Arsenal and England fan Cameron Carter has enormous respect for David Seaman as a goalkeeper, but his admiration doesn't extend past his football career after watching the ponytailed one's first foray into presenting
So farewell then, David Seaman, one of the great English goalkeepers in the classic no-fuss style and, despite his extraordinary record, one of the most haunted. Peter Schmeichel, in a feature for the Sunday Times, marked Dave’s professional passing with a piece on how unfortunate it is that such a model keeper may be remembered by many purely for his rare errors. Schmeichel then helpfully went on to outline those errors in unabridged, technicolour detail. To the Nayim lob, the Ronaldinho free-kick and the Macedonian fellow’s corner we can now add this video as one of old Safehands’ truly memorable mistakes.
As an Englishman and an Arsenal fan I should never have sat down to watch Goalkeeping Nightmares. I like to remember Dave holding the ball to his chest in his Arsenal prime, maybe winking at Lee Dixon as he patiently waits for everyone to exit his penalty area, perhaps a slight twitch to the moustache if it had been a very good save. Now, though, VCI have blighted the memory by cobbling together this truly valueless video and recruiting our obliging hero to present.
At variance to his goalkeeping style, David makes it all look very difficult indeed. After each batch of clips of keepers letting the ball through their legs, we return to find Dave, hands behind back, rocking on his feet and calling the script somewhere between a kidnap victim and a tax inspector addressing a school trip.
And let’s not let the scriptwriter off the hook here. Take a bow, Norman Giller, who has obviously monitored Dennis Norden’s patter and assumed the audience laughter had been dubbed down. This depraved man makes Dave (remembering that Dave is the man who plunged violently to his right and flung out an arm on that glorious night in Munich to keep it at 1-1), he makes Dave say: “Another selection from our Chamber of Horrors,” and: “Now for some more X-certificate goals.” Not content with that, he asks Dave to keep it perky. Seaman beams through it all, but when you pause the screen at the end of a piece to camera the smile appears almost sexually vacuous. If this were not disturbing enough, bad editing at one point means that Dave’s scared friendly face is catapulted from head-and-shoulders shot to big close-up in mid-sentence, causing your reviewer to recoil sharply and spill his late night Cheerios.
Seaman, like a true pro, helps out by adding cliches of his own when talking about himself. He wanted the whole ground to swallow him up when Ronaldinho scored. Now, that’s quite possibly true, but does he really think, barely 18 months on, that we are all ready to watch it repeated six times in slow-motion for entertainment? During one of “Seaman’s Snippets”, in which Dave recounts key moments in his career to an unresponsive individual off-camera, one brief insight into his childhood explains the high Seaman cliche tolerance. “We used to watch the big boys, as we used to call them, playing football in the playground,” he burrs. “As we used to call them”? If the term “big boys” seems to Dave an idiosyncratic expression requiring careful elucidation, then obviously goalkeepers having nowhere to hide is the stuff of beat poetry.
I’ve tried for years to believe that Seaman has a hidden complexity to him, that the cider-press laugh and stumbling banter displayed on They Think It’s All Over are for public show and that he is sometimes found by his wife in his smoking chair at four in the morning, wrestling with the morality of angling. This video has put an end to that. Dave’s is a very ordered universe in which hard men are fair men, most goalkeepers are mad and putting your hair in a ponytail gets you a bit of stick from the lads at first. There’s nothing wrong or surprising about a footballer being ordinary outside of their natural arena, but it definitely is wrong and surprising when they make a career from it. In fact, if Dave wanted to create a real nightmare, he would drug me, marry me to Lisa Riley at a highly public ceremony and get up to deliver the best man’s speech just as the effects were wearing off.
The video has its moments, such as the poignancy of the shapes made by Massimo Taibi at Manchester United and Sander Westerveld at Liverpool as their colleagues turn away quietly and prepare to forget them. The overriding sensation, however, is a creeping nausea brought on as the unbroken string of similar accidents creates a disorientating imbalance in the ratio between Interesting Event and Passage of Time.
When it’s all over, it’s true that Dave is still Dave, with much of his integrity intact, but one viewing makes you wish he’d opted to play on for several years, dropping gradually down the divisions, rather than going straight to video with his media career.
From WSC 205 March 2004. What was happening this month
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