It is often said that one of the criteria for making it as a successful goalkeeper is to possess an eccentric personality. While this could be true, it is certainly a requirement to be rather thick-skinned when things are going badly, as they so often do in this most vulnerable of positions. As a goalkeeper there is no hiding place and any mistake is savagely magnified. And Tottenham’s number one, Heurelho Gomes found this out the hard way last season as he made mistake after costly mistake and was seen as a calamitous joke.
The Brazilian though, has battled back superbly this campaign emerging as one of the most vital components of Spurs charge for the Champions League positions. The 29-year-old has now spoken out about the struggles he faced during his initial period in English football and, like many foreign players, he found the more physical style difficult to come to terms with.
Gomes said: “In England there is a lot of physical contact, and, of course, the famous aerial game. When I arrived, I certainly had a hard time staying on my feet because of the constant contact. But in training I got the hang of it. Today, I’m a more complete goalkeeper because of how I adapted to the English style.”
Gomes’ form has been so good this year that he now sees himself as a candidate for the Brazil World Cup squad, despite not playing in the famous yellow and blue for over three years. He has reclaimed the reliability that he previously held at his former club, PSV Eindhoven, and not only is he a superb shot-stopper, he also commands his penalty area with assurance. The Brazil head coach, Dunga, gave Gomes his first international start just after the 2006 finals in Germany but after the Spurs man missed out on the Confederations Cup, it seems as though he has a battle on his hands to be on the plane to South Africa. With Julio Cesar and Doni currently choices one and two, there is just one place up for grabs as Brazil look to win international football’s most coveted prize for a record sixth time. Gomes will have to beat off opposition from Gremio’s Victor if he is to win the race.
“I always used to be trusted by my coaches. I hope it’s the same in this team, so that I can go to the World Cup. Dunga knows that I can play for the team in any situation. He knows how I behave and he knows by football, but that isn’t enough for me to guarantee a spot. Competition is strong and it is a good fight with Victor.”
If Gomes is successful in his quest to represent his country on the greatest stage then he will have deserved it. He has shown fantastic character to bounce back from some of the most dreadful mistakes, ones that may have seriously dented many players’ confidence. But he stayed strong and, with the backing of Harry Redknapp, has gone on to be one of a number of positives in a season that could end so well for Spurs. Nobody could argue that it was a slow start at White Hart Lane for the Brazilian, but he is now proving his worth, and he deserves plenty of credit for that.