Stopper Schwarzer’s Decade of Drama

WHAT little Teesside knows of Down Under’s colourful history of working class populist banditry was encapsulated in Alistair Brownlee’s excited stoppage time ejaculation on a momentous final match of the season at Manchester City on May 15th 2005. “Mark Schwarzer: He’s the greatest Australian hero since Ned Kelly!”
Deep into added time the big Aussie shot-stopper went full length to his left to deny a Robbie Fowler penalty and seal a watershed 1-1 draw that was enough to take mighty Boro into Europe through the league for the first time ever and send Teesside into a frenzy of celebrations. First the miracle of Cardiff, now a second successive qualification. Could it get any better?

Much maligned keeper Schwarzer – who clocks up ten years as a Boro player today – was central to both those qualifications. At Cardiff cruel one-eyed critics may point accusingly at him for the Bolton goal that somehow squrimed through him and into the net from an impossible angle – and yes it was a blob dropped – but let us not forget that he pulled off two wonder saves from Youri Djorkaeff to keep Boro the game when the pressure was really on.
Against City and Fowler it was one-on-one with the highest possible stakes. If Schwarzer had gone the wrong way and Fowler had scored then Boro would have lost out on Europe by a single point. Without that brilliant save there would be no Roma, no Basel, no Steaua, no Eindhoven, no orgasmic epoch-defining Euro-high that vindicated Steve Gibson’s vision, sent Teesside into orbit and raised the club’s profile and expectations beyond belief.
On the road to the UEFA Cup final – which he played wearing a “Gazza style mask” – he played a giant part. Under pressure against Roma in the Stadio Olimpico he made an unbelievable twisting point blank save at the foot of the post from Di Rossi’s close range shot when Boro were taking a real battering. There were others in that game too but that muscle-rending act of contortion was the one that kept the dream alive.
Schwarzer put in another wonder display in the away game at Steaua when a sluggish Boro could not resist wave after wave of attack and came away a goal down but it could have been far worse but for a string of brilliant stops by the keeper.
Maccarone became the enduring image and took the press plaudits for winning through to Eindhoven but it was the solid spadework by Schwarzer when things got sticky that really kept the UEFA bandwagon rolling for Boro.
Mark Schwarzer has been a key figure throughout Boro’s golden decade. He featured at Wembley twice and picked up losers medals in League Cup finals (had he played in the FA Cup too our dream may have lasted longer than 43 seconds), he finally got his medal at the Millenium Stadium and he was between the sticks against Sevilla. He has been on the team-sheet in almost every match of significance in a dramatic ten years.
Yes, he has his critics. Some of then froth at the mouth just watching him in the warm-up. Apparently he doesn’t command his box, isn’t much of a shot-stopper, can’t kick, can’t get down well for a big man, has a Transylvanian aversion to crosses and never comes off his line.
And yes, there have been times when his opinion polls ratings were lower than a snakes belly. There was a long spell where the terrace consensus seemed to be that Mark Crossley was far and away the better keeper and wild-eyed speculation that only a clause in his contract was getting Skippy the nod. There was a spell after his broken leg when he seemed very reluctant to come off his line and he was regularly slated. Then last season there was a dummy spitting incident after a poor stoppage time fist set up a last gasp leveller at Newcastle and a blast from the boss promted a transfer request that attracted no takers and led to booing from some more short-sighted sections of the fanbase.
But each time he has bounced back with a sparkling run of displays that disarm the doubters and have the supporters spraying superlatives at him from all angles that he easily holds.
Schwarzer is one of Boro’s all time great keepers. Bernie Slaven ranks him just behind Steve Pears but that is just sentimental talk. Pearsy (and Mr Slaven) played only two seasons in the top flight and both times the team were relegated. Schwarzer has played all but one of his ten seasons at the highest levels, has played in Europe and has featured in four major finals. The Aussie is the better keeper by all rational measures.
And certainly for the £1.25m Boro paid Bradford in February 1997 he must be one of Boro’s all time value for money buys. Bernie is probably top of that table (147 goals for £25,000 is VFM in anyone’s language) but the Aussie can’t be far behind. He has played 394 games for the club after a transfer that is barely half of the agents fees involved in the Yakubu deal.
He is probably Boro’s best ever foreign signing too (unless you count Bernie again). Juninho has his legions of believers but flattered to deceive and in three spells in truth only really hit the heights for one six month spell while Ravanelli and Emerson were just flash in the pan, one season wonders. Luca Festa gave value, as did Franck Queudrue and George Boateng continue to do so. Zenden, Viduka and Yakubu have all proved great creative forces but have had frustrating spells where they got some stick. None can claim the longevity, the consistency, the indespensibility or the ability to win games under pressure like Schwarzer.
He made his debut ten years ago today in the Coca-Cola Cup semi-final first leg away at Stockport and was hugely impressive ina 2-0 win. He was a giant who came out and skittled peopel aside to collected balls into the box and after the nervous years of Miller. Walsh and Roberts it was a revelation. That day he played behind a defence of Cox, Fleming, Stamp and Pearson. Since then he has seen a lot of far better players come and go.
In a the modern age when players rarely see out even their first contract Schwarzer has completed a decade and is still the first name on the teamsheet. It is an achievement that deserves celebration.


20 thoughts on “Stopper Schwarzer’s Decade of Drama

  1. He is the best keeper we have ever had. If he ends up at bayern munich then i will hold no grudges. He will be hard to replace. How many keepers have been as consistent as him over the last 10 years? Pity he isnt English.
    Made me laigh when some fans were suggesting Crossley and Ross form friends were as good as him in goal

  2. MS has been a great keeper for the Boro and deserves all the accolades above.
    If he leaves I think Boro should try and sign Scott Carson.
    Are you feeling less worried about relegation now?
    I think we will beat the Baggies 2 – 0 and then the Skunks 2 – 1
    C’Mon Boro!

  3. by far the best keeper we,ve ever had. remember cardiff, and away to man city like the man said he,s the best aussie since ned kelly long may he continue from peter c, perth wa

  4. some fans wont realise how good he actually is until when he has gone and we spend three seasons trying to replace him.
    Remember that without his penalty save against fowler we would not have made europe and gone onto the final

  5. AV,
    Scwarcher has been a quality keeper for the Boro, a real, ” quality ” keeper.
    He should be congratulated for 10 excellent years and for the fact that he has always conducted himslef imaculately outside of the club, always representing the town and surrounding area superbly which for me is just as important.
    I have never understood those who have berated him on a continuous basis. For sure he has made mistakes along the way but I have always seen these as just that, mistakes which have never put him in the calamity James group of keepers.
    Well done Scwarzy and thank you.

  6. Whats with the Schwarzer love in? He can’t kick, hardly ever comes off his line and can’y catch the ball cleanly. How many times has him punching the ball to oneof them lot on the edge of the box cost us a goal? Newcastle last year just for one.
    And then when he got rollocked for that and rightly so he threw the digeridoo out of the pram and slapped in a transfer request. He sharp found his loyalty again when no one come in for him.
    I’m not saying he is not a good keeper because he is defanitely above average and like AV says did the business at City, Cardiff and Roma. Hes been a good buy. But howay lads, he’s not superman and he’s not Mr Loyalty.

  7. “Whats with the Schwarzer love in? He can’t kick, hardly ever comes off his line and can’y catch the ball cleanly. How many times has him punching the ball to oneof them lot on the edge of the box cost us a goal? Newcastle last year just for one.”
    Says it all really. typical clueless fan! his kicking is fine and his catching against reading was spotless! same for his punching. wow! one goal conceded from a punch in 12 months! thats better than him trying to catch it in a crowded goal mouth then they score from a lose ball. Justr incase you didnt know schwarzer is told and coached to punch it clear. just like a lot of keeper these days.
    holgate ender, pelase list 5 better keepers int he premiership who we can realistically buy!

  8. all keepers make mistakes, theya re the last line of defence so their mistakes are more costly and get noticed.
    Outfield players like strikers make more mistakes, like missing penalties,missing an easy chance and not passing to a player in a better postion.

  9. “And then when he got rollocked for that and rightly so he threw the digeridoo out of the pram and slapped in a transfer request. He sharp found his loyalty again when no one come in for him.”
    Wrong, he got told he was being dropped for brad jones, and rightly so he was offended as brad jones is no where near as good as schwarzer. just think who is the australian keeper and who isnt. steve mac did his best to upset the apple cart but luckily gibson stepped in and sorted out steve mac

  10. Better and realistic targets? Given. Robinson. Jasskelien. Carson. Sorenson. Kiely. Cuducini. Foster. Maybe Kirkland and Green at a push too.
    Some Boro fans are just easily pleased. I’m not saying the guy is useless. Just that there is better. Unless you all swallow that stuff about him being a target for Arsenal and Bayern Munchen.
    If he is that good why did no one come in for him last year? Not even a nibble.

  11. Yer ‘avin a laugh aren’t yer Holgate Ender?
    Credit where it’s due. Although Schwarzer does tend to make three or four awful gaffes a season, which keeper in the world doesn’t (except Petr Czech)?
    Schwarzer’s put in 10 fantastic years at the Boro and he should be heartily congratulated for it. Like Dave said you’ll soon miss him when he’s gone and it takes three of four years to find a half decent replacement.
    And what a save away at Roma; he defied the laws of physics to help us to arguably the finest result in our history.

  12. “Given. Robinson. Jasskelien. Carson. Sorenson. Kiely. Cuducini. Foster. Maybe Kirkland and Green at a push too.”
    Given, i agree is a better keeper. but realistically we couldnt get him. where is cuducini? still in chelsea reserves? where are green and foster playing? remember robinsons mistake for england?poor kicking? like given we couldnt get him.
    kieley is past his best.
    i rest my case!
    in the uefa cup final he made a couple of good saves as it could have been 6 or 7 nil!

  13. “If he is that good why did no one come in for him last year? Not even a nibble. ”
    bit like given, robinson, green, cudicini..etc

  14. Never Happy
    Yes, I said I’d review my position after the Reading game and although there’s a couple of strides to take yet I think we can look forward now rather than too much over our shoulders.
    As I posted on the Gazette MB I think that that was the most significant 3 points of the whole season. Won’t repeat the arguments why here.
    I’ll be at The Hawthorns tomorrow with Ian and my son so I hope your prediction comes true.
    **AV writes: The Reading result and the Bolton result before that have transformed the possibilities for this season. A win at West Brom as well and it is shaping up as one of Boro’s better ones in the top flight.

  15. No doubt AV will do a blog on Bernie next as that is another topic that exercises the message board.
    My view on Swarzer? One of the better keepers in the premiership and just as prone to make mistakes.
    The punch against Toon that led to the equaliser has been mentioned already. He played his part in the loss of a point but lets analyse the situation.
    2-1 at Toon so lets all drop back to defend around the penalty area. A fault we still havent rid ourselves of to this day – similar to many clubs.
    A shanked clearance by Gate goes out for a corner. A defensive mistake.
    Lets line up all our players behind the penalty spot. Mmmmm, that seems familiar.
    Keeper darent stay on his line and have pinball in the six yard box so has to punch but in the way are defenders and attackers. Doesnt make clean enough contact but gets it to the edge of his box.
    Several Toon players are having a picnic on the edge of the box and luckily have some peace and quiet with no red shirts nearby. Just like on the beach the ball comes out to the picnickers who kindly kick it back. By fluke it passes through everyone into the net.
    After the match Lee Clarke states we always have a picnic on the edge of the box cos no one will disturb us. Well that is the gist of what took place.
    The problem with goalies is that their mistakes are terminal. If you keep defending too deep and allow the ball to be played into the box, mistakes will happen, lucky bounces occur, refs give dodgy decisions, players get into space. You increase the chances of these things happening.
    Swarzer isnt the best but he has been a good servant and does his best. All keepers make howlers. Van se Sar and Cech were guilty at the Riverside last year.
    And on to tonight, I am not one to tempt fate but I quite fancy us to get a result. Let us hope the team decide to turn up because the Baggies will be fired up and the ground has great atmosphere.
    Just hope JP and Phil have a nice trip back to Reading.

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