I was talking with a fellow West Ham-supporting friend the other day, when this scenario cropped up in the conversation: Rob Green calls the club to say “Mr Sullivan, I’ve made a terrible mistake. Please can I come back?”. Would you take him?
Let’s put aside our feelings about his move to QPR for a second and just look at it in purely footballing terms. If we do that, I think it’s fair to say that there was a time where I could not imagine anyone else bar Rob Green between the posts for West Ham. I think back to some of the stunning saves he made: I’ll always remember West Ham’s first match at The Emirates a few seasons back, where he virtually played the entire Arsenal team on his own with save after stunning save. There was no doubt, on his day, he was quality. And his record at saving penalties wasn’t bad, either.
And yet, some of his decisions were, shall we say, a bit iffy. He was prone to the odd strange “moment” (though, to be fair, most goalkeepers are from time to time). And this wasn’t only for West Ham, but also for England, most notably in the World Cup against the USA when he fumbled that daisycutter shot and was then ruthlessly disposed of by Fabio Capello. So, from that purely footballing point of view, would he get back into our first team?
My heart says he probably would. Jaaskelainen hasn’t, for all his undoubted experience, really made me think that he’s a great fit for West Ham yet. I can’t quite put my finger on why… for some reason, I just don’t have the same confidence in him, despite our early season form. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have quite the same rapport with the supporters as Green did. Maybe that’ll change over time. Some might disagree and say that Jaaskelainen is the man, we shouldn’t look back, and we should only look forward. That’s a perfectly valid argument. But I believe that Green would get into this first team ahead of Jaaskelainen if they both played for the same side.
So what of Rob Green’s decision to sign for QPR? Whatever we think of his motives (and I’m not entirely sure that we have heard the full story on this), his current situation is quite tough on him and in many ways, it’s quite sad to see him going from England goalkeeper to sitting on the QPR bench, after letting five in his first match of the season.
We should also bear in mind that he stayed with the team through last season in the Championship and it was only when we were promoted that he left. So, given all this, would you say yes to Mr Green if he was on the end of the telephone? It’s a difficult and divisive question, and one that I find very difficult to answer. My sense of sentiment says yes, but perhaps, at the end of it all, is the real question to answer this: is West Ham’s regret at letting him go greater than Rob Green’s regret at leaving? I suspect at this moment in time, the answer’s no.