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‘I’d want Heurelho Gomes ahead of any English keeper’

Heurelho Gomes has signed a contract extension on improved terms, it was announced earlier this week. In an exclusive column for WD Sport, former Hornets keeper Richard Lee gives his verdict on the Brazilian and what it must be like for Costel Pantilimon being his No 2.

“I have been massively impressed with Heurelho Gomes. He made big saves in big games last season, some of which have been spectacular. I think he was a deserving winner of the Player of the Season award.

It is certainly not easy being a Premier League goalkeeper. The spotlight is always on you and you know full well that any mistake you make is going to be highlighted, analysed and replayed over and over again.

I believe there is a lack of education when it comes to goalkeeping. It isn’t anything like being an outfield player, it’s virtually another sport. It’s why I think it’s wrong to see former outfield players turned pundits giving their view on goalkeeping. They don’t know the pressure on you as a goalkeeper and the skills needed.

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That’s why I feel some of the criticism Gomes received while he played for Tottenham Hotspur was so harsh. Yes, he made mistakes. Who doesn’t? But it was all that people would focus on. He could make five terrific saves in a match but the only thing that would be remembered was a missed punch or the fact he didn’t hold a shot.

There are managers out there who would prefer a goalkeeper who doesn’t make those kind of mistakes, but the trade-off is they wouldn’t be able to make the saves Gomes does. His spring is incredible. He is so agile and yet is powerful. If I was a manager, I’d want Gomes more than perhaps the stereotypical English goalkeeper.

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Yes, he is unorthodox but he is certainly effective. Too many goalkeepers play it safe. I feel some would rather lose than not make a mistake. I fell into that category at times. Gomes isn’t like that. He goes out on the field, expresses himself, comes for crosses and really affects the game. He makes a difference almost every week and fully deserved the Player of the Season prize.

He was the first goalkeeper to win the award since Ben Foster back in 2007. I worked with Ben for a couple of seasons at Watford and he was exceptional. But he’s kicked on another level since then. He tidied up a few bits and pieces and has learnt the game even more. I am very proud of him and what he has achieved.

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I was second choice to Ben in the same way Costel Pantilimon is to Gomes. It is a strange role to have in a side because you know there is a strong possibility that you will hardly play all season. In that sense it is the easiest job in the world.

There are two reasons you accept being a number two. The first is a goalkeeper believes it’s a role they won’t hold for long because they will eventually oust the first choice. I assume that is why Pantilimon joined Watford in January. I can’t imagine he came to be a number two. The second is usually an older goalkeeper who wants to wind down their career yet is still reliable when called upon.

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Either way, you need to be mentally strong. You can be thrown into the lion’s den at a moment’s notice, perhaps without having played competitively for several months. That is one of the toughest mental tests in football and not one that everyone can handle. But when Pantilimon has played he’s looked sharp. That is testament to his ability.”

* Richard Lee is a serial entrepreneur who is helping hundreds of people earn additional income via a range of gourmet healthy coffee products. Email rich@dickielee.com if you’d like to learn more.

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