The Roar Review: Season Preview – Part 1. Goalkeepers

**The following is a re-post of something I posted over at Football Central- originally dated 28/09/15

The Roar Review’s 5th annual season preview series and first as part of Football Central will be a seven part series. It will take an in-depth look at Brisbane Roar ahead of the 2015-16 A-League season, beginning today with a look at the Goalkeepers.

Twelve months ago there was absolutely no doubt as to who Brisbane’s #1 goalkeeper was, fast-forward until now however and it’s far less certain. Coming off a third championship in four seasons Theo was cemented in goals despite the arrival of Jamie Young from England’s 6th tier, however a serious wrist injury derailed his season and gave his new understudy the chance he was looking for as he went on to play 30 games.

The Contenders: Michael Theo, Jamie Young.

Since arriving in Brisbane back in June 2010, Theo has been the undisputed #1 for Brisbane, with his shot stopping and ability to play out from the back along the ground making him an ever-present during both Ange Postecoglou and Mike Mulvey’s tenures at the club.

That changed last year however thanks to an innocuous injury in training just days out from the Round of 16 FFA Cup clash against Adelaide, an injury which severely limited his 2014-15 season.

2014-15 stats
Played: 6
Clean sheets: 2

Thanks to the aforementioned wrist injury, in addition to a groin complaint, Brisbane’s #1 was limited to just six appearances last season, of which only four were in the league.

It’s impossible to judge him on those six games given one was an FFA Cup tie against Stirling Lions where he was barely tested, while the other five came while he was trying to work himself back to full fitness.

At his best, Theo is still amongst the very best shot stoppers in the league. However the question now is, at age 34 and having missed the best part of the last 12 months due to injury, can he recapture his best form?

Should Theo not be able to recapture his form or stay healthy, Brisbane have an alternative in place who has the experience to do the job in his own right in Jamie Young.

Young was brought to the club last off-season by then manager Mike Mulvey on goalkeeping coach Jason Kearton’s recommendation and after finding his feet went on to become a consistent shot stopper as the season progressed.

2014-15 stats
Played: 30
Clean Sheets: 6

After a shaky start in a troubled team -including the now infamous post-game run in with Shane Stefanutto – which ultimately cost Mike Mulvey his job, Young began to look more comfortable as the season went on.

At the start of the season his positioning and playing out from the back were questionable, however those improved as the season progressed. There is still room for improvement.

The one part of Young’s game however which has never been in question is his shot stopping ability, which was in evidence throughout the season, no less than in the Elimination Final where he made a string of superb saves in the 2-1 defeat to Adelaide United.

Young has definitely made a strong case to be the starting goalkeeper, however I think his deficiencies in playing with the ball at his feet will ensure that Theo gets the first opportunity this season.

Depth: Tomislav Bilic, Denver Crickmore.

With Fraser Chalmers – who spent much of the last A-League season on the bench as Jamie Young’s back-up –  having departed the Brisbane Roar NPL Queensland set-up at the midway point of the 2015 season, the options on who would be the nominal 3rd choice have dried up.

Over the second half of the NPL season both Tomislav Bilic and Denver Crickmore split the goalkeeping duties with Bilic perhaps edging Crickmore out to be the 3rd choice should an injury arrive.

Bilic, 18, completed his first campaign with the Young Roar side where he ended the season as the starting goalkeeper. Crickmore, 17, has been a part of the set-up for the past couple of seasons and played in a handful of games throughout the season.

With Theo unavailable for the FFA Cup Round of 32 clash with Western Sydney, it was Bilic who was named to be Jamie Young’s understudy. However it was Crickmore who earned a spot on the bench for the high profile Liverpool friendly.

Bilic played in the 10-0 romp of the Gold Coast All-Stars in Southport last month, while Crickmore hasn’t featured in any first team games this pre-season.

The duo will likely make up the two goalkeepers for the upcoming National Youth League season, however it’s unlikely either would push for first team duties this season, with an injury replacement likely option should either Theo or Young suffer an injury.

Conclusion
Brisbane have as strong a pair of goalkeepers with claims on the #1 shirt to start the season as they’ve ever had, although there are questions to be answered.

Young’s ability to play out. Theo’s durability with so little football in the past 12 months.

It seems likely that Theo will get the nod to start the season, particularly given new boss John Aloisi’s tendency to favour experience in other areas of the park. There remains a strong possibility of both getting time over the course of the season.

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