Keeper choice is vital for Town

GETTING the right goalkeeper could be the most important decision Jim Magilton makes. Derek Davis explores why this one choice could make the difference between Ipswich Town staying where they are or achieving Premier League statusIF you have ever wondered how it was that Nottingham Forest won the league title in 1978 when Liverpool were favourites, and then went on to win two European Cups then the answer, according to Brian Clough, was Peter Shilton.

Derek Davis

GETTING the right goalkeeper could be the most important decision Jim Magilton makes. Derek Davis explores why this one choice could make the difference between Ipswich Town staying where they are or achieving Premier League status

IF you have ever wondered how it was that Nottingham Forest won the league title in 1978 when Liverpool were favourites, and then went on to win two European Cups then the answer, according to Brian Clough, was Peter Shilton.

In Duncan Hamilton's book 'Provided You Don't Kiss Me - 20 years With Brian Clough' he recalls how the Forest boss swooped for Shilton after he played in newly-relegated Stoke City's opening Division Two game at Mansfield Town.

Clough knew Shilton would be unhappy at the prospect of more matches like the one at Field Mill and snapped him up.

While accolades were handed to the likes of John Robertson, Archie Gemmil, Trevor Francis and Martin O'Neill, it was Shilton who Clough insisted, made the difference.

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He was a great believer in starting at the back and history shows that having the right keeper can make all the difference.

Edwin Van Der Sar is the unsung hero at Manchester United, who conceded just 22 goals in retaining the Premier League title.

Then there is Petr Cech at Chelsea, Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar at Liverpool, while Arsenal blossomed in front of David Seaman.

Ipswich found success with Paul Cooper and more latterly Richard Wright who, arguably, had his best spell in football while helping Town to promotion and then fifth in the Premiership.

Of course having a solid back four helps but their confidence comes from knowing who and what is behind them.

That feeling of security spreads quickly to the midfield and then to the forwards.

Instead of feeling they have to score two or three goals, the hit-men can be relaxed in knowing one will quite often do. In turn it means they more than often get clusters and soon the goal difference becomes a yawning gap.

Magilton will be well aware of all this and while he may feel, as a cultured midfielder himself, that it is the engine room that wins games, he knows they can be lost with the wrong man between the sticks.

His dilemma started with trying to choose between Lewis Price and Shane Supple, both in the infancy of their careers yet charged with trying to get a Championship team into the right half of the table behind a defence that had age and experience but never looked convincing.

Both were accused of being too quiet, not commanding enough, something that could not be levelled at Neil Alexander, a Scotland international who oozed presence.

Losing Alexander was inevitable as he was not entirely happy at Portman Road for personal reasons and his success at Rangers shows he made the right decision to leave and confirms what a decent keeper he is.

If Magilton lands No. 1 target Thomas Sorensen then he is confident he has a player who can not only get them up but handle playing at the top flight week-in, week-out.

He will offer a security and assurance that will help a new-look defence mould together and in turn lift the confidence of a team that gave away far too many goals away from home last year.

Richard Wright is a known quantity, although Magilton will be wary of having too many old faces back in the squad and has to be convinced he is the keeper he way. Southampton fans will tell you he is - he kept them up.

Mark Bunn has been reported to be a target and the 23-year-old Canadian has a burgeoning reputation in the lower levels but possibly lacks the experience that Magilton seeks and he will be looking for someone with more proven ability.

That may be someone like Lee Camp, whose position at QPR must be in doubt with the arrival of Radek Cerny from Spurs.

Whether Camp is any better than Stephen Bywater is open to discussion, with many suggesting he is and that is why Magilton is not yet convinced that keeping Bywater is the right thing to do.

That sort of uncertainty is a negative that is hard to overcome and the lack of confidence, in any keeper, could cost Town dear.

And lack of confidence, was something Clough didn't do.