Peter Bills: A tale of two keepers

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The Independent Football

From both sides of the world, two remarkable tales of two very different goalkeepers.

The news that Aston Villa had signed Brad Friedel from Blackburn on a three-year contract coincided with the announcement that former Manchester United and Chelsea ‘keeper Mark Bosnich had been given a trial by Australia’s Central Coast club with a view to earning a contract.

Now, on the face of it, neither story may seem that significant. Until, that is, you reveal the ages of these two ‘guardians of the goal’ and their very different immediate backgrounds.

Brad Friedel is the epitome of the supreme professional sportsman. He keeps himself in great shape, adheres ruthlessly to a punishing fitness schedule and is so highly regarded by his fellow pros that Villa manager Martin O’Neill, a boss who always tries to sign players of character as well as quality, was happy to splash out a reported £2.5m for his services.

It, it should be noted, the extraordinary age of 37. Indeed, Blackburn Rovers only reluctantly acceded to Friedel’s request to leave in recognition of his eight years of service to the club.

You have to be a special person and a special player to earn a three-year contract at the age of 37. Friedel’s new deal is a triumph for all his hard work, consistency and sheer professionalism.

By considerable contrast, Mark Bosnich played his first competitive match for four years this last weekend, turning out for the Australian club in a bid to resurrect a career tainted and utterly disrupted by a drugs scandal back in 2002 whilst he was at Chelsea.

By coincidence, Bosnich is 36, just 12 months younger than Friedel. Alas, he has never matched the solid professionalism of the American goalkeeper, wasting important years in the fall-out from his drugs escapade.

At his best, Bosnich was a superb ‘keeper and he made one flying save to tip a shot over his crossbar during the Central Coast’s match last weekend against Sydney FC. It was vintage Bosnich for he made it look so routinely easy.

Bosnich has never lacked talent, as his time with two of England’s Premier clubs suggests. But what he did miss out on was the utter dedication to his job that Brad Friedel has epitomised all these years.

It takes all types to make up a football team. Some have so much talent it’s frightening yet they largely squander it. Others may lack the touch of genius but work assiduously to impress every time they play.

You can but marvel at Friedel’s great professionalism whilst hoping that such qualities will become the central part of Bosnich’s approach in the twilight years of his career.