Manchester City Scrape The Goalkeeping Barrel

17 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   April 26, 2010  |     10

The last couple of days must have been filled with conflicting emotions for Gunnar Nielsen. The twenty-three year old Faroese goalkeeper became the first person from his home island to play Premier League football when he stepped in to replace Shay Given during Manchester City’s 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Saturday, but today he could be forgiven to starting to wonder what his club think of him. He managed a clean sheet during his fourteen minutes on the field at The Emirates Stadium, but the injury to Given was sufficient for City to request an emergency loan for another goalkeeper until the end of the season.

Perhaps predictably, considering the state of play in the race for the fourth Champions League place, this request has been met with a degree of controversy, not least because the Premier League’s rules on emergency loans are practically non-existent. The league’s rules state only that a player can be signed at this point at the “absolute discretion” of the league itself, but there seems to be no absolute definition as to what this “absolute discretion” actually is. Manchester City currently have what could be described as five first choice goalkeepers. Shay Given, as we know, injured, and the man that could have been described as their second choice, Joe Hart, is on a season-long loan at Birmingham City and cannot be recalled.

Their third choice, Stuart Taylor, is currently suffering from a knee injury (although he is believed to be back in training). David Gonalez Giraldo, a one-time Columbian international (literally – he won one cap) who played over two hundred league matches in his home country for Deportivo Cali and Huracán, as well as in Turkey for Çaykur Rizespor, is the fifth choice. He is also injured at present. Nielsen is the fifth choice, but they also have four youth team and academy goalkeepers. The problem, then, isn’t that Manchester City haven’t got somebody that has caught or punched a football in anger before that they could use to make up the numbers. The problem seems to be that none of the choices that they have got to play in goal are, if we remove Given, Hart, Giraldo and Taylor from the list, guaranteed to be good enough.

At first sight, this seems to be reasonably cut and dried. If City have goalkeepers that they can be used, even if they are utterly inexperienced and/or worse than useless, they should have to play them. The transfer deadline exists and has existed for a considerable amount of time. True enough, they have been somewhat unlucky in losing their two fit first choice goalkeepers, but those are the breaks. They still have a Faroese international at their disposal. Manchester City are multi-millionaires and if they haven’t got enough goalkeeping cover that’s their problem, isn’t it?

Well, it isn’t quite that simple. There are a couple of precedents for signing goalkeepers as emergency cover. Gabor Kiraly played half a dozen matches for Aston Villa on emergency loan in 2007 (although this came earlier in the season) and, more relevantly, Andy Goram played two games on loan for Manchester United in 2001 after the transfer deadline has closed. In other words, there is precedent for this sort of thing happening, but it has seldom come so late in the season, in such a tight battle and with so much at stake. Considering the madness that followed the Carlos Tevez situation a couple of years ago, the authorities need to ensure that they make the right decision this time and it is generally considered that two “senior” goalkeepers is the minimum requirement. However, the definition of “senior” is fuzzy – three of City’s four youth and academy team goalkeepers are eighteen or over. Would this classify them as “senior” and, if not, then why not? Does a player only become “senior” when he has played for the first team or the reserve team?

Whether these precedents apply in this specific set of circumstances, however, is open to question. City are said to be looking at Sunderland’s Márton Fülöp, whose Premier League experience is scant, although he has made twenty appearances in goal for the Hungarian national team. It is difficult, however, to escape the fact that City made a decision to loan Hart out for the season in August and that they had until the transfer deadline to bring in a replacement for him. If Nielsen isn’t good enough to be in the first team for Manchester City for three matches, what is he doing in the squad in the first place? Indeed, if every time a club is left short of players with a handful of matches left in the season they get to sign one on loan, what is the point of having a transfer deadline in the first place?

Whilst it is easy (and in some respects justifiable) to criticise Manchester City for leaving themselves short of goalkeeping cover for the season, the buck for what may be a row that will drag on for the rest of the week ultimately stops with the Premier League. On the one hand, it is clear that there is a reason for the rules as they stand being as open-ended as they are. The Premier League wants to give all eventualities due consideration before a decision is reached over whether to allow an emergency loan or not. However, the lack of clarity in this situation hasn’t served to help anybody and it now seems likely to cause an argument no matter what the final decision of the Premier League is. It is a loophole that needs to be closed one way or the other before next season.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • April 26, 2010 at 11:50 pm


    Well done you worked out City have 4 Keepers out for one reason or another. How many do you suggest they sign then 10? Do me a favour stop talking Boxxocks eh, how many did Utd have when they got Goram or indeed Villa as you mention or was it alright for them? and how many do they have now? or any other team for that matter. ‘Left themselves short’ or just a bit of freak luck?

  • April 26, 2010 at 11:52 pm


    Well, they have got nine in total, eight of whom are over eighteen. Maybe ten would have been a good idea.

  • April 27, 2010 at 6:48 am


    We are now a special club and we will get another keeper, there are ways and means, just like Utd did.

  • April 27, 2010 at 7:56 am

    durban bluemoon

    hindsight is a great thing, but surely there should have been a bring-back clause in the loan deal

  • April 27, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Scott Walden

    There should be no such thing as an emergency loan – anything left to discretion, is open to abuse. Allow Premier League teams to sign players on loan outside of the windows, but only from the Football League.

    Poor Durham City in the UniBond had to play their regular centre back in goal last week, due to having no goalies available.

  • April 27, 2010 at 9:08 am


    Are there any site rules?

    The only thing that we ask is that you keep the comments decent and that you disagree with us (which you are more than welcome to do), you keep your criticisms constructive. All messages from people that haven’t posted messages on here before are moderated before being approved. Abusive messages will be deleted without appearing on the site and this extract from the site FAQ will appear in place of them, so you may as well not bother.

  • April 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Dermot O'Dreary

    Well done Alan – nice and constructive. Good to see that at least some Manchester City supporters are going out of their way to add to their club’s new-found unpopularity.

  • April 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Steve Thomas

    The FA need to sort this out now. Man City have a reserve team and multiple youth teams, use one of the ‘keepers who play in these teams. It’ll be good experience for them sitting on the bench if nothing else!

  • April 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm


    The problem is that the transfer window patently fails to do what it was intended to do: stop the top clubs being able to just buy a player they’re interested in and so cripple the opposition. Instead they just leak to the press and unsettle the players, and get the desired result anyway. It’s also had a very nasty side effect. It causes big clubs who can afford it to stockpile promising players, who then moulder on the bench or in the reserves. If they do go on loan, it still wrecks the loan club’s plans when the player is pulled out from them at a moment’s notice – at least if they owned the player they could say no!

    It also causes smaller clubs in the PL to do likewise and waste precious resources, and to a lesser extent the Football League. The seven subs rule is a direct consequence of the overstaffing of the larger clubs – have to keep them happy somehow.

    Scrap the transfer window. It’s not helping anyone and it’s harming both clubs with fewer resources and players in critical stages of their development.

  • April 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Planet Pie

    So what are you suggesting “kruador”? Go back to the “Buy a player at any stage of the season”? Or banish transfers forever?! I don’t know, there has been so much made of this “emergency loan” it is untrue! It’s not like City are bringing in Messi, Drogba, Rooney, Torres, Iniesta, Eto’o etc is it? A Sunderland reserve?!! Big deal!!

  • April 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm


    I’m still not sure whether allowing Man City to sign an emergency loan keeper should be allowed or not. On the one hand they seem to have had extraordinary bad luck with injuries to their keepers. On the other hand, if Nielsen isn’t a worthy back-up then why have City got him in the first place? Yes he’s young by goalkeeper standards, but not young enough to be considered a youth team keeper. All the same, Man City look more deserving of getting an emergency loan than my team Luton – in March we were allowed to sign Simon Heslop on what I think was an emergency loan, a midfielder from Barnsley due to an injury for Kevin Nicholls. However, we still have two or three reserves who can play in that position! Although it was nice to see a decision from the footballing authorities go our way at least….

    You’re right that the rules need clarifying though

  • April 29, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Gervillian Swike

    I think back to last autumn where Manchester United were forced to play a three-man back ‘four’ including Fletcher and Carrick because of the extraordinary bad luck they were suffering with injuries, and there was no question then – or even suggestion – that the transfer window rules be waived; and in the event the bad form they showed at the time (including a three-nil hammering at Fulham) may prove to be decisive. I agree with the article. If you have a huge squad, you’re expected to use it. If you decide not to, that should really be the end of the matter.

  • April 30, 2010 at 8:21 am


    Normally I’d happily jump on the ‘criticise the large clubs’ bandwagon, but every year teams in lower leagues get goalkeepers on emergency loans due to this sort of situation. It’s obviously more common at a lower level because clubs can’t afford to have six keepers in their first team squad; the most famous example was Jimmy Glass of Carlisle Untied, scorer of the last minute winner to keep them league in the 1990s.

    City have keepers in their reserve squad, true, but I think here that senior is intended to mean ‘senior squad’. Perhaps the PL will clarify rules after this incident – they should do – but I don’t think this decision is wrong.

  • April 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm


    Transfer Deadline means just that – if they had no keepers on their books then maybe, but they have some so they should be used.

    AFC Wimbledon used a 17 year old in their final home game of the season….and an ijury crisis over the last year has left us going into matches without enough players for the bench rather than trying out youth team players. Contacting the FA wasn’t considered, and rightly so.

  • April 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm


    Well done Alan, for demonstrating once again that City fans cannot take criticism at any level.

    In my opinion, this was an interesting, balanced article regarding emergency loans in general, not a direct attach on City.

  • May 1, 2010 at 1:15 am


    We (Eastbourne Borough) werent allowed to get a loan keeper in for our final game of the season against Oxford. We had to use the backup keeper from Hastings United (two divisions below) that is dual registered with us. He rose to the occassion and so might Nielsen.

  • May 2, 2010 at 5:19 pm


    is the rule not very simple, clubs submitting the required documentation to show they do not have TWO fit senior galkeepers in their first team squad may apply for permission to sign a goalkeeper on loan,to some posters please reread GOALKEEPER,not full back not midfielder ,not striker,a senior goalkeeper is one who has a squad number registered with the premier league,could it be more simple?

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