Crossley Stakes His Claim

Wednesday 15 June 2005

According to the Actim Index, the official ratings system of the English top flight, Mark Crossley's virtuoso performance against Newcastle United at St James' Park was rated as the best individual goalkeeping display last season. That particular match saw the Welsh stopper pull off an incredible 18 saves as the Whites recorded their best away win of the Premiership season, a 4-1 victory.

Whilst he didn't start the season as first choice 'keeper, an injury to Edwin van der Sar gave Crossley his chance in goal and he took it with both hands, putting in a series of impressive displays. However, his run between the sticks ended frustratingly when he sustained a groin strain in the home match against Blackburn.

It was a bitter blow for the keeper who, by that stage, had been keeping a fit again Van der Sar on the bench. The injury allowed the Dutchman back into the team and he kept his spot for the remainder of the season.

Crossley could have been forgiven for being a touch bitter as he looked back on his campaign but as Chris Coleman explained, the goalkeeper's attitude was always first rate.

"Mark never knocked on my door," he recalled. "He's gets on in training and works hard. To be fair to him, if he'd been playing first team football I think he would have been first choice for Wales, so it's cost him."

Following Edwin van der Sar's move to Manchester United it now appears that the goalkeeper's jersey is up for grabs and Crossley has laid a firm claim.

"I spoke with the Manager at the end of the season," he told "I want to play football, it's a simple as that. There were clubs phoning up who were interested in taking me on a year-long loan with a call-back clause. That would have been an attractive option, but now that Edwin's gone the Manager phoned me and said there's an opportunity. Jaroslav Drobny's come in and it will be between the two of us.

"There won't be a number one - the player who performs the best will start the season. You can't have a bigger carrot dangled in front of you than that. I'm a confident person and my view is that I could save Fulham £2-3million. I've got a wealth of experience, I've played over 400 Premiership games. I know that I'm 36 years old, but what's that for a goalkeeper? Nigel Martyn is 39 and he's still playing. Fitness allowing, I don't see why I would let anybody down.

"I spoke to Edwin recently, he's going to be a big loss for Fulham because he's a nice guy and an excellent goalkeeper but everyone's chuffed for him. I don't think anybody begrudges him the move to Manchester United.

"He's still got a lot to offer. He's 34 years old and probably has about five years left in his career. He'll do United the world of good and will suit them down to the ground with his distribution and the quality of his goalkeeping.

"But I believe in my own ability. My intentions are to get the shirt at the beginning of the season. I showed last year that I am capable of doing a good job. To be a Premiership goalkeeper, you have to be consistent you can't just come in and play five good games then have three bad games."

The arrival of Jaroslav Drobny from Panionios will certainly provide ample competition although Crossley admits that the new 'keeper is still something on an unknown quantity.

"To be honest I haven't seen much of him but I know that they went to watch him four or five times before signing him," he said. "Of course he must be a quality 'keeper otherwise we wouldn't have signed him. He's a big lad and I was speaking about him to Dave Beasant. He told me that he likes to come for crosses and he's a very agile 'keeper."

Nonetheless, Crossley has shown his intent for the forthcoming campaign by reporting back to Motspur Park two weeks early and starting his pre-season fitness programme in earnest.

"The fun times are over," he said. "For the first couple of weeks after the season's over you can relax and break a few rules, but you soon have to get back and start to condition yourself because you know that you're in for a tough time over the next few weeks.

"It's going to be a lot more difficult this time - it has to be in a way. We'll have a long time in Austria and it will be a lot of hard work. With the games in America it's going to be a hectic pre-season but hopefully a beneficial one. We finished 13th last season and people will expect something similar again but I think we've got players here who can do better.

"We showed at the end of last season that we can be a quality team and I'll be disappointed if we don't finish in the top ten."