Sentiment aside, Julian Speroni deserves a new contract as Palace’s number one goalkeeper

By - Wednesday 14th May, 2014

Matt Woosnam suggests that Julian Speroni still has an important role to play in the Crystal Palace squad. Read Tom Lickley’s counter here

Julian Speroni’s shot-stopping abilities are second-to-none.
Photo by Jon Candy. Used under Creative Commons license.

It is almost eleven years since a pony-tailed goalkeeper from Dundee named Julian Speroni first walked through the doors at Crystal Palace, and not many have been as loyal or as integral to the relative success of the club during their time in SE25. It may have started in the worst possible way with a foul on Kevin Campbell setting Everton on their way to a victory in Palace’s opening home Premier League fixture in 2004, but since that day the Argentine has learned and progressed in a way that no-one would have expected into one of the finest goalkeepers in the country.

They say there is no room for sentiment in football, but when it comes to Julian Speroni, sentiment is redundant. Whilst many Crystal Palace fans adore the goalkeeper – nicknamed “Manos de Dios” (Hands of God) – there remains significant doubt as to whether the 35-year-old will remain at Selhurst Park next season. It would be easy to suggest that the Argentinean should be rewarded with a new contract simply due to his loyalty to the club over the past ten years; but there is another issue at play too – the ability of the man who has come to earn legendary status in South London. That ability should not be in question; Speroni is a world class goalkeeper who deserves another season as first choice at Palace on merit, and merit alone.

Julian Speroni will be offered a new contract by Palace; that much has been confirmed by co-chairmen Steve Parish and Steve Browett, but the question remains as to what role he will have next season if he remains at the club. It is expected that Speroni will be back-up to either Wayne Hennessey or a new goalkeeper; in which case it is unlikely he will agree to a new deal. Therein lies the dilemma.

Speroni demonstrated his outstanding awareness and shot-stopping ability throughout the season

Sentiment. There would be no sentiment in offering the former Dundee shot-stopper a new contract as number one goalkeeper next season. In a remarkable season with a number of outstanding players, Speroni was awarded the Player of the Year prize despite strong competition from Joel Ward; and it is no coincidence that he has stepped up to the Premier League with the minimum of fuss. In fact, it is no coincidence either that he has scooped the award on four occasions now, but it is the here and now which matters.

Wayne Hennessey is by no means a poor goalkeeper, having been tracked by Arsenal and other Premier League clubs in recent years. The Welshman’s strengths are his quick and accurate distribution and imposing frame, but he is not yet ready to dislodge Speroni from the number one position. Speroni demonstrated his outstanding awareness and shot-stopping ability throughout the season, particularly during the Eagles’ five match unbeaten spell.

Numerous times, the ‘keeper had supporters on their feet singing his name after stunning saves; perhaps the most memorable of which came against Chelsea in an astounding 1-0 victory at Selhurst Park. With the ball on the edge of the box, Brazilian midfielder Oscar scuffed his shot into the path of Eden Hazard who only had Speroni to beat; but the Palace man threw his weight to the right in an attempt to force Hazard to shoot to the left – which indeed he did – before somehow palming the Belgian’s shot away from the goal in dramatic fashion. Indeed, prior to that, Speroni had pushed another Hazard shot away with one hand after the Chelsea man took aim through a crowd of players; both times the crowd were on their feet chanting his name.

He has even improved on the weaker areas of his game – coming for crosses and communicating

Further evidence of the impressive form came in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool in the Eagles’ final home fixture of the season. Daniel Sturridge ran through Palace’s defence and curled a sumptuous shot towards the far corner of the goal, but that man Speroni was to deny him Liverpool’s second goal of the game as he pushed the striker’s shot onto the post before Luis Suarez blasted high and wide.

Even when one takes away the incredible shot-stopping prowess of Palace’s longest serving player, there are many positives that can be attributed to the goalkeeper. The calming presence and cool head under pressure that stem from his vast experience, including a rather disastrous first season in the Premier League ten years ago, as well as being a popular, well-liked member of the squad.

Palace’s player of the year has so much to offer as a first choice goalkeeper, and he has even improved on the weaker areas of his game – coming for crosses and communicating – since the arrival of George Wood as goalkeeping coach. These improvements combined with his undoubted strengths surely make it a no-brainer that he should at the very least start next season as Crystal Palace’s first choice goalkeeper.

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

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