Outfield players often do well as replacement goalies.
By David Barber
Something very unusual happened in an England match last week…an outfield player had to go in goal!
It was an Under-21 friendly against Germany in Wiesbaden. The player who ended up between the sticks, when he hardly expected to, was Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury. Winning his fourth cap at that level, he started the match in his usual midfield position but had to put on the gloves after substitute ‘keeper Jason Steele was sent off.
There was still half-an-hour to go and Germany were 1-0 up. Lansbury had no chance with the penalty awarded for Steele’s foul but looked assured after that as the Germans tried to pepper the England goal. He didn’t concede again.
Even in the days before substitutes, it was extremely rare for an outfield player to have to replace a ‘real’ England goalkeeper. It happened twice at senior level back in the 1920s: Billy Walker, an inside-left, took over from the injured Fred Fox against France in 1925 and kept a clean sheet for 14 minutes; Jack Ball, another inside-forward, replaced Ted Hufton at half-time against the Irish two years later and let in just one goal.
After Vic Woodley was hurt against Norway during the 1937 summer tour, left-back Eddie Hapgood was selected as goalkeeper for the next match in Sweden. Fortunately, Woodley recovered in time to play.
In more recent times Jimmy Greaves and Glenn Hoddle were decent ‘keepers, though they never had to do it in a full international. Rio Ferdinand, England’s current skipper, played in goal for Manchester United against Portsmouth in an FA Cup Sixth Round tie in 2008. He took over following van der Sar’s injury and Kuszczak’s dismissal.