Saturday, 25 June 2011

Scott Carson to Bursaspor - Is it the right move?

It's fair to say that not many Albion supporters expected Scott Carson to be our number one goalkeeper at the start of next season, even after his improved form following the appointment of Roy Hodgson. However, the fact that our much-criticised former captain looks set to join Turkish side Bursaspor, who played in the Champions League last season and will be competing in the Europa League during the forthcoming season, has come as a great shock to most English football supporters.

Despite his obvious quality, Carson has always struggled to settle at Albion. He has often been made a scapegoat by supporters for poor performances and although he was at fault for some of the goals we conceded last season, he was very harshly criticised at times and some of this criticism was definitely unjustified.

I certainly don't think that Carson was helped by the fact that he made his infamous error for England against Croatia just a few months into his Albion career. This led to a great deal of criticism from the national media and perhaps meant that some Albion fans immediately had their opinion on Carson changed, although he was not the first and will certainly not be the last highly-rated goalkeeper to make an error for England in an important game.

There is undoubtedly a reasonable argument that Carson may have lost what confidence he had after this error, although his performances for the remainder of the Premier League season which ultimately ended in relegation were relatively consistent. He conceded a lot of goals, but this was mainly down to a gung-ho approach from our manager at the time Tony Mowbray, who placed far too little emphasis on defending and far too much emphasis on playing good football and out-scoring the opposition, a tactic which worked in The Championship, but which was not going to work on a regular basis against some of Europe's top sides in the Premier League.

After the departure of captain Jonathan Greening at the start of the following season, new Head Coach Roberto Di Matteo immediately appointed Carson as Albion's new captain. This decision confused the vast majority of Albion fans, but it was hoped that the responsiblity of wearing the armband would lead to Carson being more vocal with his back four and becoming more of a dominant, confident goalkeeper in general.

Unfortunately, he became rather error-prone and although we ended up being promoted from The Championship, I had hoped that we would be able to sign a goalkeeper who could realistically challenge Carson for the number one jersey and maybe even replace him as our first-choice goalkeeper. This player would be Boaz Myhill, who we signed from relegated Hull City.

Seeing as he was still captain, it was not a surprise to see Carson start the season as our first-choice goalkeeper, with Myhill being forced to settle for a place on the bench. Although he made no real out-and-out errors, Carson's hesitancy always looked like costing us goals and led to criticism from small sections of supporters at matches, who felt the need to sarcastically cheer Carson on the rare occasions he came off his line to gather crosses.

The one occasion when I finally lost patience with Carson was during our 3-0 defeat at Fulham in January. Under-pressure Head Coach Di Matteo had assmebled a make-shift back four for this game due to injuries, with none of our defenders being over six feet tall. Despite this, we had held out relatively comfortably until just before half-time, when Carson let a long-range shot from Clint Dempsey through his hands and into the back of the net. This clearly had an effect on Carson and the rest of the players, as two moments of hesitancy in the second half from our goalkeeper led to us suffering an incredibly disappointing 3-0 defeat at Craven Cottage.

These errors led to Di Matteo dropping Carson up until he was placed on gardening leave, with Myhill coming into the side and producing a number of consistent performances.

However, the appointment of Roy Hodgson coincided with a return to the side for Carson, who immediately looked more assured and seemed to have benefited from an extended spell on the sidelines. Carson did not have the captaincy returned to him though, as Chris Brunt had been given the armband in his absence and so continued as captain.

I would go as far to say that Carson was one of many players who performed very well in most of our remaining games, with an error at Newcastle United on the final day of the season being the only disappointment in an impressive last three months of the season.

These solid performances have led to some Albion fans stating that they believe Carson should stay at the club next season, as they do not think we will be able to bring in a better goalkeeper. Whilst I can understand this view to a certain extent, I think we do need to look to strengthen this area of our squad and if we can get around £2m for a player who has just entered the last year of his contract, we should definitely take it.

From Carson's point of view, this could also be the big opportunity he needs to rebuild his career. It is fair to say that he has struggled at the Albion and that the English media will always remember him for his error against Croatia, whatever he achieves during his career. Going abroad means that he is away from people who will just criticise him at any opportunity and who greet every example of impressive goalkeeping with a sarcastic cheer.

Although there is no guarantee Carson will be successful for Bursaspor in Turkey, playing in a totally different environment may help him develop as a player and establish himself as a permanent fixture in the England squad. Taking all this into account, I believe this transfer could be one of those rare deals which benefits everyone concerned. 

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