Carlo Cudicini, Ben Foster, Shay Given – these are just three names of goalkeepers that have lost out on multiple years of their careers sitting primarily on a substitute’s bench.
Cudicini arrived at Chelsea on a permanent basis at the start of the 2000-01 season and enjoyed several years of success before the arrival of Petr Cech saw him relegated to the team’s number two.
He stayed with the club until early 2009, when a move to Tottenham Hotspur saw him continue with back-up duties to Heurelho Gomes.
Foster, meanwhile, made just twelve Premier League appearances during a five-year spell with Manchester United. He impressed in two separate loan spells with Watford and in helping his parent club win the 2009 League Cup. However, with Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Amos also competing to be the club’s number two behind Edwin Van der Sar, his patience eventually ran out.
Given arrived at Manchester City off the back of a tremendous 12-year spell with Newcastle, in which he made well over 300 league appearances. However, within 18 months of his arrival, the 125-time Republic of Ireland international was dropped in favour of Joe Hart. Given soon joined Aston Villa, but after a spell on the sidelines through injury, he once again found himself playing back-up, this time to Brad Guzan.
It’s not a bad life being a number two goalkeeper. It’s worth remembering that the likes of Scott Carson and Ross Turnbull have Champions League winner’s medals, while on an international stage the likes of Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes have won multiple accolades despite rarely making an appearance for an all-conquering Spanish side.
The biggest dilemma for Premier League clubs is which direction to approach the issue. Do you find someone content to sit on the bench, or do you find someone chomping at the bit to get a game? If you choose the former, have you got a player that would be able to perform to a high standard should your first-choice 'keeper pick up an injury or a suspension?
If you choose the latter, are cup games enough to keep him happy in playing for the club?
Here’s a look at some of the current best Premier League number two goalkeepers...
Costel Pantilimon – Manchester City
A Romanian international, 27-year-old Pantilimon has acted as cover for Joe Hart throughout the last three Premier League seasons. He signed for an undisclosed fee in the summer of 2011.
During that season’s FA Cup, he kept four clean sheets in a row and managed an outstanding performance against Chelsea in the semi-final. However, he was dropped in favour of Hart for the final of the tournament, which City lost 1-0 against Wigan Athletic.
Following a drop in the England number one’s form, Pantilimon started a succession of Premier League games earlier this season, but managed just three clean sheets in seven matches.
Mark Schwarzer – Chelsea
The first name on the teamsheet for club and country for almost two decades, 41-year-old Schwarzer will likely end his playing days with Chelsea. Capped 109 times by Australia and the veteran of over 500 Premier League games for Middlesbrough and Fulham, he is vastly experienced at the top level and is undoubtedly the best back-up the Blues have had since 2004, when Cudicini and Cech when head-to-head over the number-one spot.
However, he is unlikely to be a long-term solution at Stamford Bridge and questions remain as to whether he could fill in for an extended period of time should something happen to Cech.
Joel Robles – Everton
A product of the Atletico Madrid youth system, Joel Robles shot to prominence when he helped Wigan Athletic to last season’s FA Cup. Joel played 13 matches in total for the Latics, taking over the number-one spot from Ali Al-Habsi.
At the start of this season, he followed manager Roberto Martinez to Everton. He made his league debut as a substitute against Sunderland on Boxing Day when Tim Howard was sent off and started for the first time three days later in the 2-1 victory over Southampton.
At just 23, Robles has still got a long career in front of him but it remains to see how long the Spaniard will be content with sitting on the bench.
Brad Friedel – Tottenham Hotspur
Friedel is no stranger to serving as a second-choice goalkeeper. Between 1997 and 2000, during his time with Liverpool, the 42-year-old American was understudy to both David James and Sander Westerveld.
But at the age of 29, when he signed for Blackburn Rovers, Friedel came into his own. He became a legendary figure at Ewood Park and enjoyed further success with Aston Villa before moving to Spurs in 2011.
After a year as first choice, he was displaced by French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and while he remains at the club for now, his best playing years are probably behind him.
Thomas Sorensen & Jack Butland – Stoke City
Surprisingly, it’s probably Stoke City who can claim to have the greatest array of goalkeeping talent, with three international stoppers on their books. Bosnian keeper Asmir Begovic has been an inspiration since arrival from Portsmouth in 2010, but the Potters also have a Danish veteran and an English international on the sidelines.
Sorensen, 37, who played 101 games for his country has been in England since 1998, playing in excess of 100 games for Sunderland, Aston Villa and Stoke. Jack Butland, still just 20, is England’s next great goalkeeping hope.
His performances for Birmingham City earned him his move into the Premier League last summer, although he has since been loaned back to the Blues and also to Barnsley. He was capped by England in 2012.
For some of England’s biggest clubs, the dilemma of finding a solid second-choice goalkeeper is a constant concern. Are the likes of Lukasz Fabianski, Brad Jones and Anders Lindegaard capable of stepping into a big match should the situation demand it?
Who do you think is the best around – let me know in the comment section below!
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