Graphic: Relegation has turned world upside down for Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy
12:32 03 December 2014
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With John Ruddy being criticised by some supporters, reporter David Freezer assesses what has gone wrong for Norwich City’s goalkeeper.
How quickly times have changed for Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy.
This summer Canaries fans were annoyed to see the club’s number one left out of England’s squad for the World Cup, despite regularly featuring in Roy Hodgson’s squad during qualification.
The big shot-stopper had just completed his third season as one of the busiest keepers in the Premier League with City and still retained plenty of credit despite the club’s relegation to the Championship.
There were howls of derision from City fans that Ruddy had been ignored in favour of Fraser Forster and Ben Foster – yet on Saturday the 28-year-old was being jeered by some supporters at Carrow Road.
City’s keeper had flapped at the second corner which Jake Cooper headed home to put Reading 2-1 in front and then spilled a tame long-range shot midway through the second half, only just preventing the loose ball from crossing the line.
Subsequently some Canaries supporters started directing ironic cheers when Ruddy collected any loose balls in his box, directing their frustrations of the team’s poor performance in his direction.
Angry scenes at full-time, after Reading held out for the victory, prompted Ruddy to take to his Twitter account to say: “Five years of LOYAL service for this club and that’s how some fans act after a couple of bad performances #disappointed.”
Many City supporters responded in Ruddy’s defence, but plenty bit back and made it clear to Ruddy they thought he was out of order to send the tweet.
How do the statistics stack up though? Has Ruddy really been that bad or has he been let down badly by his outfield team-mates?
With Mark Bunn coming back from injury still and Declan Rudd seemingly consigned to the substitutes bench, despite playing a full season in League One with Preston last season, Ruddy’s place in the team seems safe.
Yet the former Everton trainee has made just 40 saves in his 19 games, compared to the division’s busiest goalkeeper, David Button of third-placed surprise package Brentford, who has made 65 saves in 19 games.
In total, 18 keepers in the Championship have made more saves than Ruddy so far this season, but that does not necessarily mean Ruddy is not playing well.
Unlike the past three seasons when the Canaries have been dining at English football’s top table and Ruddy has been one of the busiest keepers in the division.
Whereas this season, he has been one of the least busy.
Neil Adams’ side have conceded an average of 10.8 shots per game in the league, with only Middlesbrough (10.4) conceding fewer.
In total, Ruddy and his defence have conceded just 24 goals in their 19 games and only eight teams in the division have conceded fewer.
It is a total which is far from disastrous but with five of City’s six defeats being because of a one-goal difference, a leaky defence is at the heart of City’s slide down the table.
Against Reading on Saturday, as with most of the City players and coaching staff, Ruddy’s body language seemed to tell the majority of the story.
Has the exit of goalkeeping coach Dave Watson to Southampton played a part? The highly-rated coach had worked with Ruddy at club and international level but, unlike Ruddy, decided to make an immediate return to the Premier League.
Ruddy was linked with top-flight clubs Crystal Palace and Sunderland during the summer – having reportedly turned down a move to Chelsea a year before to sign a new four-year contract – but instead committed to City.
It is often said in football that form is temporary but class is permanent, so some clean sheets will surely help to change that body language drastically.
One thing is certain though, whether Ruddy was right to send an angry tweet or not, jeering your own goalkeeper is not going to help him to keep those clean sheets.