The World Cup in Brazil had pretty much everything. It was one of the best tournaments in recent memory and bought us crazy score-lines, jaw dropping results and goals galore.
Yet it has also been a World Cup that has underlined the importance of one position: the goalkeeper. For instance, would Mexico have progressed as far as they did without the exploits of Guillermo Ochoa? Columbia’s David Ospina managed to stand out despite the attacking exploits of his countrymen, and what other superlatives are there to describe Manuel Neuer’s performances for Germany?
It’s fair to say that in order for any team to attack with any gusto, they must have confidence in the big man between the sticks. So, with co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan reportedly insisting upon a more positive thinking West Ham this season, it’s clear that we need a reliable figurehead in goal.
And it could well be that, for the first time in a decade, Adrian is a goalkeeper that seems to have all Hammers fans unified in their faith. The Spaniard is an excellent shot stopper, a fine organiser of the defence and a seemingly popular figure amongst the players.
Could it be that Sam Allardyce unearthed a little gem? Any goalkeeper who comes to the Premier League from overseas can expect to have to go through a period of adjustment. But, the odd mistake aside, Adrian’s introduction into the team seemed to coincide with an upturn in West Ham’s fortunes.
And whilst it is still early days, there is a feeling that he could well be the best goalkeeper we’ve had in 20 years. Fans of a certain age will always talk nostalgically of the bygone days of Phil Parkes, or in the case of my father Mervyn Day, but for many younger supporters the goalkeeping position has always been benchmarked by one man, a certain Ludek ‘Ludo’ Miklosko.
Similar to Adrian, he was a relative unknown quantity when Lou Macari performed his one of his only decent act as West Ham manager, and paid £350,000 to Banik Ostrava for the big man’s services. Despite enduring a difficult start, Ludo soon became a popular figure amongst fans and players, and quickly developed an almost cult like figure.
While the odd question mark remained over his ability under the high ball, no one could ever doubt his shot stopping abilities or his natural agility to reach shots that looked destined for the top corner. Hero status was officially confirmed after his outstanding one man defensive barrier against title-chasing Manchester United, provoking derogatory comments about the team’s mentality to just defend from the opposition manager Sir Alex Ferguson along the way
Signed by unpopular manager, quickly developed a popular cult following and excellent at shot stopping. The similarities between Adrian and Ludo are almost uncanny. But will he prove to be as popular, as good and indeed as long lasting as Miklosko was?
The early signs are good. High hopes have been held previously for the likes of Roy Carroll, Rob Green and Shaka Hislop — all of whom have flattered to deceive — but could Adrian finally be the one to take on the mantra? Do we West Ham fans no longer have to watch through our fingers every time the ball is being launched into our penalty box? Will he still be sung about 15 years after his retirement?
Only time will tell, but the early signs suggest that West Ham’s last line of defence could rest in some fairly safe hands.