Goalkeepers are an important thing to remember if you have any genuine hopes of stopping that round thing going into the netty thing attached to the poles at both ends of the pitch. You can try and keep a clean sheet just with the four men stood 18 yards out, but they none of them can use their hands and having that ability does tend to come in handy from time to time.
Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of decent shot-stoppers at Stevenage FC. Dannie Bulman, Ritchie Hanlon… yeah, we’ve had some real cats between the sticks. In our latest 10 Of The Best, we’ve decided to celebrate those fellas who often stand alone in battle – when they’re good, you can’t fail to notice; when they make a howler, well, you can’t fail to notice.
It’s just as well these 10 aren’t exactly remembered for the things they didn’t do so well.
1. Chris Day
We try to avoid ranking these things in any particular order because we can’t be bothered to argue with you about it, but we think there will be little dispute about our top two in particular. Not only has Daysey shown agility that belies his advanced years since joining Boro’, but he knows how to organise a quiz. As goalies go, only Pope John Paul II had a more impressive sideline…
Dessie made his first appearance for Boro’ in August 1985 and probably didn’t imagine he’d still be turning out for us in 2000 – but that’s how it panned out across two spells; two being the same number of goals he conceded against Alan Shearer (yeah, we went there). He also has a goal to his name, which stands him apart from, well, everyone else in this list.
3. Alan Julian
It’s long been mooted that Jules was signed on the recommendation of Lionel Perez and it’s not hard to see why, with his arrival coinciding with Boro’s charge towards the 2004-5 playoffs. He might not have commanded his area as well as some others, but his shot-stopping ability was, at times, pure filth – notably a Gordon Banks-esque save at Kingfield against the Woes.
He was the man wearing the number one jersey when it all began, as far as senior football goes at least. You could argue that it was the 106 goals that carried Boro’ to the 1980-1 United Counties League Division One title, but it wouldn’t have happened if the Goals Against column had read “106” – and that much is down to Martyn Thompson’s goalkeeping skills.
One of the first Boro’ players to graduate to the Football League? It’s quite possible, with Scunthorpe United calling on Richard Wilmot’s services in early 1990s – before returning to Broadhall Way. Wilmot shared the goalkeeping duties with Dessie during the Conference-winning season of 1995-6, no doubt one of the main highlights of his time at the club.
6. Chris Taylor
The late 1990s and very early 2000s weren’t exactly the most memorable of times for Boro’, not least because there we had four changes of manager in as many years. One bastion of stability and reliability was Chris Taylor, a hugely competent stopper who was just as valuable to the team as the likes of Lee Harvey and Carl Alford. And probably a better midfielder than Ian King.
7. Lionel Perez
After Jean-Michel Sigere left the Boro’ ranks, we were suffering from a shortage of Gallic flair, audacity and shoulder-shrugging at Broadhall Way. Quite probably the first Stevenage goalkeeper to adopt short sleeves, Perez was an iconic figure who probably would have made more appearances had he not broken his leg at Barnet. Not a fan of his eye-poking, mind…
8. Lee Western
Paul Fairclough clearly thought enough of Lee Western to bring him across to Boro’ from Hertford Town after Cloughie himself had left Hertingfordbury Park. And the decision to replace previous incumbent Lee Bozier was justified; Western kept around 20 clean sheets as the Cloughie revolution started with a Vauxhall Football League Division 2 North-winning bang in 1990-1.
9. Alex Welsh
Here for a good time, not a long time – Alex Welsh barely registered double figures in his “Games Played” count for Boro’, but it was nearly 10 of the best in itself. By our count, he picked the ball out of his net in just two games while at Broadhall Way – and that didn’t happen for the first time until he’d already got four Boro’ appearances under his belt. His sheets were Daz clean.
10. Ashley Bayes
We’ll level with you here – Ashley Bayes is not someone we’re including out of deference to his goalkeeping abilities (not that he was a bad one, however). No, we include him because there can surely be few players in Boro’s history who had such a profound and positive impact off the pitch. And sometimes even on the terrace too…