“For me, it’s just great to be playing again. When I signed for them, the owner said to me that he needed my help. He needed me to help his young squad. I told him I was here to help. What I needed at that moment was to play again and to get my confidence back. That’s what I’m doing at the moment.”
These are the words of Heurelho Gomes, current first choice goalkeeper of Watford. After a long spell which saw him dropped from first choice goalkeeper in the 2010/2011 season all the way down to fourth choice for Tottenham at one point, Gomes has revitalized his career at the Hornets, helping them to promotion into the Premier League.
It’s been a tough road for the Brazilian however.
Impressing for Dutch giants, PSV Eindhoven, the now 34-year-old signed for Spurs in 2008, becoming their first choice goalkeeper. However, Gomes never quite made an impression and with a number of errors so critical that a YouTube compilation can be made solely comprising of his mistakes, the writing was on the wall.
Brad Friedel was brought in and started all of Tottenham’s league games in the 2011/2012 season. Following the American’s arrival was the signing of reputed goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and with Carlo Cudicini above Gomes in the pecking order, the Brazilian was fourth choice at one stage of his career despite being a high earner at White Hart Lane.
A loan spell to Hoffenheim followed for Gomes in 2013 and things were actually looking up for the former PSV man as he was not only starting games but delivering impressive performances and even captaining the side by his third game. However, he suffered a season ending injury and by the time he was fit, he was back at Spurs to endure one more season on the bench.
By the end of it, Gomes had only made four appearances in his last three seasons. When Spurs announced Gomes will leave the club in the summer of 2014, Watford decided to take a punt on him and the rest has been history.
From finishing 13th in the 2013/2014 season, the Hornets finished second, gaining automatic promotion and Gomes has been a key factor, having gotten his confidence back and winning many crucial points for his side.
A true testament to Gomes’ comeback, he recently signed a three year deal with Watford, keeping him at the club until 2018.
It’s not surprising that Watford took a chance on Gomes because it’s not the first time they’ve taken an out of favour goalkeeper. Manuel Almunia found himself drifting into obscurity after an infamous game against West Bromwich Albion in the 2010/2011 season.
The Spaniard was dropped and soon became third choice goalkeeper for the Gunners until a series of injuries saw him return briefly in the first team. But when your confidence is low and fans don’t believe in you, it translates on the field and Almunia made errors in another game against West Bromwich Albion.
Arsene Wenger had such little faith in the former Celta Vigo goalkeeper that he even signed ex Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann on an emergency signing, all but signaling the end of Almunia’s stint in north London.
Out of contract, Almunia signed for Watford in 2012 and found a new lease of life, playing a key role as the Hornets reached the playoff finals in dramatic fashion after the Spaniard saved a last minute penalty which resulted in Watford scoring a goal on the break to defeat Leicester City.
“After Arsenal, I just wanted to go to a place where I feel wanted, respected and loved, and made to feel like a good goalkeeper again,” said Almunia. “That’s what I have found at Watford.
“On my first day at Watford, the captain, John Eustace, came to me and said, ‘We needed a good goalkeeper and we are lucky you are here’. That made me feel proud and good about myself.”
Ultimately, both Gomes and Almunia just needed confidence and faith to shine, even if it was a step lower than the Premier League.
The former will be more than likely between the sticks for Watford in the 2015-2016 season unlike Almunia – it will definitely be interesting to see how he copes playing regularly in the Premier League.
Watford have proven themselves to be the home of rehabilitated goalkeepers and other Championship clubs could take a cue from them.