The GK Race
Caoimhín Kelleher finally got his chance to shine for Ireland this week with 3 games in quick succession. At 23 years of age the young Irishman clearly has the world in his hands but this is a big year for him as competition hots up this summer. The impending return of Mark Travers to the Premier League coupled with a move to Southampton for Gavin Bazunu means competition has never been more fierce to hold into the no.1 jersey.
All three of these are only in the early days of their careers but a wrong move can be the difference of becoming a future Irish legend or an almost man. Kelleher now finds himself backup to the world best goalkeeper but highly thought of by Jurgen Klopp. He has earned a different level of trust this season but interestingly this could be his undoing as he has become too important to let go from Anfield.
Playing time or Quality time
The argument is that Kelleher is not getting action between the posts week in week out like his two counterparts. Travers and Bazunu played 46 games last season for their clubs with Kelleher only amassing 6 games. Two of those games were at the expense of Alison Becker having a rare injury. Although his cup run was more high profile after landing a Carabao cup medal while scoring the winning penalty.
The question is though – is training regularly with the best goalkeeper in the world and the setup he is used to at Anfield enough to keep him in Stephen Kenny’s plans? It is a difficult question to answer. Right now after seeing his performances against Scotland and Ukraine he has done little wrong between the posts. It could be considered harsh if he was dropped for the next set of games in September.
It shows that profile does count towards the final decisions in these cases. Travers had an impressive season for Bournemouth landing player of the year as well as the golden gloves for the division. But it paled in comparison with Kelleher’s heroics for Liverpool – purely on an exposure basis. The Premier League will always provide a bigger stage to shine on. This season could be interesting to say the least if Bazunu and Travers are seen each week for their clubs against the worlds best.
The right Move
There is of course no need for a knee jerk reaction towards Kelleher’s future. If he were to follow the perfect model he should look towards the career of Thibaut Courtois. Who spent 111 games playing for Spanish side Athletico Madrid to blood him for replacing Chelsea legend Petr Cech. When the time was right for the giant Belgian to return home and take the crown he was more than ready to step up.
For Kelleher though he needs to choose wisely. Moving down leagues would not be ideal for him especially when his competition has gone upwards. He must also consider the type of team he plays for should he move. To maximise his attributes he needs to be involved with a team that plays to his ability to play from the back.
Looking at the Premier League there are not a lot of options left for him. Newcastle offhand would be a good place to go with the way they like to play under Eddie Howe. After that he would be limited to maybe West Ham or Crystal Palace as alternatives. But do they need to upgrade their keepers? Would they take the risk on him either way.
It’s situations like these that would be great to have the ear of Jurgen Klopp. What does he plan for Kelleher for the future. With Alison Becker only approaching his 30th birthday it would be naïve to think that Liverpool would seek to trade him in for his understudy in a bid to lower wages and trade like for like.
Klopp is going to be selfish here. He needs a capable no.2 as proven in the past with Liverpool and goal keepers it can bite you when you least expect it. Adrian is not a suitable replacement to cover in the Brazilians’ absence. So naturally Klopp will want to keep Kelleher at Anfield until there is a suitable arrangement.
But Liverpool have also been something of a machine in the transfer market in recent years. Buying players to sell on with a profit has become the normal under Klopp as players value increases. There is no sentiment in football and certainly no time for both parties to be rushing into talks. But sooner or later either Kelleher attains more game time or the world of football will pass him by fast.
I can see one of two things happening over the coming 12-24 months. Liverpool continue to acquire more underage talent and will be in a position to develop Kelleher away from Anfield on loan with a view to calling him back in an emergency. This would suit both parties long and short term.
The second scenario is a little more bleak and one that i really hope will not occur. With the re-emergence of Mark Travers to the Premier League and good form from Bazunu it will force the hand of Corks coolest customer. He will then seek a move that although will not suit Liverpool may force the hand that feeds him. If Liverpool really do believe they have the next big thing on their hands this will be the time to back him.
One thing for sure is we will see a game of stick or twist come to fruition for Kelleher. It would be cruel to see a kid of such talent. A kid that has ice running through his very veins. Not make it at the top level with so much promise as his very fingertips. The future is bring for Ireland. If Kelleher wants to be part of that future he has some big decisions coming his way.