A Bolton from the Blues
More often than not, it's the ones that get through that are most strongly associated with goalkeepers and it's no different for Clint Bolton, despite a stellar career in the A-League and dreams of joining the Socceroos at the 2010 World Cup.
November 27th at Telstra Stadium before 80,295 fans and the Sydney FC veteran was on the receiving end of a piece of Beckham brilliance.
In the 44th minute of the Hyundai Club Challenge, Bolton was beaten by a trademark David Beckham free-kick: a split-second that made Australians of all sporting persuasions sit up and take notice.
Like dozens of keepers before him, Bolton was left flapping by the set-piece genius, getting a hand to the ball before it curled into the top left corner.
While Bolton acknowledges he helped give the fans what they came to see, he was still left cursing the goal from the England midfielder that spoiled an otherwise impressive night from the former Australian junior star.
'It's such a fine line isn't it?' Bolton said. '(Beckham's free-kick) could have gone either way.'
For all but 60 seconds of the first half, Bolton kept a clean sheet as Sydney built a 3-0 lead against Beckham's Galaxy. He was replaced at the break and saw back-up Ivan Necevski concede two far less memorable goals as Sydney eventually won 5-3.
As the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Brad Jones, John Filan and Adam Federici have plyed their trade in the English Premier League, Bolton - apart from a brief trial in Manchester - has stayed put in Australia, becoming arguably his nation's most experienced home-based goalkeeper.
Before joining Sydney FC in its inaugural season in 2005, he played more than 300 games in 11 seasons in the old National Soccer League, winning titles with the Brisbane Strikers and Sydney Olympic.
Schwarzer, who's been at Middlesbrough for more than a decade, recently lamented the lack of Aussie keepers putting pressure on him for his spot in the national team. Former nemesis and AC Milan back-up Zeljko Kalac has retired from international football while Jones and Federici have found first-team football hard to come by.
It means that Bolton - along with other A-League custodians like Ante Covic and Danny Vukovic - are pushing for inclusion in national squads for the upcoming 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
In a patchy Socceroo career since 2000, Bolton has won just four caps - the most recent against Kuwait last year - and is still yet to concede a goal while wearing the green and gold.
Bolton was an active junior player - for the under-20s at the 1995 FIFA World Youth Championship in Qatar and also for the Olyroos in qualifying for the 1996 Atlanta Games - and now has a chance to catch the eye of new Socceroo coach Pim Verbeek in the run-in to the A-League finals.
Despite a niggling hip injury, Sydney FC's player of the year in their 2005-2006 championship season is expected to be centre-stage as the glamour club look for honours under coach John Kosmina.
Bolton is a familiar figure in Australia's largest city but hails from the northern state of Queensland - he was born in the rum capital, Bundaberg - and has a fondness for off-season fishing trips further north, near the distant mining town of Weipa.
He admitted to feeling homesick on a 2004 trial at Manchester City where then manager Kevin Keegan and assistant coach Tim Flowers were looking at Bolton as a potential back-up to England's David James.
Bolton caught the eye during his try-out but visa issues derailed any possible move.
Even so, Bolton told Soccernet a that he has no regrets about the direction his career has taken and says he holds nothing against David Beckham for making him look bad. He adds that he will be fighting hard for inclusion in Australia's squad for the February 6th World Cup qualifier against Qatar in Melbourne.
You've played your entire career in Australia so far; do you hold ambitions of going overseas in the near future?
I still have that inkling to go overseas; it's still there in the back of my mind. I'm comfortable where I am, Sydney's a good club, the league's going well, but it's always in the back of my mind that before my career is over, I'd like the opportunity to go overseas and to test myself out in a different league and in a different environment.
Is there a reason you haven't gone overseas before?
I ask myself that question all the time, but I'm not really sure what the answer is exactly. I think I get into my comfort zones and find it hard to get out of them, and that's probably the biggest reason. Money's never been the motivating factor for me, so I think if I was to go overseas, it'd have to be the right deal and the money would then be the big issue.
How many years do you think you've got left in your career to fulfil that ambition?
Touch wood! At least if the body holds out I'd go on until I'm about 40, I hope.
Your goalkeeping style is fairly unique and you're big on distribution and setting up counter attacks. How did you adopt this style and did anybody in particular influence it when you were younger?
There's nobody in particular that influenced it, that's for sure. I enjoy playing in teams that play good attacking football and I've been lucky enough to play with (Sydney) Olympic, Parramatta and in my time at the (Brisbane) Strikers where we had some good players in the team and we played a really exciting brand of football and we do that here at Sydney as well. I think it starts at the back and I'm certainly looking for every opportunity to start up attacks.
You were recently called up to the Socceroos squad that played Argentina and Mark Schwarzer has stated his ambition to play on until the 2010 World Cup. Do you see yourself as a contender for the Socceroos goalkeeping spot in the upcoming qualifiers and beyond?
Yes, definitely a contender for the qualifiers. I think obviously Schwarzy has got a handle on that number one jersey, but there are certainly keepers within this league that can push him, and I think I'm one of them. I thought I was in with a chance last World Cup, but it wasn't to be.
With many European-based players unavailable for Australia for a few of the qualifiers, do you see the A-Leaguers likely to be selected as being able to compete with our Asian opponents?
Absolutely! I think the A-League is at a standard now where it's a tough football competition and the results show that. It's a very tight league and a very defensive league. For these games in Asia you have to have that basis and that really tough and defensive edge and I think the players in this league have that. I think the incentive is a driving factor for these players. If you get picked, there's an opportunity to impress at that level and I think most of the players in this league, given that chance, will take it.
You were picked to play for the Socceroos against Kuwait in an Asian Cup qualifier in 2006. What was that like?
Fantastic! Every opportunity I have to be amongst the Aussie squad is unbelievable. I was lucky enough to be involved back in 2000-2001 and being involved now is just on another level. Obviously because of the World Cup and the fact that we did so well has raised our profile in this country and you can't go anywhere now without being recognised. When you're wearing the green and gold walking down the street and everyone's saying 'good luck,' it makes it fantastic to be a part of it at the moment.
By your own admission, you made a few costly errors earlier in the season. Playing in a position where every mistake costs, psychologically, how do you bounce back from such mistakes?
I'm at the stage now where if I make a mistake, I'm pretty much over it straight away. I've been around a while. You learn from experience. If I was younger, back in the early days, you sweat it out, you think about it all game, during the week you'd be miserable because you made a mistake but now, you just have to move on, as quickly as you can.
Your save from Adam Kwasnik's header in front of the Cove last year was legendary. What do you rate as your best save ever and career highlight?
See, I don't remember the saves! I've made a few decent saves this season that I really liked, especially against Queensland Roar earlier in the year, but I remember the clangers more than the saves. If you were to ask me what clanger I remember, I'd say that the one first game this year was pretty funny, because I look back and think I wouldn't have done anything differently, because I didn't see Gumprecht out of the corner of my eye, but yes, that was a pretty bad one.
And you career highlight? Surely winning the A-League is right up there?
I've been lucky enough to win three championships and Sydney being the inaugural season of the A-League was very special. I've been lucky enough to win three championships and each championship I've won has been special for different reasons.
You were beaten by David Beckham's free kick and you're now in illustrious company. Is it a tale that you'll regale the grandchildren with over and over, or would it be a better story if you'd actually saved it?
You had to bring that up! It's such a fine line isn't it? It could have gone either way!
You nearly got there!
I know! I look back on that and think I couldn't have done it any differently, I couldn't have gotten there any quicker or anything like that, because my view was blocked as I had two guys standing right in front of me. Before the game, I'd thought about that scenario. If Beckham gets up for a free kick and I get beaten, all I'll hear is that I got beaten by David Beckham. Everyone talks about it, saying that I got so close and I got a hand on it, but all I think about is the flipside and that if I had of saved it, then everyone would have been talking about saving it from Beckham, one of the best players in the world.
Is that the biggest crowd you've ever played in front of? What was it like?
Yeah, it was funny and weird, because it was just like a training game! The atmosphere in the dressing room and the week leading up to it was like a training game, but once we walked out it was electrifying! 80,000 people and God knows how many more watching at home on TV. It became one of those moments that you just treasure and it was absolutely fantastic by the end of it, apart from the free kick obviously.
Research by Matt Connellan
• Sydney-born Jason Dasey (www.jasondasey.com) is an anchor for Soccernet SportsCenter and SportsCenter on ESPN.