27th October 2013
Foreign goalkeepers have come a long way since Brian Clough famously branded Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski a clown before an England World Cup qualifier 40 years ago this month.
The perception back then was that foreign goalkeepers, while agile and spectacular shot-stoppers, weren't very reliable.
They tended to punch the ball rather than catch it, they weren't as good as British goalkeepers positionally, and some even questioned their bravery.
Clough's description of Tomaszewski was a typical opinion of many back then.
Clough's comments backfired spectacularly as they sparked a man-of-the-match display by the Polish stopper, which meant England failed to reach the 1974 World Cup.
The outspoken Forest manager may have had a point that some of the Pole's saves were unorthodox, but he couldn't argue that he had essential done his job brilliantly and stopped England qualifying for West Germany.
However, there's no doubt there was a plethora of top British goalkeepers back then.
Tomaszewski's opposite number that night was Peter Shilton, who ironically made a vital error, but in that era there could have been any number of top quality English goalkeepers between the posts such as Ray Clemence, Joe Corrigan, Jimmy Rimmer, Alex Stepney, Peter Bonetti, Phil Parkes or Jim Montgomery.
Every top English club seemed to have a top class British goalkeeper in those days. Although Scottish goalkeepers didn't tend to have a great reputation and Swansea-born Gary Sprake didn't help the Welsh keepers' cause.
To be fair to Sprake he was an excellent goalie, but suffered for a couple of high profile gaffes, and in defence of Scottish keepers, in those days we only ever saw the goals from North of the Border on TV, so they didn't get much chance to shine down here.
Ask John Toshack how good Scotland's Alan Rough was when he palmed the former Swans manager's volley over the bar in a vital World Cup qualifier in 1977.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Pat Jennings was a wonderful goalkeeper, but it was generally Englishmen who stood between the posts in the top flight.
Today's visitors West Ham had the likes of the aforementioned Phil Parkes, who signed for the Hammers for a then world record fee for a goalkeeper from QPR in 1979.
Remarkably, Parkes played 344 league matches for West Ham - exactly the same number of games he played for Rangers.
Before him, the Hammers boasted another top English goalkeeper in the shape of Mervyn Day.
But even during this golden era of English goalkeepers, who were all following in the footsteps of the great Gordon Banks, there were some excellent foreign stoppers around.
Sepp Maier and Dino Zoff both won World Cups with their respective countries West Germany and Italy.
Before them, Russia's Lev Yashin was considered by many to be the world greatest goalkeeper.
But despite these great players, foreign goalkeepers tended to be eyed suspiciously and looked down on in this country.
And one of the trail blazers for foreign goalkeepers in the top flight in this country did little to dispel this image of unpredictability in continental keepers.
When he arrived in the late 70s, Chelsea's Petar Borota was everything a conventional English keeper wasn't, unless you counted John Burridge, who definitely wasn't a conventional English keeper.
Mind you, they do say you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper, and Borota, like Burridge was certainly an eccentric entertainer.
Another foreign goalkeeper of this time who fitted the entertaining eccentric bill was Liverpool's Bruce Grobbelaar.
Of course, Borota wasn't the first foreign goalkeeper in the top flight in England. Bert Trautmann, famous for playing on with a broken neck in the FA Cup final was German.
But he had come to Britain as a prisoner of war, rather than an imported professional goalkeeper - the latter route became a well trodden one in the footsteps of the likes of the colourful Borota.
Since those early goalkeeping imports, a trickle turned into a steady flow as a number of goalkeepers enhanced the reputation of the foreign import as they challenged home grown world class keepers like David Seaman and Welsh legend Neville Southall.
Led by probably the best of all the imports Peter Schmeichel, that steady flow of imported goalkeepers has become a flood with the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Edwin Van Der Sar, Brad Friedel and Petr Cech among dozens of keepers who ensured clubs started looking abroad more regularly for their keepers.
Today's visitors' first choice keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen is regularly mentioned in lists naming the Premier League's best ever goalkeepers.
Although it is another foreign goalkeeper who is arguably Hammers fans' favourite foreign goalkeeper - Ludek Miklosko was the club's number one between 1990 and 1998.
And of course the Swans, who had traditionally put themselves in the hands of British and Irish goalkeepers like Noel Dwyer, Dave Stewart, Dai Davies, Jimmy Rimmer and Roger Freestone, have followed the fashion for foreign custodians over the past decade.
Since signing Frenchman Willie Gueret back in 2004, the Swans have looked overseas to buy or loan the likes of Dutchmen Dorus DeVries and Michel Vorm, German Gerhard Tremmel, Portugese Jose Moreira, Congolese Yves Ma-Kalambay, Greek Dimi Konstantopoulos and most recently Slovenian Gregor Zabret.
In the current EA Sports Player Performance Index list for goalkeepers, led by Belgian Simon Mignolet, only three of the top 10 in the Premier League are British and the highest ranked of those three is Hull City's Scottish stopper Allan McGregor, who comes in at number seven.
The highest ranked English goalkeeper is Joe Hart who is ninth in the list which ironically has two Polish goalkeepers in the top three!
I noticed that no-one was calling Wojciech Szczesny and Artur Boruc clowns in the run up to last week's England v Poland game at Wembley.
Although, I suppose Joe Hart had the last laugh keeping a clean sheet in the crucial 2-0 victory, which ensured history didn't repeat itself for England.
I'm sure there are plenty of young home grown goalkeepers out there ready to emulate Hart's success for club and country.
However, there's no doubt it's the foreign goalkeepers who currently hold the upper hand in English football.
And I'm sure Swans fans will agree that the club goalkeepers' shirts are certainly in safe hands at the moment.