Player profile: Gary Montgomery

Cod Almighty | Article

by Pete Green

6 August 2007

Alan Buckley has certain ways of doing things. He doesn't 'go direct'. He doesn't sign foreign players. And he doesn't like having only one senior goalkeeper in his squad. Hence his decision to dispense with rookie Rob Murray and bring in Gary Montgomery from Rotherham this summer – after three or four years of cost-cutting in which Anthony Williams, Steve Mildenhall and Phil Barnes have successively borne the burden of being the only man on the books who can concentrate on keeping goal without the distraction of mock GCSEs.

Let's get the facts bit done. Montgomery was born in 1982 in Leamington Spa (I did some work there the other year: it's historic-posh by day andFootballers' Wives at night) and came through the ranks with nearby Coventry City. He did make it into the first team but only nine times, and eventually moved on to Rovrum, where he recorded an almost equally unimpressive 38 appearances in four years. We have a 26-year-old goalkeeper, then, who has played fewer than 50 games of senior football.

The question, then, is by how much this figure will increase in the months ahead. Barnes has retained the number 1 shirt and Buckley has suggested that the first-choice slot will default to him until events (or form) dictate otherwise. However, Montgomery's decent form in the summer strollarounds against Grantham et al has led to calls from some supporters for him to line up against Notts County on 11 August – though one suspects that, after the Pontoon's savage and self-defeating treatment of their goalkeeper last season, many fans would sooner Rhys Wilmot emerge blinking from retirement, clutching his dodgy back in agony, than see Barnes run out for the Mariners again.

What, then, is to be expected if Monty snatches pole position on the starting grid? When the lad came over, a Rotherham-supporting contact of the CA team wrote:

"Hmm, Monty is something of an enigma. Suffered by having to follow on from Mike Pollitt – our best keeper in years by some distance. Don't think any of our keepers are really helped by the crowd getting on their back as soon as something goes wrong. It rather shattered his confidence and I don't think he ever really recovered from it. It may well be better for him having a fresh start at your place. I don't think he had any confidence in the defence nor they in him. Plus we were forever chopping and changing keepers after each of them made a clanger. He's fairly woeful at coming off his line (but I suspect that may be lower division keepers all over) or commanding his area. Good shot stopper though."

Doesn't all of this sound chillingly familiar? But Buckley's record shows that, among the many things he can be relied upon for, one is the acquisition of a reliable goalkeeper at minimal expense. True, there was Wilmot – although the blame for that unfortunate subplot to Town's exploits under AB in the early 1990s must lie not with the manager but with the medical staff who failed to ascertain the full extent of the player's back problems. In the credit column, meanwhile, are the lovingly etched names of Steve Sherwood, Paul Crichton, Danny Coyne and, of course, Dave Beasant, still worshipped beyond proportion for his half-dozen-odd games on loan in 1992. On the evidence available I reckon Monty could turn out alright – if only we let him.