The loneliness of the sub keeper
6 June ~ Goalkeeper Tommy Forecast is no closer to making his Southampton debut now than when he signed from Tottenham Hotspur four years ago. The few weeks he spent on loan at Grimsby Town in August 2009, when he covered for the injured Nick Colgan, constitute his only first-team experience in the Football League. He made a lasting impression at Blundell Park. The Crewe Chronicle left its readers in little doubt on the subject of Forecast’s league debut – a 4-0 defeat to Crewe Alexandra – by describing it as one of the most shockingly inept displays the Football League has ever seen.
Further defeats followed. The moral of the tale appeared to be that there is only so much match sharpness to be gained from shooting practice with a Southampton squad that then included Olly Lancashire.
Grimsby assessed the situation. With the season not yet a month old, and Colgan close to full fitness, they made their feelings known by bringing in a second goalkeeper on loan. Josh Lillis from Scunthorpe went straight into the starting line-up, while Forecast ended up back in Southampton before his month’s loan had even finished.
Last season Southampton used their seven cup fixtures to play some of their fringe players, with Bartosz Bialkowski playing in goal in all of those games. On the one occasion Kelvin Davis was not substitute it was Jack Dovey, and not Forecast, who was in the squad. He could be seen warming up during last season’s pre-season Memorial Cup at St Mary’s, causing spectators to nudge one other, asking who the man dressed in the goalkeeping kit was. One man knew: "That’s Tommy Forecast, apparently he’s crap." Forecast played no part on that day.
His only two appearances for the club last season came for the Under-21 team, which regularly fields over-age players as is permitted. The club website offers further clues to his status at the club. Player profiles include a sponsor, many of which are reminiscent of the advertising hoardings of the 1980s – roofing, industrial flooring, building services companies – but in Forecast’s case big red letters invite a potential sponsor to get in touch.
He continues to face an existence that would test even Winston Bogarde’s patience. When Bialkowski and Dovey were released in May, he became Southampton’s second-choice goalkeeper, but with the club now in the Premier League it is only a matter of time until they look to strengthen the squad with somebody who has a broader depth of experience than short loan spells at Eastbourne Borough, Bromley and Thurrock.
By the time his contract expires next year it is highly unlikely he will have made a single appearance for the club in five years. Perhaps he has developed a deep-rooted anxiety about his place in the goalkeeping hierarchy, or maybe he just isn’t very good. With only a handful of games under his belt as a professional there are few who can truly testify to whether or not that is the case. Mark Sanderson