Soccer

Premier League’s oldest goalkeeper slams "scared" De Gea and modern ‘cowards’

John Burridge wasn't just part of the goalkeepers' union during a career that spanned almost 800 games.

Throughout an era that spawned greats like Gordon Banks, Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton, Pat Jennings and Peter Schmeichel, the man nicknamed 'Budgie' was a shop steward for that unique breed of footballer.

Now aged 69, and still working as a keeper coach for Bowsher, a second division club in Oman, it breaks his heart to see his profession quite literally left in the hands of people he doesn't respect.

“The art of goalkeeping is dying,” says Burridge, who started his career at hometown club Workington when England were still world champions and became the oldest player to appear in the Premier League at the age of 43 when he joined Manchester City.

“It absolutely makes my blood boil when I look at players getting capped for England who wouldn't have been good enough to play in the Football League 30 years ago.

“The main criteria for a goalkeeper these days is to be 6ft 4ins – and it doesn't matter one bit if you're a coward.

“I saw David De Gea turn his back on the ball the other week. Manchester United's goalkeeper, scared of getting hurt. I couldn't believe it.

“But De Gea isn't the only one. They're all happy to pick up their £100,000-a-week wages – but they're not prepared to get a smack in the teeth or the nose to keep the ball out of their net.

“People might say 'John Burridge is a dinosaur, what does he know?'

“But when I talk to lads who I played against they all think the same as I do.

“The only thing keepers do these days is the 'star-jump' that Peter Schmeichel brought into the game.

“But Peter would only do that if he was close enough to the striker to be able to block the shot.

“If you saw a goalkeeper coming out feet first all the time, you knew he didn't have the courage to get to the very top.

“Now, it seems they are actually coached to do it.”

Burridge played for 29 clubs during his career. When he stepped out of the Football League, he became a 'keeper-for-hire', ready to join any club that needed him in an emergency.

He now works for free in Oman because he loves the game so much.

Burridge said: “Look at all the top clubs – they virtually all employ goalkeeping coaches who weren't good enough to make it as players.

“Players earn so much money these days that they don't have the motivation to stay in the game, so the coaching all gets left to failed keepers.

“They might have the certificates saying they're qualified, but they are virtually the same age as the players they are giving advice to.

“This is a specialised position – and experience is massive. That's why keepers get better with age.

“In my view, the ideal height for a keeper is 6ft or 6ft 1ins. But if you're not 6ft 4ins then you won't be given a chance.

“It isn't as though teams bombard keepers with crosses so that a big centre-forward like Andy Gray and Mick Harford could steam in at the far post to bury you and the ball into the back of the net.

“I look at someone like (Thibaut) Courtois and it's like watching a giraffe in goal.

“What would you rather have? A cat, a tiger or a lion who is agile and brave or a giraffe?

“It used to be said that you had to be mad to be a goalkeeper because you had to be willing to get hurt to keep the ball out of your goal.

“That isn't the case these days – and it's very sad.”

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