Tis a fine week to be a young Manchester United ‘keeper…
Posted by nickogs20 on July 18, 2008
The past seven days have been kind to United’s emerging custodians. Edwin van der Sar’s post-Euro 2008 vacation, Tom Heaton’s loan to Cardiff and Ron-Robert Zieler’s participation in the Euro U19 Finals with Germany has had something of a knock-on effect, elevating younger keepers up the pecking order into games they would otherwise have stood no chance of being involved in.
The most obvious beneficiary has been Ben Amos. With everyone present and correct the 18 year-old would have been competing with two others for game-time in the reserves’ friendlies, but events conspired to give him a first team ‘debut’ (albeit non-competitive) last weekend at Aberdeen. To say he seized the opportunity with both hands or put in a blinding performance would be an exaggeration as in all honesty he had very little to do, but what he did have to do he did with utmost competence, and the England U18 stopper didn’t look at all out of place.
Even better news was then to come in midweek, when Thursday saw Ben named in the 21-man travelling party for the Reds’ pre-season tour of South Africa and Nigeria. Ben goes on tour as clear third-choice keeper behind Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak and, with those two competing for the understudy job this season (and potentially their United futures) he may well struggle to get much time on the field of play, but regardless, the experience of going on tour with the first-team, training with them every day and participating in the community projects the squad take part in on these jaunts can only be an incredibly good thing for the youngster’s development.
Similar story for Gary Woods (well, bar the South Africa part). The seventeen year-old got seventeen priceless first-team minutes under his belt in Scotland last Saturday as substitute when a more typical set of circumstances would have probably seen him not playing in a match until the Under 18’s take on Bury in August. What’s more, Amos’ first-team call-up makes Woods first in line for reserve glove duty, and he should start in nets for at least the next two games (against Altrincham and Oxford).
And the knock-on effect extends even further. Conor Devlin’s apprenticeship only began at the start of the month and he is yet to even play for the Under 18’s, but last Saturday saw him between the sticks for the reserves at Burscough. The 16 year old from Northern Ireland is expected to deputise for Woods in the forthcoming reserve games. Devlin’s deputy at Burscough got a massive and unexpected opportunity also – Sam Johnstone will spend most of this season keeping goal for the Under 16’s, so twenty minutes of senior football for the reserves will have been a great experience for the 15 year-old.
As mentioned above, one of the reasons for the above quartet rising up the pecking order is Ron-Robert Zieler being otherwise engaged at the UEFA U19 European Championships in the Czech Republic. And he’s doing rather well too – Germany made it two wins from two in the group stage with a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria yesterday (Dennis Diekmeier, Savio Nsereko and Lars Bender with the goals) in a game that RRZ could probably have kept a clean sheet in whilst asleep. Qualification for the semi-finals is now assured for the Germans and, with the holders and big favourites Spain surprisingly already eliminated, a real opportunity to win this tournament for the first time ever is looming large.