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THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN
6:00am Saturday 25th August 2012 in Sport
THE UNSUNG HERO
IF Wes Foderingham was a lawyer, he’d have clients queueing up round the block such is the strength of the Swindon defence at present.
When the Robins goalkeeper told the press on Thursday that he’d stopped keeping count of the number of clean sheets he’s kept since joining the club in October last year, it got me thinking.
Sometimes it’s easy for a keeper to go unnoticed if he is not:
A) Mad (Fabien Barthez, Rene Higuita), B) Deadly from a set-piece (Jose Luis Chilavert, Rene Higuita), or C) Angry (Peter Schmeichel, Rene Higuita).
However, it is often those stoppers who go quietly about their business who become the rock on which a successful team is built.
In Town’s history there have been a handful of top quality keepers, from Peter Downsborough to Fraser Digby, who have been fans’ favourites not for their extrovert personalities but for their wholehearted professionalism and undeniable ability.
In Foderingham, Swindon now have another gem between the sticks.
His personal record is quite simply sensational. 27 clean sheets in 44 appearances.
That’s... 27 CLEAN SHEETS IN 44 APPEARANCES.
Frankly, that is a ludicrous stat. And it gets even better.
Last season, and bear in mind Foderingham only joined in October, the former Crystal Palace man kept 17 clean sheets in all competitions at the County Ground.
Carrying over into the current campaign, he has now not conceded in 11 consecutive home matches.
Now let’s look back at recent history.
Since 1991/92 the most clean sheets Town as a team have managed at home in one particular season is 15 (during the Division Two-winning campaign of 1995/96), and only three times in that 20-year period have they got into double figures.
Impressed? There’s more.
You would have to combine the total number of home clean sheets from 2010/11, 2009/10 and 2008/09 just to equal Foderingham’s haul from last season.
How good must it feel to have those sort of statistics behind you. It must make Foderingham feel several inches taller each time he comes underneath a high ball.
To be honest, given his record it is a surprise he has not yet been summoned for some form of international duty.
Sure, he was watched by under 21 and Olympic scouts last year, yet he didn’t make the grade for whatever reason.
It may be that the four men in front of him have shielded him so well that he has only been able to show off his excellence on the odd occasion.
Nevertheless, Butland managed 11 clean sheets in 24 appearances during two loan spells with Cheltenham in League Two last term.
Compared to Wes ‘The Wall’ Foderingham, his one shutout every two games looks positively mediocre.
Stuart Pearce, the England Under 21 manager, has a home near Marlborough.
I say to him: “You’re not far away, come and have another look.
“This boy’s got a massive future”.
VIRTUAL TRANSFER REQUEST SPARKS TWITTER ROW
ON Thursday evening Wes Foderingham handed in a transfer request, sparking 10 minutes of furious reaction on Twitter.
The only problem was the revelations were virtual and Foderingham was in fact at home in front of the Barcelona-Real Madrid game, still completely committed to Swindon Town.
However, a post on the social networking site - written in almost news-like fashion - failed to mention the event took place on Football Manager rather than in the real world.
The incident revealed how quickly we are to jump on information, whether substantiated or not, whether or not it originates from a qualified or authoratitive source.
We love conjecture, speculation and gossip - and manipulate it for our own pleasure and enjoyment.
It also shows the relative dangers of Twitter and how a violent domino effect can be caused by one ill considered 140-character cyber thought.
At least Foderingham dealt with it manfully, tweeting: “im s*** on football manager anyway lol.”
EVERY SPORT IS GUILTY OF A DARK SIDE
THE beauty of sport is its capacity to divide opinion and spark really quite heated debate between the best of friends out of nothing.
In my local drinking hole late on Thursday night a conversation emerged from nowhere when one patron laid into “cheating” in football – by which he meant the diving, rolling around on the floor and general prima donna antics that have become as common as a half-time Pukka Pie in our domestic game.
His opinion was that our mega-rich footballing role models are failing to fulfil a social responsibility in portraying their game in the correct light.
Now, the pub in question is a football-light zone. It’s the kind of place where you’d be more likely to see a dozen locals hooked on the Heineken Cup final than gathering for the climax of the Champions League.
Several of those rugby-loving regulars look down on football as a morally redundant game, corrupted by vast sums of money.
But no sport is exempt from on and off-field controversy, however much their respective fans defend them to the hilt.
What’s the difference, for example, between Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an 8.4 in the opposition’s penalty area and Tana Umaga and Kevin Mealamu using Brian O’Driscoll as a drill inside three minutes of the first Lions Test against New Zealand in 2005?
What’s the difference between footballers simulating an epileptic fit to induce a red card and Harlequins using party-shop blood to influence the course of a match?
And, off the field of play, for every Adrian Mutu you have a Matt Stevens, for every Jermaine Pennant there is a Danny Care.
Every sport has its squeaky-clean figureheads and its controversial characters – if anything sport, as drama, is better off for having both.
As professional sportsmen, rugby players – just like footballers – are bound to test the elasticity of their game’s laws in pursuit of victory.
Sure, the respect they show officials and their general public conduct appears to be better than their footballing cousins, but angels they ain’t.
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