Goodbye David Stockdale

stockdale-birmingham

So it’s goodbye David Stockdale. After a month of not-so-cryptic social media posts, the contract saga of one of Brighton and Hove Albion’s outstanding performers from last season is over. Stockdale joins Birmingham City on a free transfer.

The obvious question is why? Why the bloody hell would you turn down the opportunity to play in the Premier League, having worked so hard over the last two seasons in particular to get there, in favour of joining a side who escaped relegation to League One on the final day of the season?

The circus that has surrounded Stockdale and where he will play his football next season has seemingly split Albion fans into two camps.

You either think he is a legend, the best English goalkeeper ever to play the game and who should have a statue outside the Amex that we can all pay homage to at every home game; or you think he is the worst goalkeeper we’ve ever had, a combination of the worst traits of Andy Petterson, Nicky Rust and Mark Walton all rolled into one.

The truth, as always with these things, is somewhere in the middle. Nobody will forget the three penalty saves in a month which earned us seven points on the way to promotion, his passion for the Albion or the brilliant work he did with Albion in the Community, particularly after the Shoreham Air Disaster.

But he still had the ability to produce a quite spectacular cock up every now and again, such as doing keepy uppies away at Nottingham Forest or letting the ball through his legs from 30 yards in the last minute of the last game of the season.

Put simply, he is an excellent Championship keeper who won us more points then he cost us and deserves to be considered one of the best number ones we have ever had. But we are a Premier League club now and with that in mind, he is far from irreplaceable.

Stockdale seems to have a higher opinion of himself than that though which leads us onto attempting to answer that big why question. This was, according to someone very close to the club, a money based decision. Originally, it had been the length of contract that was the issue.

The Albion offered several years less than what Stockdale wanted. Turning a one year deal down was fair enough – he isn’t getting any younger and at this stage in his career, job security would understandably be a pretty high priority given this could in all likelihood be the last big contract of his playing career.

A compromise was reached over the length of the deal eventually and then it came down to wages. Our highest earners are reportedly Anthony Knockaert and Dale Stephens, whose new contracts as Premier League players are worth in the region of £45,000 a week. Stockdale was after £70,000 a week.

To put that into some perspective, England number two and one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers Jack Butland earns just over £50,000 a week at Stoke City. We would have not only had to smash our current wage structure, but obliterate it to keep him.

We are not sure why people haven’t yet learned that playing poker with Tony Bloom is a game you won’t win. The bloke has built a £100m stadium and funded a rise from League One relegation candidates to the Premier League with money he has earned through betting. There is a reason he is known as The Lizard. Yet players, agents and other clubs still try to beat him at a game he obviously plays better than anyone else.

What happened next is open to plenty of speculation, but it probably goes one of two ways. Either Stockdale overvalued himself and with no offers from other clubs – Chelsea Reserves, for example – forthcoming, has had to settle for signing for a Birmingham side who struggled so much last season. Or Birmingham have come somewhere close to matching those wages he wanted, probably helped by a huge signing on fee.

That isn’t beyond the realms of possibility given they have that dangerous combination of rich foreign owners and Harry Redknapp, a manager who of course works miracles on small budgets at every club he is at before they mysteriously go into financial meltdown upon his departure. Offering John Terry £110,000 a week as is being reported shows, if true, that the Blues have some serious financial clout.

It’s a sorry end to the Brighton career of a man who will rightly be considered in the top five goalkeepers we’ve ever had. And it is a real shame that having played such a big part in winning promotion to the Premier League, he now won’t get the chance to test himself against some of the best strikers in the world.

We will also miss our bi-monthly arguments with him on Twitter, something that any Birmingham fan sites who dare to criticise any aspect of his performance can now look forward to, sometimes weeks after the actual game when he decides to search for tweets praising himself to favourite or retweet.

At the end of the day, all we can do now is thank Stockdale for the memories and wish him well at St Andrews. No one man is bigger than Brighton and Hove Albion though. But hopefully one day he will get the chance to return to The Amex and get the reception he deserves.

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