So, the big City goalkeeping debate.
Perhaps one of the more contentious topics to engage with for an opening column. It’s certainly one that gets people interacting regardless of which contender they back to make the shirt their own.
Let’s start by rewinding the clock back to when City signed John Ruddy.
Ruddy came without any baggage; he was a relatively safe choice. If he wasn’t up to the standard required, then Norwich would have found a suitable replacement. If he succeeded, then great.
His debut was in a pre-season friendly against Everton, and the jury was out, with many berating him, especially when a ball went straight through his legs for one of Everton’s two goals.
Me personally? I thought the worst was yet to come.
But nine years later, Ruddy is lauded as a club legend. Someone who made over two hundred appearances in the yellow and green (mainly green… and black), experiencing every emotion football has to offer in his time at the club.
Millennial City fans naturally feel a real affiliation with John, with him being the number one for most of their City odyssey, and him being one of the main protagonists.
In many ways, there are comparisons to be drawn between Ruddy and Tim Krul.
You don’t believe me? Well, hear me out.
Both players lacked a home before joining City. Ruddy had continually been sent out on loan, playing for nine different clubs by the age of 22. Krul severely lacked a home post-Newcastle, playing for three different teams in as many seasons; fewer that Ruddy, but equally as unsettling.
Also, both were starved of game time pre-City. Ruddy was struggling to break into any of his nine loan-teams and peaked at just eleven appearances, during his spell at Stockport. Krul was equally starved of minutes in his three years post-Newcastle mostly due to the misfortune of injury. He managed just 16 league appearances between leaving Newcastle and joining City.
Most of Krul’s 16 appearances came in the role of understudy, and such little game time explains some of the rustiness evident in his early Norwich City career.
But there are other factors, besides shot-stopping, to consider before making your judgement on a goalkeeper, and Krul ticked many boxes last season.
Of course, Krul may not stay in Norfolk for the same duration as his predecessor, nor does it assume that he will experience the highs and lows that Ruddy did, but supporters should treat him with that same respect.
Jeering or ironic cheering when he catches a ball will merely erode his confidence and not allow him to perform at his maximum because of the self-doubt that creates.
His early-season error against West Brom didn’t, as I recall, cost Norwich the three points that afternoon, but was instead representative of a goalkeeper who was desperate to get minutes and to re-discover form. With the beautiful thing that is hindsight, you can compare it to Ruddy’s mistake against the Toffees.
To travel full circle, the comparison with Ruddy still works.
At the time, Krul’s West Brom error felt like the trigger to blow a whistle and assemble an anti-Krul brigade. The social media reaction, after the game was preposterous, the most popular belief being he was beyond his expiry date – a belief that is still held and publicised by a group of City fans to this very day.
Tim has made some mistakes, granted, however, it is too often overlooked that the man won this club points on his own.
Look back at his performance against Brentford last season, and his two outstanding saves there. They were during one of City’s drier spells of the season when the injury list was getting longer and the Canaries were beginning to get tested. The point Krul won them there was part of City’s surge that saw them finish the Christmas period top of the league.
City’s game away at Wigan towards the end of the season yielded a vital point and Krul played a significant part in that with a hatful of saves, no disrespect intended to that day’s scorer, Teemu Pukki – the best thing to come out of Finland, since wind turbines.
Krul’s one-on-one save against Leon Clarke, in particular, was the cream of the crop that afternoon; his sharpness to get off his line and spread himself was something the great Dane Peter Schmeichel would’ve been proud of.
And now we can add Anfield to that list, another fine display of Krul’s talents, honed after a full pre-season and still using the momentum of a successful campaign.
Statistics are relevant in football but only when used in context, and those brandished by some as gospel forget Krul hadn’t played a full season since 2015-16.
Let’s not forget too, the man is a natural-born leader. One criticism that could be made of Angus Gunn – and there weren’t many – was that he wasn’t vocal enough. That certainly isn’t an issue for Krul. His off-the-ball leadership is crucial to the development of City’s young defence and is invaluable when the going gets tough.
Are they the signs of a declining goalkeeper? Not for me. Unorthodox is often translated as lacking in quality, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
Norwich City have virtually rebuilt Krul’s career. They took a calculated punt on a goalkeeper with a lot of potential baggage, a keeper who needed that leg up to start re-establishing the reputation he had crafted with Newcastle and Holland. It was a risk that, in my eyes, has been an incredibly rewarding one for both club and player.
And now we sit here on the dawn of a new challenge. Another season in the Premier League, but with a Norwich City side like never seen before.
Tim Krul can face this challenge, knowing he enhanced his right to that starting place at Anfield. But with the loan signing of a goalkeeper with Champions League pedigree in Ralf Fahrmann, he must maintain and then improve upon his pilot season as City’s goalkeeper.
For what it’s worth, I think he will.