by Thomas Patterson
As the Socceroos enter the later stages of their Brazil 2014 qualification, many skeptics cast their doubts over our latest crop of Socceroos and their chances of qualification for Brazil. There is no doubt; the golden generation of Australian football is beginning to come to an end, with the likes of Schwarzer, Cahill, Neil, Bresciano, Emerton and even the forgotten golden boy of Australian football Harry Kewell, all well within the later stages of their career. These are the remaining members of Australia’s golden generation, which saw them reach an unprecedented back-to-back Fifa World cup campaigns with the Socceroos, as well as finalists in the most recent Asian cup.
However, of the remaining crop is the evergreen Mark Schwarzer who continues to ply his trade in the English Premier League with Fulham at the ripe old age of 40. Schwarzer is the highest capped Socceroo of all time with 105 appearances to date, surpassing Alex Tobin in January 2011; he is also currently 10th in the Premier League all time appearance table, after making his debut for Middlesbrough way back in 1996, where he spent 12 years before moving on to his current side Fulham in 2008. Schwarzer is arguably the most successful goalkeeper Australia has produced to date. Around the same era of Schwarzer was Mark Bosnich who if it wasn’t for issues unrelated to football, could have been Australia’s most decorated player. Bosnich played for arguably the biggest club on the planet, Manchester United who he won the premier league with in 2000, before moving on to Chelsea on a big money move. Bosnich also had a long spell with Aston Villa, winning the League cup twice. Of course, Zeljko Kalac deserves a mention for his long spell with Ac Milan even though majority of it was playing second fiddle to Former Brazilian keeper Dida, he still managed to be apart of the Milan squad that won the European Champions League, World club Cup and Intercontinental cup.
Australia is renowned across the world today for its excellent goalkeepers. This is very much thanks to the reputation of Schwarzer, Bosnich and Kalac who helped inspire a generation. Australia currently has several top class goalkeepers running around the top leagues of Europe, with another handful on the radar of top European clubs from our very own A-league. The strength and talent of Australia’s goalkeeping stocks is at an all time high, with many people wishing we had this strength and talent in other positions of the field.
The English Premier league is home to three of Australia’s goalkeepers, Mark Schwarzer, Adam Federici and Brad Jones. Adam Federcic currently dons the number one jersey with his club side Reading, who are in a battle to survive the drop after being promoted last season. Brad Jones has been around the scene for quite some time now, playing understudy to Mark Schwarzer during his time at Middlesbrough before achieving a boyhood dream move to Liverpool. Jones again played understudy to the long serving and well renowned Pepe Reina, before finally breaking into the starting squad during the current campaign. This campaign has seen Jones start 18 matches for Liverpool, with many people beginning to take notice of his qualities, and is a real chance for the first choice position next season with Reina potentially on the move. The Bundesliga, is also home to another one of Australia’s biggest young goalkeeping talents since Mark Schwarzer with Mitch Langerak plying his trade with back to back German Champions. Langerak is currently the second choice keeper at Borussia Dortmund, however is very highly regarded in Germany, with his manager at Dortmund publicly stating that he will be the future number 1 at Dortmund. Back to England in League 1, playing for Oldham Athletic FC, is young Dean Bouzanis, who was apart of the Liverpool academy and Reserves set up before making the move to Oldham for more regular first team football, where he is very well regarded amongst the Oldham faithful. Another member of the of Liverpool academy and Reserves set up is relatively unknown Caleb Patterson-Sewell, who is currently the second choice keeper for Première Liga outfit Vitoria Setuba in Portugal.
Back home, and there seems to be an endless supply of up and coming talented goalkeepers floating around the A-league. Central Coast Mariners shot stopper, Matthew Ryan is arguably the most sort after talent in the A-league, with big name European outfits expressing publically their interest in the 21 year old. Ryan was handed the opportunity after a string of injuries to the two first choice keepers back in 2010 and ever since has been influential in the Mariners success over the past few seasons. He received the Joe Marston Medal for his display in the 2011 Grand final defeat to Brisbane, as well as receiving the PFA young player of the year and Goalkeeper of the year. He also was recently called up to the Socceroos squad, and made his debut against North Korea in a recent tournament in 2011.
As well as Ryan, are Eugene Galekovic and Ante Covic, have both enjoyed long spells overseas before moving back to the Australia. Both have been frequent members over the years with the Socceroos squads, with Covic apart of the 2006 World cup squad. The two have been influential for respective clubs success this season, with Galekovic picking up the Player of the year award for Adelaide United and Ante Covic receiving the goalkeeper of the year award at the A-league awards night for season 2013.
Nathan Coe, Michael Theo and Danny Vuckovic are probably casualties of Australia’s extraordinary depth between the sticks. Each, have had consistent seasons considering their club sides indifferent form. All have had spells abroad, with Coe spending some time in Italy playing for the Inter Milan reserves squad before having a long spell in Denmark. Both, Theo and Vukovic have had short and unsuccessful stints overseas, before returning back to the A-league. Michael Theo is the most decorated player in A-league history, winning the championship four times, twice with Melbourne and twice with Brisbane. He also Managed to pick up the goalkeeper of the year on three occasions. Coe is the only one to have played for the Socceroos, featuring on three occasions so far. Amongst, the ranks are up and coming keepers such as Mark Birighitti, Paul Izzo and Andrew Redmayne. Izzo is very highly regard amongst the footballing ranks and is considered by some as the next Mark Bosnich, lets hope he can fulfill that potential.
Australia depth between the sticks is unparalleled, with possible Spain the only other country who can too boast a strong pedigree of goalkeepers with Casillas,(Real Madrid) Valdes (Barcelona), Reina (Liverpool) and De Gea (Manchester United) all undoubtly first choice between the sticks for four of the biggest clubs in the world. Nevertheless, Australia is growing some reputation for its continuing production of talented goalkeepers. And it’s the evergreen Mark Schwarzer who continues to boss the Australian custodian position and rightfully so, he is still performing week in week out at the very highest level, and is an integral part of leading the young crop of Socceroos to Brazil. The big question will be the day Schwarzer hangs up the gloves, and the search for his replacement begins. It leaves whoever is in charge of the Socceroos with a big headache, but one I’m sure they will appreciate. Nonetheless, Australia and the Socceroos are in safe hands for the future, and lets hope they can inspire a new generation of number ones and this production line can continue.