The old adage goes, ‘You have to be mad to be a goalkeeper.’ This stereotype is a perfect fit for the majority of the men between the sticks, as they fling head and body into situations and places that would normally warrant full-body protection gear.
Not only is it physical danger that makes up a large part of their vocation. Long periods of solitude during games, with only vitriolic masses as company, goalkeepers spend a huge amount of time attempting to stay alert, battling their own wits as the play unfolds away from them.
David Seaman does not fit this well-worn molding. Standing tall at 1.93 metres, the giant keeper was the anti-thesis of the usual mental framework of a man wearing Number One on his back.
Perhaps his greatest strength was his zen-like temperament. No matter the battle that was ensuing in front of him, or even if it was directed at him, the deep-voiced Yorkshireman simply got on with his game.
Was it his level of concentration that allowed him to brush off any extraneous niggles that would waylay a regular goalkeeper? Or was it merely his upbringing and his personality that meant he cared little for drama? Either way, it allowed Seaman to fully exert his towering influence into being the sure footing that his defence needed.
The big man from Leeds that would go on to be known as ‘Safe Hands’ started his career with his hometown club, Leeds United, but he didn’t feature in the Managers plans, so a £4k move to Peterborough United gave his career the escape route it needed.
Two full seasons in the then 4th Division were enough to see him catapult up to the 2nd, with a move to Birmingham City. Again, two full seasons was all it took for David to earn another transfer up the leagues – this time to QPR.
This gave him the spotlight his dazzling talent deserved, and he soon piqued the interest of England boss Bobby Robson. It wasn’t only Robson and England that were sniffing round the Yorkshireman either.
Arsenal had an inside man at QPR, and he was ideally placed to run the rule over Seaman. His goalkeeping coach at Loftus Road was none other than 1971 Double winning keeper Bob Wilson, and Arsenal’s gentleman had a very high opinion of David.
Before the season of 1990/91 began, Arsenal and George Graham moved to bring him to Highbury. The current Gunners keeper was the popular John Lukic, but Graham badly wanted who he thought would be the future England Number One for years to come. He wasn’t wrong.
His first season at Arsenal underlined his talent in the most emphatic way. 23 clean sheets and just 18 goals conceded embossed and emboldened Graham’s comments before purchasing Seaman – “I still think John Lukic is one of the top three goalkeepers in the country. I just think David Seaman is the best.”
Thirteen seasons of excellence was David Seaman’s legacy at the club. A hatful of trophies were symptomatic of his professionalism and he must surely rank as one of the finest exponents of goalkeeping the Premier League has ever seen.
It is criminal to round up Seaman’s Arsenal career in just a few paragraphs, but to truly do the big man justice, you would be reading this article from sun up to sundown. The man with the famous ponytail and best moustache since Magnum P.I gave our club the most assured presence in the box, and this in turn was a massive factor for why our club could boast the finest defence the League has ever seen. For how good can a defence be without a great goalkeeper behind them?
The majority of non-Gooners will always recall Seaman being lobbed by Ronaldinho, and allied with Nayim’s lob for Zaragoza, means that Seaman will unfairly have his critics. A goalkeeper has the hardest job on the pitch though – in what other position can you play well for 89 minutes but a simple mistake will more often than not result in disaster?
Seaman was the silent sentry that stood guard for well over a decade, and his consistently epic displays spread out over such a long tenure spells out a goalkeeping career that deserves to stand tall alongside the greatest that the world has had to offer. Dino Zoff, Lev Yashin, Gianluigi Buffon, Andoni Zubizaretta, and Peter Schmeichel are regarded as the examples that all young keepers must aspire to.
David Seaman deserves to be included in that glittering group of goalies.
Safe Hands was a more than warranted moniker for him.