Alan Shearer owes me £50. Or at least I think he does, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.
Tim Krul’s brilliant penalty shoot-out performance against Holland was one of the most incredible moments of a World Cup that has been nothing short of sensational – but it was nearly overshadowed by the way that he tried to put off Costa Rica’s takers within minutes of coming onto the field.
First things first: you have to have real confidence to do what Krul did on your World Cup debut. He knew there would be millions watching him and he was right in the face of the Costa Rica players. It didn’t look good and I can see why people are accusing him of being unprofessional and unsporting.
But there was a World Cup semi-final place at stake. In games where there is something big riding on it, you try to get every little bit of edge that you can and the mind games and psychological tricks are all part of your armoury.
Looking at it from a player’s perspective, would it have got to me to have a goalkeeper telling me he knew where I was going to put it? It would, especially if I had been planning to put it in that corner. It scrambles your brain for a second and suddenly you’re second-guessing a goalkeeper that you didn’t expect to be facing. It was clever from Krul, if it isn’t going to win him any fair play awards.
Besides, I would be a hypocrite if I gave Krul too much criticism for behaving like that because I used to do exactly the same thing when I was playing.
Sledging has long gone on in football, just as it does in cricket. Some players are worse than others but winding up the opposition is just part of the game and if you’re as excitable and pumped up as I was on the field you just couldn’t help yourself.
When an opposition striker was lining up to take a penalty I would always have a little chirp at them. I did it to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and I’m pretty sure I laid a £50 bet with Shearer that he wouldn’t score in the Tyne-Wear derby when Newcastle won a penalty at St James’ Park in 2000. He ignored it, of course, and I’m not sure that was the reason why he missed but I’m going to take a bit of the credit for it because it was one of my best moments in red and white!
The downside of that is that it can always backfire spectacularly and I remember one or two occasions where someone was chasing me around the pitch trying to tell me pretty forcefully how wrong I’d been. I think I even paid one or two £50 in the bar afterwards. Well, it’s only fair that you have to back it up if you’re going to dish it out. What made Saturday night so incredible was that it was all playing out in the biggest tournament in world football. I’ve never seen it before and it really is extraordinary to see a goalkeeper come on and act like Krul did.
The rush to turn Louis van Gaal into a managerial genius after the shoot-out win has been inevitable but I think we should slow down a little bit on that front. He was bold and he was brave in his decision to bring Krul on but as an ex-professional my first thought was about the bigger picture.
Krul won the game but what has van Gaal done to Jasper Cillessen’s confidence? The short-term gain of winning the game might just have damaged the goalkeeper in the long-term.
When I wrote that on Saturday night on Twitter, I was hammered for doubting the wisdom of van Gaal’s decision. But then on Monday we saw pictures of Cillessen kicking a bottle of water in frustration at being substituted and I wonder what that will have done to him in the long term.
A really good manager is one who is prepared to take risks and perhaps van Gaal can afford to take a massive gamble because he is not going to be the manager after the World Cup. In the long term he doesn’t have to think about these things, but it still might come back to haunt him before the end of the World Cup if things don’t go his way in the semi-final against Argentina.
Cillessen is the number one but now, in the back of his mind, there is going to be a little bit of doubt and do the Netherlands really want that ahead of the biggest game of the tournament against Argentina? We will see but confidence is a very important thing for footballers, especially goalkeepers. It might yet come back to haunt van Gaal and Holland if he drops a clanger in the last four.
Footballers hate being substituted. I didn’t often fall foul of Glenn Roeder at West Ham but for a brief period it felt like he was always taking me off after 70 minutes. Win, lose or draw I knew that the board would be lifted up with 20 minutes to go and I’d be on my way. It was infuriating.
One week I went in at half-time with the game at 1-0 and I was playing well. I’d forgotten about what had been happening. Five minutes into the second half we went 2-0 up and Glenn took me off immediately. I was livid with him and felt humiliated and embarrassed.
I had it out with him in the dressing room and he explained that he was trying to shore things up and wanted to do this and that. I had to be calmed down and eventually I saw his point of view but my confidence took a knock. It did affect me and I wonder whether the same thing might happen to Cillessen.