.
Judge played just twice for Lincoln, once in a 1-1 at home to Bristol City. It was seen by many as a good solid start to his tenure and it halted a run of five straight defeats for City. Next up were promotion hopefuls Derby County at the Baseball Ground.
I’m a little too young to remember that game but I’ve spoken to a handful of people who were in the 10,560 crowd and they tell me exactly what you’d expect from what turned out to be a 7-0 defeat. Lincoln were awful. Judge and his porous defence were breached again and again. Shortly after he was sent back to Oxford. He wasn’t the only casualty of that day either. Full backs Rob McNeil and Mark McCarrick never played again for Lincoln and centre half Gary Richards played once more (4-0 defeat by Cardiff) before he sloped off never to be seen again as well.
The result sent Lincoln on another seven game winless streak and the season ultimately ended in relegation by three points.
3. Matthew Ghent
I’ve already covered Ghent in my A to Z of City anti-heroes so I’m not going to write much about him here. He had come on as a 38th minute substitute for Alan Marriott in a league clash with Carlisle with The Imps 1-0 down, and kept a clean sheet. He’s the only goal keeper on my list who had a blinder in his Imps outing, so much so he was named Man of the Match in his next game. It was just a crying shame he was listening to the announcement rather than watching the ball as non-league Dagenham scored a last minute winner through his legs to knock us out of the FA Cup. Later spent time in prison which is where I wish number 2 had been in 2011.
2. Elliot Parrish
When Steve Bruce recalled Trevor Carson after our 2-1 defeat by Stevenage towards the end of 2010/11 season it caused then-manager Steve Tilson all sorts of problems. He’d already told many senior players they weren’t going to be retained and he couldn’t swallow his pride and bring talented Joe Anyon back into the side. He thought he’d solve the problem as he solved all his problems, and that was to borrow someone else’s player.
The issue was that in mid-March most clubs have settled squads, young players are out on loan and they’re not looking to do business. One exception to this rule was Aston Villa, who were willing to loan twentieth-choice youth keeper Elliott Parish. Tilson assumed (wrongly) that Parish would be better than Anyon so he snapped him up.
Now I’m not blaming Parish for us going down, but I will state firmly that had Carson remained with the club we would have stayed up. Had Anyon been chosen in goal we would have stayed up. If we’d put an outfield player in goal and hoped for the best we might have stood a chance. Instead we exposed young Parish to what I assume is the worst couple of months of his life.
The kid was out of his depth and he wasn’t protected by a paper thin defence either. In nine outings he conceded 23 goals including six against Rotherham, four against Gillingham and three in that final day defeat by Aldershot. It may be history clouding my memory but I can’t recall him making a single save. He was out of his depth, and as he drowned he took our club down with him.
Since Parrish has gone on to make a decent league career, and with game experience has come a degree of consistency. However irrespective of what he achieves between now and the day he retires he will always be the keeper who seemed to butter his gloves before taking to the field.
1. Simon Brown
1997/98 was a good year for Lincoln City. By fair means or foul we battered our way to a third place finish, inspired by John Beck and his assembled team of hatchet men and committed, dogged professionals. We lacked finesse, we lacked poise but we made up for it in graft and fight.
Just before Christmas we travelled to our promotion rivals Peterborough United for a crucial top of the table clash. The week before we’d been knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Emley, and ahead of the Peterborough clash John Beck dropped Barry Richardson and brought in promising young keeper Simon Brown from Spurs.
Brown had a stinker as we lost 5-1. Lee Thorpe put us ahead before a first half collapse saw us go in 4-1 down at the break. Nobody blamed the young keeper, not directly. However after the game he was sent packing back to East London, and the experienced John Vaughan took his place in the sticks.
Brown has since gone on to have a decent career, most notably with Colchester. He was fortunate that his brief flirtation with the ruthless John Beck didn’t set him back!
Do you agree with my picks? Was there another calamity keeper that I should have included? Let me know in the comments, or on social media or whatever.
17 DAYS LEFT – Has your mum voted yet? No? WHY?
I’ve made it through to the finals of the Football Blogging Awards 2016 thanks to your votes, and I need now need your votes again. There are a couple of ways you can register your vote. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.
If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote
Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / Non League blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!