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Go Between The Posts With Tim Howard In The Goalkeepers' Union

The latest installment of NBC Sports’ series “Premier League Download” focuses on a position that does not always get the most attention: the crazy goalkeeper. For the docmentary, Men in Blazers co-host Roger Bennett travels to England to talk with four different keepers from the Premier League – Everton’s Tim Howard, Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan, Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel – about their experiences between the posts.

Just like other episodes of Premier League Download that I’ve gushed about on these pages, “The Goalkeepers' Union” is an incredibly interesting look behind-the-scenes of the Premier League. The episode gets its name from the (non-literal) union that exists amongst the world’s goalkeepers. They offer support to one another, as only a fellow keeper can truly understand the pressure and skills that their fellow competitors face on a daily basis. When a goalkeeper makes an error, it can quickly turn into a howler that changes the course of a match, or even a season. And if he makes a big save? Well, that's what he was supposed to do.

Bennett delves into the background of how each of these four players got into goalkeeping. Guzan is a former outfielder that was told entering college that he was not talented enough to keep playing unless he moved to goal, while Begovic and Schmeichel are carrying on the family business, as their fathers were keepers. Schmeichel’s father was legendary Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, to whom he faces constant comparison, though it is Begovic that is rumored to be Manchester United’s choice to replace David De Gea should he move to Real Madrid this summer.

The most interesting portion of the episode deals with the day-to-day process that the keepers go through during the season. They do most of their training on their own, apart from their teammates, prompting a comparison to American football punters & kickers. There is also the joy they experience in making a spectacular save. For they are the anti-striker; they celebrate denying a striker from scoring a goal. The four keepers also discuss what happens when they fail (their word) and concede a goal. It is a lonely feeling having to turn around and pick the ball out of your own net, but the key is having the mental fortitude to put it (temporarily) behind you and focus on the remainder of the match. Bennett also asks the keepers whether being beaten at the near post is especially upsetting as the TV announcers and press so frequently note. All four say that is a myth and actually seem to get upset at the question because for them, getting beaten is getting beaten. It does not matter where it happens.

Finally, the episode deals with interesting technical aspects of the position, from how to organize the defense during free kicks to the mental back-and-forth that takes place during a penalty kick. All believe the pressure in a penalty is on the striker, but in order to have any chance of saving, the keeper must truly commit to which direction he is going (if he is moving at all). 

As has been the case for each episode in this series, at the end of The Goalkeepers’ Union I felt like I had learned something that I did not previously know not only about the Premier League, but also about soccer generally. I have gained a greater appreciation about those crazy folk that sit between the posts. It is said that every goalkeeper has to be a bit crazy. But just as Rich Eisen has told us that “Punters are People too,” so too are goalkeepers. They’re just people. Let us try and remember that the next time we are watching and they make a blunder that costs our team the game. Or at least try anyway.

Check your local listings for the next airing of Premier League Download: The Goalkeepers’ Union or watch it right here:

Follow Mike Smith on Twitter @thefootiegent

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