Learning from Mark Paston

Of all the players who are taking the field in this World Cup I’m most pleased to see the Kiwi goalkeeper Mark Paston.

Paston – who saved the penalty that sent New Zealand to the World Cup – is a former City player and I saw most of the thirteen games he played before injury saw him released by the club. I thought he looked like a good goalkeeper but at the time the Bantams had a tendency to dump any custodian who made an error, conceded more than two or frankly who was no longer flavour of the month.

Watching Paston along with a number of other good keepers come in and then go out again quickly never getting a chance to settle or build up a relationship with defenders formed my opinion on how a manager should treat keepers which is to say the opposite of how Paston was treated at Valley Parade.

Pick a keeper, give him games, back him through mistakes. At the World Cup I would pick Robert Green in the second game were I Fabio Capello because I had played him in the first.

Likewise last season when Stuart McCall favoured Simon Eastwood despite the loan keeper’s mistakes I was – in a way – glad to see it. Not that I thought Eastwood was a good keeper – I did not – but one of the traits I like in a manager is picking a number one and staying with him.

Rotating goalkeepers, competition for the jersey, giving the other guy a go. They are common comments but – personally – I would dismiss them all.

To find a if a goalkeeper is good then it is no good watching him save shots for a dozen minutes but rather keep goal for a dozen games or more. To see how his positional judgement is, see how he builds up relationships with his defenders, see how much confidence he inspires in his backline.

Peter Taylor – as is often the case – would seem to understand this too. He watched Matt Glennon for a good while before deciding with a half dozen games to go that he wanted to see Jon McLaughlin and then gave the shirt to the younger man and superglued it to his back until the end of the season and longer.

So as Paston dips low to make a confident save from VladimĂ­r Weiss as New Zealand start their first World Cup since 1982 I’m happy to catch up with a player I wish I’d seen more of and who obviously found someone who would put the confidence into him and when we see Oxford’s stopper Simon Eastwood it is worth reflecting how much faith the manager put into him, and perhaps how little it was rewarded.

Eastwood got what the likes of Paston, Boaz Myhill and the numerous other keepers that were thrown in and whipped out of the net in those days would have dreamed off – a chance to show what he can do for a half season – and had the Kiwi keeper had that chance then maybe he would have been the success he promised to be.

One hopes that McLauglin gets a similar chance and takes it with no rotating, no chopping and changing and certainly no chance to dumping the custodian because he might make a mistake. Stuart McCall’s faith in his his goalkeeper was right, but he backed the wrong horse in Eastwood and if we learn the lessons of Mark Paston we will appreciate managers like Taylor and perhaps Capello who do select a clear number one and stick with him.