The 12th of March 2008 remains in my memory for two reasons. It wasn’t only the night that Tottenham lost on penalties to PSV in the UEFA Cup, it was also my first sighting of a rather unorthodox goalkeeper named Heurelho Gomes. His performance that night served as a caricature for goalkeeping – from flapping at crosses, to outstanding saves to his unique ability to throw the ball almost as far as he can kick it, not to mention his gangly appearance. He was a surprise signing in the summer of ’08 and was set to become the new goalkeeper of the Ramos revolution.
The truth is that Gomes faced an up hill challenge as soon as he came to Spurs. For a goalkeeper he arrived for a pretty sizeable fee of £8 million and he had the unenviable task of replacing a terrace favorite. Gomes was brought in to take over from Paul Robinson, who was a key member of the Jol glory days and was at the base of the much celebrated English spine that took us into Europe two years running. The Ramos reign was also starting to be questioned. The fuss surrounding our Carling Cup win over Chelsea had died down and people were beginning to realize that, actually, we hadn’t done very well under Juande’s guidance at all. On top of all of this, Gomes was a part of the worst start a Tottenham team had made to a domestic season ever, and of the fingers of blame being pointed at the Tottenham camp, many were fixed on the new goalkeeper. Granted, he hadn’t helped himself. The old adage goes that a goalkeeper will always be remembered for his mistakes certainly applied to Gomes’ first year at the Lane.
The truth was, that against Aston Villa in September Gomes played quite well and made some very good saves. The whole team was poor, but his error to gift Ashley Young Villa’s second goal was remembered as the reason that we lost. Unfortunately high profile errors were to follow against Fulham and Stoke and when Christmas came around Spurs fans were given the gift of Carlo Cudicini. His reputation told us that he was the best second choice goalkeeper in the league, but for various reasons he too was unable to find a decent run of form and Gomes came back to finish off the season. After which, things became more settled and after all of the mayhem of the start of the season Gomes became a vital part of the side which only conceded 10 league goals at the Lane.
There can be no question that Redknapp’s replacement of Hans Leitert with the Englishman Tony Parks as goalkeeper coach has made a big difference to the form of Gomes. eHe started playing with a new confidence, commanding his area, catching crosses rather than punching them, he became a tidier, more dependable goalkeeper. A good goalkeeper instills confidence in his defense, and that confidence spreads throughout the team. If a striker knows that he has good defenders behind him each chance that comes his way has a little less pressure and he can play with a little more freedom.
After an injury interrupted the start of his season, Gomes finally started making the headlines for the right reasons. His first landmark game being the Boxing Day clash away at Fulham, making 3 outstanding saves to foil Bobby Zamora and steal Spurs a point. But without question his headline making saves against Arsenal stole the plaudits. The full stretch stop from Van Persie’s free-kick being the one which impressed me the most and brought the loudest gasp from me and my friends. He also played a big part in our victory over Chelsea, and how many goalkeepers do you know who have saved 2 penalties in a game? Gomes had become one of the most important factors in Spurs’ rise to 4th in the league.
Gomes’ place in the team for the 09/10 season was either down to Harry finding a new faith in him, or to a suitable replacement not being available during the transfer window. But whatever the reason it was a gamble which has paid off and his Champions League experience will prove vital next season.
Written By Karl Sears