Thursday, November 15, 2012
It would be a very large fib if I said I never doubted John Ruddy.
A man who had nine loans clubs – the best of which was Motherwell – in five years as an Everton player had to have a weak link.
An early gaffe or two in a City shirt suggested those who doubted him were able to sit in the bar post-match, drum their fingers on the table and say “told you so”.
But those very people, like me, have to admit we got it wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not nice to have the firm “he won’t cut it” opinion slammed back in your face every time Ruddy so much as picks up the ball in the kick-about, but the one thing about getting this particular one wrong is that, actually, it doesn’t matter a jot.
When it hurts is when you have predicted great things for someone and that hope, that confident forecast of a long and happy relationship between players and supporters, evaporates before your very eyes to become a mushy egg on face embarrassment.
For example (and this is genuine I am sorry to say): I was convinced Le Juge would prove to be a huge hit at Carrow Road. I perhaps shouldn’t remind readers of his name, for fear of embarrassment, but Julien Brellier not only failed to cut the Colman’s, he failed to deliver a pass more than a few yards, according to Darren Huckerby’s autobiography – “I was open on the left about 25 yards away. He had about three opportunities to put me in, but didn’t. I went over to him. ‘Julien, what’s up?’ I asked him. “I can’t kick it over there,’ he said. ‘I can’t kick it that far.”
Brellier looked like a beast, he played like a dog.
But I digress.
Ruddy has been as safe as houses, has rightly earned himself a call-up to the England squad and, despite the European Championship disappointment, when a broken finger forced him to come home before a ball had been kicked in anger, he was straight back in favour.
This column, for reasons of sanity, tiredness and deadlines, has been written before England kicked off against Sweden last night: if Ruddy didn’t feature, manager Roy Hodgson made a mistake.
We know what Joe Hart can do (the English pundits will have you believe he is the best keeper in the world – one assumes they’ve analysed the credentials of the others from the 207 ranked footballing nations). If Ruddy did feature, then good – and if he dropped a clanger well, then, fine. It would have been for England, not Norwich.
It’s a mark of the man that Ruddy keeps his head down and goes about his business but I suspect he is the first name on Chris Hughton’s team sheet every week.
There are few Premier League keepers who don’t get the Match of the Day analysis, or have performances singled out because of ineptitude. Those who do are part of a special elite group, and Ruddy is a member.
I’m reminded of his solidity, his presence and the way he has gone from wandering loan star to permanent fixture by this weekend’s visit of Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson is a magnificent manager, but Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar apart, his success rate with signing goalkeepers is up for debate. Mark Bosnich, Fabien Barthez, Massimo Taibi, Raimond van der Gouw, Andy Goram, Roy Carroll and Ricardo – all were signed by Fergie between the two greats, and all flopped. Even Tim Howard and Ben Foster didn’t really cut it at Old Trafford.
It does prove that goalkeepers don’t grow on trees – but when you are lucky enough to get one who fits the ball, you should appreciate him. City fans appreciate Ruddy – and so they should.