Jul 10, 2013, 12:33 PM EDT
Yesterday we joked about how Everton are fast becoming Wigan Atheltic II.
But for US national team stalwart Tim Howard, it might not be a laughing matter.
Roberto Martinez is looking to stamp his authority in charge at Everton, and the new manager has recruited plenty of his former players already as the Toffees transformation continues.
And after signing Spanish Under-21 goalkeeper Joel Robles from Atletico Madrid, Howard could have a fight on his hands for the No.1 jersey.
The Spanish youngster, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Wigan, joins former teammates Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz at Goodison Park.
Robles is only 23, but he is already relishing the challenge to compete with Howard for the starting spot.
Obviously we will be competing together and it’s the manager’s decision at the end of the day (who he chooses).
Robles doesn’t seem too content to be a long-term second-choice ‘keeper behind Howard. So what does that mean for the USMNT’s long-term star between the sticks? It is hard to say.
But it has definitely been a summer of change for Howard. His long-term goalkeeping coach Chris Woods has switched Everton for Manchester United, so Howard will no longer work with a coach he’s familiar with on a day-to-day basis. But Woods will still keep his position as the USA’s goalkeeper coach.
And Howard was under some intense pressure last season. After a few mistakes in goal for Everton coupled with Brad Guzan’s fine form at Aston Villa, it wasn’t the easiest season for the former Manchester United ‘keeper.
Robles is a different type of ‘keeper to Howard, he is all action, comes off his line, is extremely good with his feet and at 6 foot 5 towers above attackers at set pieces to often collect the ball with ease. Howard is a pure shot-stopper whose talent is undoubted.
At the age of 34 he already has 11 years of playing experience in the EPL with United and Everton. But this coming season could see him faced with his biggest challenge yet. Both for his club side and the national team.
On the flip side, Howard could get even better. Most goalkeepers don’t hit their prime until they get past 35, so the best is yet to come. And having a keen, young and ambitious ‘keeper pushing you all the way may help Howard to improve further.
We shall wait and see. Howard has a fight on his hands for club and country. Over the years he’s been up to for the challenge, but this may be his toughest yet.
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