The battle for number 1

And then there were three…

Now that Alex McCarthy has transferred to Southampton from Crystal Palace for an undisclosed fee, thought to be about £3m, there are only 3 candidates left for the number 1 spot.

So, who should start the season as out goalkeeper? Should it be fans favourite, Julian Speroni? Much maligned, Wayne Hennessey? Or France number 2 goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda?

Well, I think it is a foregone conclusion that eventually Steve Mandanda will be the first choice goalkeeper at Selhurst Park. It seems inconceivable to me that Mandanda would have signed for Palace unless it was to be our number 1.

So what are the chances for our other two goalkeepers?

Julian Speroni is the fan’s favourite but, if we’re honest, his best days are now behind him.

Last season I was firmly behind Speroni being the first choice goalkeeper, after all, what had he done to lose it? He started the season injured which led Palace manager Alan Pardew to hand Alex McCarthy his debut.

This only lasted a couple of games as McCarthy made a couple of mistakes that cost us points and when McCarthy was replaced everyone was surprised when Wayne Hennessey was chosen with Speroni taking his place on the bench.

I was quite vocal last season in that I thought Speroni should have been first choice, especially as he hadn’t done anything to deserve being dropped but the excuse used was that, as we were doing well in the league (we were in the top 8 at the time) there was no reason to change the team.

Even after Hennessey made some clangers, such as away to Villa and Manchester City, he retained his place. We all thought Speroni would get is chance when Hennessey picked up an injury before the Liverpool game at Selhurst, only for Alex McCarthy to be selected instead and we all know what happened next?

So, just what did Speroni do, or not do, to continually be overlooked? We may never know but I think we can safely assume that Speroni will be at best a bench warmer this season but in reality be 3rd choice.

I am not going to make a case for Wayne Hennessey, more a case against him!

When Tony Pulis signed Hennessey from Wolves in January 2014 it caused a few raised eyebrows. It wasn’t so much the fee, which was £1.6m plus addons, but more the statement of intent from then manager Pulis.

To many of the Selhurst Park faithful this was a clear sign that Pulis intended to replace Speroni, sooner rather than later. The feeling among the fans was that Pulis was waiting for a good excuse to drop Speroni, after all you don’t spend that amount of money on a goalkeeper and leave him on the bench.

But what many Palace fans may not know about Hennessey is his recent history prior to signing for us.

Hennessey has been playing for Wolves since 2006 and to gain first team experience he went on loan to Stockport County where in 2007 he set the Football League record for consecutive clean sheets, nine in total.

From the 2007-08 season, Hennessey was first choice keeper for Wolves and in the 2008-09 season, Wolves gained promotion to the Premier League.

It was in the Premier League that Hennessey set another record, one he’d rather forget. During the 3rd of their three Premier League seasons Hennessey was part of the Wolves defence that set a club record 30 consecutive games without a clean sheet.

The run finally ended this with a goalless draw at Sunderland in April 2012, but by then the team was rooted to the bottom of the table. Despite the game halting this run, it brought bad news for Hennessey as he suffered a torn cruciate knee ligament during it that would keep him side lined for almost a year.

Hennessey missed the whole of the 2012-13 season that saw Wolves relegated again, this time to League One, so he can’d directly be blamed for that.

In 2013-14, a fit again Hennessey failed to regain the number 1 position and went on loan to Yeovil, who were in the Championship where he played 12 times.

In December, upon returning to Wolves the first choice was injured but Hennessey refused to play when selected. He later apologising but this led to him signing for Palace for an initial £1.6m fee plus add ons.

So when Tony Pulis signed Hennessey for Crystal Palace, he signed and intended to use a goalkeeper who could not get in to a League 1 side to be the last line of defence for a team battling to stay in the Premier League.

It is because of his tract record that I don’t think Hennessey should be our first choice goalkeeper and having seen him play for Palace over the last 2½ seasons there has been nothing in his performances to convince me he otherwise.

If we’re completely honest if it were not for Hennessey England would not have won a game at Euro 2016 because he was at fault for Daniel Sturrage’s last minute winner. A shot most goalkeepers would have saved.

So, for me it is Steve Mandanda all the way. That is unless he does anything insane and then… I’d still stick with him!

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