It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it? I’m sure that seeing Robert Green once more grace the national team’s bench against Italy made all us West Ham fans wistfully look back to the days when, season in season out, he single-handedly kept us in games. My favourite Green memory would probably be our historic 1-0 win at Arsenal in our ‘Great Escape’ season.
We should’ve lost that game 10-1 because we were battered from the first minute to the last, but ‘Greeno’ put in one of the most outstanding goalkeeping performances the league has ever witnessed. That day he was almost unbeatable as he dived this way and that to keep out Arsenal’s plethora of superstars and secure a vital victory
It is no exaggeration to say his performance at the Emirates went a great way to keeping us up that year and over the next few campaigns he established himself as a cult hero as well as, briefly, England’s number one. He couldn’t do anything to keep us up in 2010-11, however, as Avram Grant’s sole campaign in charge ended up with relegation to the Championship – but he stood by us and again impressed in the play-off final victory over Blackpool 12 months later. After promotion back to the Premier League was secured it looked as though Green would sign a new deal and prolong what had been an eventful six years in East London.
But instead he decided to spurn a new contract and make the short journey to Mark Hughes’s QPR. His switch to Loftus Road didn’t make a whole lot of sense from a footballing point of view at the time, but money talks and Green walked. With hindsight, was it the right decision for his career? Ignoring the money you’d have to say not. Not only did he wind up on the bench whilst Julio Cesar became QPR’s number one, but his new employers were sent back to the Championship whilst West Ham finished the season in a very respectable 10th spot.
You have to wonder what would have happened had Green not cashed out and joined QPR. It’s hard to know for sure but I highly doubt West Ham would have gone out and signed Adrian two years ago. Not only has Adrian enjoyed an even better rapport with the fans than Green ever managed, which is saying something as Green was incredibly popular in his own right, but being seven years his junior the club managed to nab a ‘keeper who’s in the prime of his career.
In my view Adrian has proven himself every bit as good as his predecessor, if not better. Looking back you can’t blame Green for believing the grass was greener elsewhere. He’s a professional and has to look out for himself. He wasn’t a fan so simply didn’t possess the emotional attachment that we do – and who amongst us wouldn’t ditch our current employers for a better financial package elsewhere?
Perhaps if any lessons can be learned from this saga it’s that a key player leaving isn’t terminal for a club as in the long term you can wind up in an even stronger position. Even though we all loved ‘Greeno’ would we trade any of his wonder saves and match-winning performances for Adrian’s winning penalty against Everton? I think not. As for Green, if he had the choice all over again would he have put his career ahead of his wallet and signed the deal on offer with West Ham? I think he would have to admit so but whilst he may harbour one or two regrets about how things panned out, the club certainly doesn’t.