BROWNE ON THE BALL: Who’d be a keeper? You just can’t win

Christian Dibble.
Christian Dibble.

Who would be a goalkeeper? You can’t win.

Let’s take Joe Hart for example.

When Gareth Bale slammed home that swerving free kick to give Wales the lead in their 2-1 victory over Slovakia this summer, goalkeeper Matus Kozakic was slated by the pundits - press, TV and armchair alike - for moving too soon.

His attempt to pre-empt the delivery saw him wrong-footed and his side a goal down in their opening game of the European Championships.

In Wales’ second group match, this time against old foes England, the Real Madrid attacker placed another dead ball from a similar position.

Hart will undoubtedly have studied Bale’s first goal of the tournament and - in this age of social media - be thoroughly aware of the keeper getting a public panning.

He wasn’t falling for that trick. Instead, Hart waited to judge the flight of the ball.

He got his hands to the fiercely-struck free kick, but it wasn’t enough to stop his net shaking.

And guess what, he got panned for not moving soon enough.

With multiple cameras, a blame game culture, online trolls and countless papers, websites and TV stations battling for a fresh angle on anything from a goal to an Instagram upload, the microscope hovering over football has never been greater.

The best team can no-longer just win. Fans need a fall guy or chump, a fool from another team who they can use as a stick to beat fans of the side they’ve just beaten, or one of their own to blame to cover up the humiliation.

There’s no-longer any point in winning unless you can ram it down the throat of someone else.

And for that reason, Hart is suddenly, and unfairly, seen as an accident-prone keeper. But he is still at the top level because of his strong will. Mistakes ruin weak keepers, while strong stoppers learn from them.

And that brings us to Boston United’s Christian Dibble.

Dibble is just 22, a pup in terms of goalkeepers and very much still learning his trade.

After playing under 21s football with Barnsley, plus a handful of appearances with Nuneaton and Chelmsford City, he is now entering his first full season of senior football.

It’s a different ball game. Opposing strikers aren’t kids there to learn about the technical side of the game, they’re big Tom Denton and James Dean-size beasts there to win by using all the attributes at their disposal.

So far Dibble’s experience has been mixed.

While his shot-stopping has been as good as anything we’ve seen in the National League North, his ability to dominate his box and deal with clearing or claiming in a packed penalty area has raised questions.

But this is something he and coach Michael Emery have identified as a priority to be worked on, and perhaps they can now spend a little bit more time on this (the regularity of pre-season and early-season midweek matches mean that United have had just one week available to hold two training sessions since kicking off on July 5).

In his first interview since joining Boston, Dibble stressed he is very much here to learn his trade, which is fair enough.

You don’t expect the YTS lad to build a house in his first weeks on the job, so don’t expect any young keeper to be the finished article in the National League North.

It’s not every decade a polished stopper falls in love with the owner’s daughter and sticks around to earn pomotions and break appearance records.

Instead, they can take a punt on potential, go all-in for a loanee who could be recalled at any time or put their faith in a keeper who is only playing non-league because of a fragility to his game.

Dibble is in the first category, and has plenty of promise. He will improve with each game but - as Joe Hart has shown - that will always be wasted on some.