Over the last decade or so, Bolton Wanderers have had some memorable and some easily forgettable figures between the posts ranging from Jussi Jaaskelainen to Paul Rachubka.
This, for me, has always been a position in question as we never seem to be able to go a season with an out and out first choice keeper. Last season, Ben Amos, who initially impressed in his loan spell with the club, was signed permanently in the summer of 2015 and quickly became our go to ‘keeper for that season and has been our only real ‘Number 1’ since Jussi departed.
Jussi’s exit was a massive kick in the teeth for Wanderers as each season, we seem to have been rotating between two keepers each season. Many say that this is a good thing as it gives one another competition for a spot in the starting line up, to me it has seemed as if the manager was forced to give each of them game time to validate their wage bills.
Through the spells of goalkeeper rotation, the Bolton fans have experienced some reliable lads, some very confident in their own ability and others being not too far off useless. The first season without Jussi saw Adam Bogdan take the ‘Number 1’ jersey who, for the next 2 seasons, continued to rotate with Andy Lonergan.
Bogdan was always confident in his ability but often wobbled and cracked under the pressure in big games.
Two notable games where Bogdan really impressed me when it mattered included the Wigan game in which he made a penalty save in injury time to ensure a win for the Whites, and the Liverpool cup game at Anfield for which he was hailed for his heroics.
However, his inconsistencies worried the fans which saw Lonergan become a regular starter and the preferred ‘keeper of the two for fans. Lonergan was always very consistent and very rarely made any mistakes.
Their respective departures to Liverpool and Fulham at the end of the 14/15 campaign were therefore a blow.
Amos’ arrival at the start of last season, prompted by his initial emergency loan spell in the previous season soon proved to be our next main keeper who kept his place for the majority of last season.
However, when Amos was out through injury, the stand in keeper, Paul Rachubka, certainly didn't fill the fans with confidence following his apparently ‘comical’ spell at Leeds. Rachubka proved to be the same unreliable character between the sticks during this spell and was resultantly released last summer.
Rachubka’s dodgy spell in goal got me thinking about the younger keepers who were coming through the ranks and occasionally making appearances on the bench. Harry Campbell and Jake Turner were the boys who were coming ever closer to getting a chance in the first team but never made professional appearances despite being on full contracts.
This years arrival of Mark Howard, soon followed by Ben Alnwick, in place of the loaned Ben Amos were next in line. Both keepers have impressed this season, Howard’s solid start to the season filled me with confidence whilst Alnwick’s appearances have also been relatively stress free.
During Mark Howard’s time on the sidelines, Jake Turner took his place on the Wanderers bench which often got me willing him on to come into contention.
Making a name for himself at International level, Jake quickly became Parky’s third choice but is yet to make a league start. Similarly, Will Jaaskelainen, son of, well you know… has also occasionally appeared on the Wanderers’ team sheet who I also backed to come in and make a few appearances to prove his ability at first team level is awaiting his first call up.
Both young keepers travel with the team to the games, take part in the warm up’s and comfortably hold their own which I have noted on a number of away days and have thought to myself that they deserve a chance.
Despite my willingness to let the youngsters prove themselves, the solidarity of our two primary ‘keepers would should see them kept in for the run in, however, a season-ending injury to Ben Alnwick may see Jake Turner play back up to Mark Howard.
My rating of the youth team applies across the positions as it has proven so successful to us so far with the likes of Josh Vela and Zach Clough having come through the ranks and I have faith in our development system that similar talents will be produced in years to come.
For the ‘keepers particularly, in seasons to come, whilst goalkeeper rotation remains so popular in league football, we will hopefully see the younger lads be given their chance.