WILL SULLIVAN DISPLACE WALKER?
By Rupert Webster
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
However, while fans have unanimously welcomed the Ukrainian, some have questioned the wisdom in acquiring Sullivan. Spurs already have England international Ian Walker and Norwegian starlet Espen Baardsen on their books and doubts have been raised as to the former Wimbledon stopper`s ability to oust either of these two. However, at a reported £25,000 a week, surely Tottenham cannot afford to leave Sullivan out.
The former Don can hardly be said to have had an exceptional season between the sticks at Selhurst Park. The Scotland international dropped nine of his catches, the joint third highest total in the Premiership, and will have to improve upon this if he is to become Spurs` undisputed number one.
But while Walker was more solid in the air, making two fewer drops, he rarely inspired real confidence in the Tottenham faithful. In fact his performances were considered so disappointing, that he was dropped in favour of `Calamity` David James for Kevin Keegan`s preliminary squad for Euro 2000 and must now fear for his Spurs place as well.
Over the campaign, Walker was a less impressive shot stopper than the former Don was. Sullivan made a staggering 109 saves from shots inside the area, more than any other Premiership keeper, showing the enormous pressure he was under in the Wimbledon goal. But while the England man made just 47 stops from efforts inside the box, his overall saves to shots ratio was actually a respectable 70% - just one percentage point worse than Sullivan`s.
It seems that there is actually very little to choose between the two stoppers. But there is still the case of Baardsen to be considered. When Graham took over at Tottenham, the Norwegian was number one for both club and country, but his refusal to sign a new contract saw him dropped in favour of Walker. Despite putting pen to paper just weeks into his new manager s reign, Baardsen failed to reclaim his position at Spurs and has since seen his international chances recede as well.
But when he was between the posts during the 1998-99 campaign, the Norwegian certainly impressed. Baardsen was successful with each of the catches that he attempted and saved an impressive 78% of the shots fired on his goal, with some fans wondering why he was repeatedly overlooked last term.
With the arrival of Sullivan, it seems unlikely that Graham will be able to satisfy the demands of three international keepers. He can only hope that his abundance of goalkeeping options will result in some healthy competition within the squad, rather than cause further unrest at a club already low on confidence.