Wigan have had good goalkeepers through it's time in the Premier League. Mike Pollitt was a star in our debut season. After that, Chris Kirkland took it up a notch and showed the skills he had, despite his proneness to injury. I was at first hesitant at the news of Al Habsi's arrival. Kirkland was playing well, though I knew a solid replacement was needed for the injuries Kirkland always seemed to pick up. At this point, Ali Al Habsi stepped up and eventually proved himself to be first team material, not just for Wigan, but perhaps a number of teams in the Premiership.
The new signing of Scott Carson is going to be a strong one, especially in the Championship. Al Habsi wasn't as strong last season so bringing in competition for the Keerper's role will surely bringing out the best of both keepers. Now, let's take a look at the keepers.
Being four years younger than Al Habsi, Carson is oddly a bit of a veteran. His name has been circling around since his early days at Leeds and Liverpool. He was team mates with Kirkland where they were both thought of as the potential big timers. Both keepers were expected to become England internationals and while Kirkland seemed to slip with injuries, poor form and bad luck, Carson found footholds at strong clubs and earned his way into the team. Though he isn't really picked any more, and it's unlikely he'll ever replace Joe Hart, Wigan could be the club to revitalise his England career. He's still young as far as goalkeepers go and working the Championship after a solid two years abroad will prove to be a good challenge. With Al Habsi recovering, Carson will have plenty to show in the first part of the season. This season, I think, is the strongest line up of keepers we've had in a long, long time.
Ali Al Habsi
Al Habsi is a brilliant keeper, there are no two ways about it. Ok, last season wasn't his best but his shoulder was a problem and the defence was never really up to scratch, so we can't place all the blame on him. Carson's arrival will give Al Habsi a good rest while he recovers from surgery, meaning that when he's ready to return he'll be in the best possible shape. Now that is something I like to think of, an in form Al Habsi is a force to be reckoned with. Towards the end of the 2011/12 season he was one of the strongest keepers in the Premier League. I was almost positive he would leave for another club but I was delighted he stayed. This season will prove to be tough in a number of ways for all of our players, but for two keepers who should really be playing in the top flight, the pressure is on. Mistakes will be costly and both Al Habsi and Carson have been prone to them in the past. If Wigan really are going to fight for promotion then it'll up to these two in the key matches this year. Personally, I think with Europe and all the domestic competitions, having two keepers at this level is vital, fitness is going to be an issue, there's no denying that.
I'm very interested to see how this season will play out for for the younger up-and-comer. In the matches he's played in pre-season, Nicholls has actually looked pretty strong. He spent all of last season on loan at Northampton, earning a name for himself and learning his trade in a tough, and competitive league. He was noted for playing every game for the club and even earned the man of the match award in the play off semi-final second leg against Cheltenham, saving a penalty as well making many other tremendous saves. This season, Nicholls is staying with Wigan and he's got so many good keepers around him that he'll be learning new things all the time. I expect we'll be seeing him play a lot in the early part of the League and FA cup. I'm unsure as to whether he'll play much in the Championship, only time and injuries will tell, but if he does then his time to shine will be at hand. All eyes are the Wigan youth for the future and this season is where it starts.
Mike has been there and seen it all. I'm a bit surprised there's still stuff he want's to see if I'm perfectly honest but perhaps a stint in the Championship will be good for him. Mike started out as developmental youth at Manchester United though he never played for the senior team. It took a long time for him to settle into a team but Rotherham accepted him with open arms. Here, he truly proved himself, earning the highest number of clean sheets in the clubs history - 77. Now, he is regarded as a Rotherham legend and arguably the best keeper in the club's history. Unfortunately for Rotherham that equals one thing - interest from other clubs, and that was of course Wigan's cue to step in. 2005 showed exactly how good Pollitt was, I was pleasantly surprised. For so many players in the team it was a debut in the English top tier and usually very few flourish. Pollitt did. He helped us to the League cup final, though his injury in that match was disastrous. Perhaps if he had stayed on then the match may have been closer, morale was obviously affected, which is unsurprising after only 15 minutes of play. Ever since then Pollitt has been used as a reliable cover. A mix of his age and the injuries he has had over the years have taken a toll but he still proves his reliability and passion for the sport. This season I don't think we'll be seeing much of him, and it might even be his last. I'll be sad to see the veteran go, he has served the club well, but we all know it's coming eventually, but hopefully he can be a good mentor for Lee Nicholls and play a few more matches before that time comes.