West Ham’s flying Finn makes number one spot his own
Hammers goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen showed just how important experience is at Norwich last Saturday
While Robert Green languishes on the bench at Loftus Road, usurped by Brazilian Julio Cesar, Green’s replacement at Upton Park has made an impressive start for the Hammers.
Jussi Jaaskelainen may have made a howler that cost a goal at Swansea City, but the three he conceded at the Liberty Stadium are the only ones to breach the West Ham net during his tenure between the sticks.
On Saturday at Carrow Road he was at his very best, making a string of fine saves including one tip over from a Simeon Jackson thunderbolt that had the Norwich fans applauding.
At 37 and with over 500 appearances to his name during his time at Bolton, the highs and lows of football do not seem to phase the Finland international, who was keen to point out the importance of everybody out on the pitch.
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“We’re building as a team, it’s not just about the keeper,” he said. “Three clean sheets in the first four games is a very, very good start.
“It doesn’t matter how I play, I would take a clean sheet every week. Both of our centre halves have been fantastic and the whole team is defending well, so far it’s looking good.”
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Jaaskelainen lost his place to Adam Bogdan last season at Bolton, prompting his departure to resurrect his partnership with his former boss Sam Allardyce and the West Ham manager has been delighted with his free transfer signing.
“The big man is there to do a job and today he has done that superbly well for us,” said the boss. “I wouldn’t say there were any world class saves in there, but the ones he had to make were very, very good.”
Jaaskelainen is philosophical about the end of his time at the Reebok, but is welcoming the new challenge at Upton Park.
“I got injured twice around Christmas time and another goalkeeper came in and managed to keep his place, it’s one of those things that happen in football,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to play week in, week out for 14 years, which was a great experience, but you have to keep working hard, even if you are sitting on the bench, then when you get your chance, grab it with both hands.”
The goalkeeper has certainly done that and Allardyce puts the resurrection of the Finns career down to his goalkeeping coach.
“I’ve got a great goalkeeping coach called Martyn Margetson, who is also the coach for Wales and I knew that when Jussi got with him, he would sort him out and put him back in the right frame of mind to rekindle all the old experience that he used to have,” said Allardyce.
“He perhaps lost faith in himself a little bit, but when you are in your mid-thirties today, you are still a very good goalkeeper.
“If you look at Brad Friedel, he is 41 now, so age is not a problem anymore. You have the experience so you need the dedication to keep your body right and Jussi does that.”
The move from north to south seems to have worked for the former Bolton man and Jaaskelainen is certainly enjoying himself.
“It’s a new club and a new challenge,” he said. “Big Sam and the backroom staff here are fantastic with the way they look after their players – I really do like them.
“I’ve got to a good level now and hopefully I can stay consistent.”
Perhaps Green was watching West Ham’s game at Norwich on TV on Saturday with a little envy.
His move from east to west London seems to have backfired and it is Jaaskelainen who is taking the plaudits.