Tomorrow's match at St James' Park will be about more than just three points and Christmas momentum. The two goalkeepers of the season, Tim Krul of Newcastle United and Michel Vorm of Swansea City, will meet, with the pair also competing to represent the Netherlands in Euro 2012. They have 11 Dutch caps between them, but are both desperate to line up behind Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Co next June.
The success of the two may be a surprise to some. Krul spent last season rotating with Steven Harper in goal, but has this season made the role his own. Indeed, Harper has been out on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion. Vorm was not part of Swansea's promotion team last year, but arrived from FC Utrecht in August for £1.5m and has settled in exceptionally well.
The Newcastle goalkeeping coach, Andy Woodman, told i yesterday how swiftly he was impressed with Krul when he arrived at the club last year. "I knew as soon as I came through the door the potential of this young lad to become a top international goalkeeper," Woodman said. It was only this summer that Krul imposed himself as the leading man. "All keepers want to be No 1 but unfortunately only one can come to the forefront and Tim worked well in the summer," Woodman added. "He's been unbelievable, I think he's probably been the best keeper in the Premier League so far."
Krul's combination of a territorial domination of his area with a gift for athletic saves has been crucial to Newcastle's excellent form. Woodman was soon impressed with Krul's range of skills: "He's got an old head on young shoulders, there's no doubt about that. He's very calm in between the goal. And he's got this fantastic ability to pull off these match-winning saves at the right time. He does that on a regular basis, he really can pull off a wonder save." Anyone who saw the 23-year-old repel Nemanja Vidic's spitting-distance header in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last month will know he is right.
That remarkable maturity, for a goalkeeper in only his second meaningful Premier League season, certainly helps Newcastle's defence. "He takes a lot of pressure off the back four as well. He comes for crosses," Woodman adds.
Krul at least has had the benefit of being at Newcastle since he was 17. Vorm arrived in Swansea only four months ago but has settled with remarkable ease. "Since he's come in he's been absolutely fantastic, setting standards within the Premier League," the Swansea goalkeeping coach, Adrian Tucker, said. Swansea have played a style of possession football almost unknown in promoted clubs, with Vorm's thoughtful distribution a necessary part of it. "The way we play has a style which applies to the goalkeeper as well," Tucker said. "It's a certain type of individual that we're looking for. He fits into that in terms of what he can do with his distribution."
But the primary function of a goalkeeper is stopping moves, not starting them, and Vorm's preternatural reflexes and agility have allowed him to make saves as thrilling and important as any goal.
Jimmy Rimmer, the former Swansea keeper who was part of European Cup-winning squads at Manchester United and Aston Villa, is impressed. "On shot-stopping he's been brilliant, absolutely," he said, "some of the saves he's making are unbelievable."
Vorm has made two crucial penalty saves this season, against Wigan and Fulham, and is known as "The Penalty Killer". It is no shock to Foeke Booy, Utrecht's technical director and former head coach. "He's very athletic, he's very fast in his moves and very fast with his hands, so it didn't surprise me that he stops penalty kicks," he said. "Also before the game he prepares very well."
Booy remembers Vorm as "a very talented goal-keeper" in the Utrecht academy, and is impressed at his success given his height (he is only 6ft tall). "His kick is very good," he said, "his reactions, his jump is very high. He's very athletic. He is very concentrated, very focused. He's very relaxed in the goal, so he's not a goalkeeper who makes the defence nervous."
There can not have been many better deployments of £1.5m in recent football history. "The way he's doing it, he is the find of the season," said Rimmer.Reuse content