BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace named three goalkeepers in their matchday squad for a first-team match in the top flight – maybe even for the first time ever.
Jack Butland made his Premier League debut for the club, supported by both Wayne Hennessey and Vicente Guaita on the bench.
This decision left many observers and fans scratching their heads, but all was forgotten as the Eagles ran out 3-2 winners after coming from behind twice.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson had explained pre-match that Butland would make his league debut for the Eagles, his first appearance in the Premier League since May 13 2018, after revealing that Guaita had stepped aside for him to play.
“It’s not a question of rotating the goalkeepers at this moment in time, Vicente’s been the number one goalkeeper and deserves to be put back into the team [after this match],” explained Hodgson to the South London Press about the decision to drop Guaita, the only Palace player to have played every single minute of every Premier League match this season.
“We believe he [Butland] is good enough to play for any Premier League team – we think he’s that good a goalkeeper. It’s nice to see that thought, or opinion, justified today and it’s great for him as he’s had to wait a long time for this opportunity. So, very nicely, he can go home tonight with a win bonus.”
And the explanation for having a trio of shotstoppers was pretty simple according to Hodgson.
“The only reason we had an extra goalkeeper on the bench is that Wayne Hennessey has had enormous misfortune to pick up that very bad injury playing for Wales.
“He’s been outside of being in contention for a place in the team for a long time but for the last six weeks or so he’s really worked hard to get back into the form we know he has, but also having to accept that unfortunately in his absence, Guaita has continued to do really well and Butland’s been breathing down Guaita’s neck.
“It was nice today to be able to say to him today ‘look, we’ve only got 19 players available – there is 20 spots, would you be interested in being a part of it?’ – he jumped at the opportunity.”
Hennessey picked up that injury for Wales against Bulgaria last October and has been working his way back to fitness ever since, a process which has impressed Hodgson.
“I’ve got to say one thing about Wayne Hennessey he’s a fantastic club man whether he’s playing or being [used] a substitute,” explained the Palace boss. “When Guaita came in, he (Hennessey) had to sort of accept it for a period of time that he was number two to Guaita’s number one, [but] he was always, unbelievably supportive and always right behind the team.”
And while Hodgson could not recall a previous occasion in his 45-year managerial career when he had named three goalkeepers, he did explain why that free spot did not go to an academy prospect.
“We could have filled the bench with one more outfield player, an U23 player – or even an U18 player – but they’ve got this big game tomorrow night,” said Hodgson referring to the U23 Premier League 2 Division 2 play-off match against Wolves at Selhurst Park tomorrow night.
“The other really good U18 players at the moment are going to either be involved in the game tomorrow night playing, or on the bench, so I didn’t want to disturb [U23 manager] Shaun Derry’s chances of working with his team, [but also] to be quite frank, whomever we brought up into our group wouldn’t have been one of the first two or three names in our head to put on to the field of play.”
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