June 2010

Robert Green: England’s Bill Buckner

Bill Buckner was an all-star first baseman for five Major League Baseball teams including the LA Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. He was the National League Batting Champion in 1981 and achieved over 2700 career hits in his 20 year career. All of this indicates a competent, reliable All-Star if not a million-dollar superstar that the game is built around today.

None of these facts or stats is thought of when Bill Buckner’s name crops up in conversation. In case you have forgotten – a little context.

Buckner was playing first base for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. The Sox hadn’t won the competition since 1918 and for many; this was their best chance of regaining Baseball’s top prize.

They led three games to two in the sixth game of the series and were leading by two runs in the first extra inning. New York scored twice to tie the game when a batter called Mookie Wilson stepped up to the plate.

In case you really don’t know – You can see what happened here.

New York won the extra match to clinch their second World Series and the Red Sox had to wait until 2004 to finally break the Curse of the Bambino. For Bill Buckner, he became the poster boy for ineptness, mistakes and sports bungling. He received death threats from furious Red Sox fans. He was released the following season, although later returned for a year in 1990.

So it is not unprecedented for a sportsman’s career to be reduced to just one moment of brilliance – Gordon Bank’s say – or ineptitude – in this case, another English Goalkeeper. Robert Green.

That’s not to say that Green won’t recover. He did, fortuitously, save Altidore’s shot in the second half, and he may have wonderful games in the next group matches, if he plays. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that he may be a penalty-saving hero later in the tournament, possibly in a shoot-out or the final itself.

For now though, English football has its own Bill Buckner. Incidentally – this is the man that some pundits are calling to replace Green with.

I watched the game at a friend’s house with two South Africans who were supporting England. Ultimately I thought it was a fair result. Whilst Rooney and Lampard disappointed, Onyewu and Demerit excelled, the latter probably earning a move to the EPL for his efforts. You cannot be too unhappy when the oppositions Goalkeeper is man-of-the-match and whilst England had enough chances to win, on another day, Altidore’s shot goes in and it’s 1950 all over again. Fortunately, the result means I don’t have to leave the country after all and can continue to write for this fine website.

All eyes on Friday as England face Algeria in a shit-or-bust game whilst Slovenia’s 1-0 win this morning means that their match with the US has an added dimension of interest. They know that if they win, they are home and hosed for the second phase. I will go so far as to make this prediction, if there is a positive result in the US/Slovenia match, the loser is going home…

Guy Bailey

  • riccardo

    I liked usa against England…
    I’m Riccardo, I would like to make an exchange of links with my soccer blog…STADIO GOAL. Let me know if you are interested in it…thanks…have a good day with you good work!Keep it up!
    LINK: http://www.stadiogoal.com

  • Puck

    Now that the game is over and we can all go back to being friends, I would not go so far as to call Green the English Bill Buckner just yet.

    Buckner is remember for blowing the game only because the Red Sox lost the Series. As you rightfully pointed out, the error happened in Game 6.Uneducated fans like to blame Buckner for the Series loss without acknowledging that the team could have still won the title in game 7.

    If the Three Lions go on to win the group, and make a deep run in South Africa, or even win the whole damn thing, no one will care about Green’s Gaffe. However, if the English somehow manage to finish behind the Yanks, or God forbid, eliminated in the Group Stages, Green will be tared and feather and dragged through the streets of London.

    Only then can you call him Bill Buckner