Heurelho Gomes: ‘The case for ‘caviar’

Football FanCast columnist Roy James and The New Voice of Football go head to head with a debate about Heurelho Gomes and whether he is in fact cabbage or caviar.

Of all the signings Tottenham made last summer, Heurelho Gomes was the one I was most pleased about. This was the goalkeeper, who had left me distraught in the previous campaign, when the Brazilian's heroics in the penalty shoot-out for PSV Eindhoven put paid to any Spurs hopes of UEFA Cup glory.

Opinion might still be divided amongst the White Hart Lane faithful and the football world in general as to the long-term credentials and reliability of the man dubbed ‘The Octopus'. But for me this argument should continue no more! For when Heurelho does eventually hang up his gloves or leave Tottenham, I'm convinced the record books will show this keeper to be what he is a class act.

Yes I know his career did not exactly get off to a flier in North London, but if we are to be fair, Gomes was not the only catastrophe on show for Spurs in those dark days last term under Juande-boy. Being a keeper he just happened to be the most noticeable one and an easy target for fans and pundits alike. It's what happened afterwards, that showed Gomes not only had the undoubted ability everyone knew he possessed, but the character to stand tall, when many a lesser man would have crumbled and faded away into oblivion or gone to Blackburn. The fact, that he played through injury, when it would have been easy to hide speaks volumes for the Brazilian.

Gomes wrote himself into the record books at White Hart Lane last season. Just 10 goals conceded at home and this in a campaign, which was littered with personal disaster for ‘The Octopus' during those painful first eight-games in the Premier League. This should come as no suprise though, for when the Brazilian arrived on these shores, he already had claimed the record for the highest percentage of clean sheets in the Eredivisie, 60% over four-seasons. Four seasons, which saw PSV claim the title in Holland, something they didn't achieve the season before his arrival or in the season after he left.

It could be argued the Dutch league is not the strongest around and Heurelho was playing for one of the top sides, but the emphasis in the Eredivisie has always been on attacking football, rather than the ‘Cattenacco' approach often employed in Serie A.

Now I'm not saying Gomes is perfect or error-free, but show me a goalkeeper who is in the modern era. An age where footballs are more akin to moving around like a beachball, than the bladder of a farm animal kicked around by the likes of Finney and Matthews. The balls are so prone to swerve and movement and getting lighter all the time that soon every manager will need an octopus to be the custodian between the sticks.

One criticism of Gomes is his ability to deal with crosses, but I don't buy into this argument. Since his arrival at Spurs he has never had the luxury of playing behind a settled defence for prolonged periods. In the latter half of last season, when the Tottenham backline had a more settled look about it, Gomes produced week-in-week-out. The errors that were a constant in his game were few and far between and his saves left a fair few strikers scratching their heads and looking for an answer in the sky as to why they were not on the scoresheet.

The game against Portsmouth last Saturday, was classic Gomes, a couple of mistakes, but far outweighed by the saves he made, which ultimately saw Spurs bag all three points in a clash that might have yielded nothing had Tottenham not had a goalie capable of making the stops lesser mortals would simply not have made. The save from the deflected free-kick truly world-class in my opinion, a save not many keepers on the planet could come up with, let alone the Premier League.

I wouldn't swap Heurelho for any of the keepers currently playing for the soon to be disbanded ‘big four'. Almunia is average, Van der Sar soon to hang up his gloves, with none of the pretenders to fill them looking the part, Reina prone to the same errors Gomes is criticised for and Cech currently a shell of the keeper, who ousted the current Tottenham No2 from his slot at Chelsea.

At the end of the day all keepers like players will make mistakes, but as Spurs grow in confidence under Harry Redknapp, so will Gomes. The jury might still be out on ‘The Octopus', but come the day Gomes is not turning out for the Lillywhites, Tottenham fans will be in no doubt as to the Brazilian being an oversized helping of caviar and not cabbage.

Click here to read Roy James differing view of the abilities of Heurelho Gomes