Over the next few weeks, Sportal’s Bren O’Brien will look back on the performances of every player on Melbourne Victory’s senior list. We start with the goalkeepers, Michael Theoklitos and Mitchell Langerak.
Over the next few weeks, Sportal’s Bren O’Brien will look back on the performances of every player on Melbourne Victory’s senior list and assess their effort in the Championship and Premiership-winning 2008/09 season, including comments from coach Ernie Merrick. We start with the goalkeepers, Michael Theoklitos and Mitchell Langerak.
Michael Theoklitos: Games: 21, Saves: 52, Clean Sheets: 10
Ernie Merrick describes Michael Theoklitos as a legend of the club and given he has been a central part of the club since its inception in 2005, it’s hard to argue with his status at Victory. Theoklitos entered into this season as the reigning A-League Goalkeeper of the Year, no mean feat considering his team had missed the finals. He did nothing but enhance his reputation during his 21 games this season and was a crucial part of the team’s championship and premiership success.
He missed the first two games of the year with an injury, but returned and kept clean sheets in his first two matches and then was sent off in the 2-2 draw against the Mariners in Round 5. Merrick said Theoklitos was a little foolish in stepping on an opponent’s foot but was probably unlucky to be caught out.
He missed the next two games and returned in the Round 8 loss to Newcastle, where he conceded for just the second time in his 327 minutes on the pitch. In 10 games following his return, he would keep just one clean sheet, as Melbourne hit a slight slump which culminated in a three-match losing streak away from home.
However, much like Victory, he turned his season round in the 3-2 win against Sydney. He copped two unstoppable goals inside the first four minutes but conceded just four more goals in the final eight games of the season.
He pulled off a couple of vital saves in the Grand Final, including a reflex save with his legs from Scott Jamieson just before Melbourne scored the only goal. He also defied Jamieson with an acrobatic dive to the Adelaide midfielder’s shot from a free kick late in the game. The effort was even more meritorious after it was revealed post-match he had been struggling with a hip injury for a number of weeks.
In the final five matches of the season he kept clean sheets, taking his total clean sheets for the season to 10 from 21 games, slightly better than Adelaide’s Goalkeeper of the Year Eugene Galekovic (his former understudy), who had 10 clean sheets from 22 matches.
The 28-year-old has made no secret of his desire to play overseas and he has been given the club’s blessing in that pursuit. If that works out, then he will be a loss to the A-League, if not, Melbourne would be happy to have its No.1 back in front of goals next season.
Ernie Merrick’s comments:
One of our four or five legends at the club already. They’ve been here for the four years, won two championships, two Premiers Plates, a Pre-Season Cup. Great all-round goalkeeper. A goalkeeper shouldn’t be too flashy. Consistency is what goalkeepers are about and he can pull of unbelievable saves when it counts and that’s the hallmarks of a good goalkeeper.
Mitchell Langerak: Games: 5 (Started 4), Saves: 9, Clean Sheets: 2
Got his chance to show what he is capable of with five games this year, including four starts. He did not feature after Round 8, with Theoklitos fit and in form.
There is no doubt he is one of the best young keeping prospects in the game and at 20, he has many of his best years in front of him. While he possesses all the necessary qualities for a good stopper – agility, strength and ability to read the play – he also has an assuredness about him which seems beyond his years.
During his 396 minutes on the pitch this season, he commanded the defence led by the likes of Kevin Muscat and Rody Vargas. He is certainly not afraid to be heard and that means he is well-respected by all those at the club.
He kept two clean sheets, in the opening draw against Sydney and the 4-0 win over Perth in Round 7 while he conceded four goals in his other two full games against Queensland and Wellington.
Perhaps one of the reasons the club is not massively concerned if Theoklitos decides to go to Europe is the fact his understudy is ready to step up. Former Phoenix stopper Glenn Moss has already been signed as well, meaning even if Theoklitos is not at the club next season, there will be plenty of competition for the goalkeeper’s spot.
Ernie Merrick’s comments:
One of the best young goalkeeping talents I’ve ever come across. You would say he would go all the way, all the way. Under enormous pressure, he’s just coped so well. I’ve got a feeling, he going to become a big-name goalkeeper in Australia and he’s got all the attributes go with it. Great work ethic, great personality, self-managed, a terrific lad.
Next week we look at the defenders.