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Goalkeeping glory not for No.2

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Life in the Premier League can be tough for a goalkeeper - but it's even worse for his back-up.

The first choice stopper is constantly in the spotlight, his every move scrutinised by people looking for faults in a team's last line of defence.

But, for his colleague in reserve, the hard work in training can often equate to endless hours on the substitutes bench, with one of the best seats in the house to watch every game.

The goalkeeping position is different to every other in that rotation isn't needed. Outfield players are constantly changed by managers in an effort to keep the team fit and fresh, but the man between the sticks doesn’t suffer from fatigue.

A rare outing in the League Cup, and maybe even the FA Cup if your lucky, can be all the action the No.2 gets to see in a season.

It’s rare that a team will rotate its keeper. Sir Alex Ferguson has taken advantage of having two young players in the position at Old Trafford this season, with David De Gea regarded as the first choice and Anders Lindegaard his deputy. But, after the young Spanish stopper struggled at the start of the season, Fergie eased the burden on the former Atletico Madrid starlet by giving the Dane some starts.

But, elsewhere in the Premier League, there is little chance of change. Petr Cech at Chelsea, Pepe Reina at Liverpool and Joe Hart at Manchester City are three examples of player who just don’t miss league games. Supporters wouldn’t be happy to see Henrique Hilario, Alexander Doni or Costel Pantilimon take charge for no reason either. They expect the best.

And there lies the problem. The best don’t want to play back-up for somebody else, as the Citizens previously found out with Shay Given. The Irish stopper is seen as one of the best in the business, and so went to Aston Villa to get first team football.

At Tottenham, they have veteran Brad Friedel between the sticks and Brazilian Heurelho Gomes on the bench. Previously No.1, murmurs of a possible summer exit were unsurprising, given the nature of his top level past. It’s great for Redknapp if something ever happens to Friedel, but it hasn’t for about five years!

The best policy appears to get players in young, with plenty of time to break into the first team in future years and therefore less of a desire or need to play straightaway. If you can develop them through your youth system, even better.

City signed a young Joe Hart from Shrewsbury Town, loaned him out to gain first team experience, put him on the bench for a season and then promoted him to first choice. The England international spent four years before breaking into the first team.

For Arsenal, they signed a teenage Wojicech Szczesny in 2006. He did his time in the youth and reserve teams, as well as on loan, and then came back to take the first team spot.

Chelsea have done the same with the signing of Thibaut Courtois. The young Belgian has gone straight out on loan, to Atletico Madrid, where he will gain experience before coming back to Stamford Bridge. He’s already admitted the spell has been of great value.

"I think that before going to Chelsea, I have to play one or two years in another English team to discover the football played there," the 19-year-old told RTBF.

The player has a smart head on his shoulders, knowing Cech remains the first choice and will probably do so for a few more seasons yet. Courtois will probably have to spend one season on the bench at Stamford Bridge at some stage, but before then he wants to make an impression elsewhere.

Manchester United's Ben Amos and Arsenal's James Shea - both long-term possibilities at their respective clubs - have already taken tentative steps in the game with loan moves. Currently outside their first teams, a bench apprenticeship will surely await.

It's a role that nobody wants, but can be crucial at a club. A decent back-up is constantly working with the first choice - training side-by-side during the week and on specifics before the game on match day.

Being the No.2 stopper is almost a skill in itself, and it's no surprise that teams either use youngsters who are looking to learn the trade or veterans who have experience the highs and lows of being a goalkeeper already in their career.

Rarely called upon but with a need to be highly-skilled, there's no glory for this unfortunate football fellow, but plenty of respect within the game.

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