Dignity will go west
Football: DIGNITY WILL GO WEST; Destroying the myth that Sander was dumped after one mistake.
Byline: CHRIS BASCOMBE
IF SANDER Westerveld liked saving shots as much as the sound of his own voice he'd still be Anfield's number one today.
With impeccable timing, the Dutchman was prompted to launch a heartwarming defence of Jerzy Dudek after his error against Manchester United.
Westerveld said: ``He made one mistake against Middlesbrough and he was under pressure, maybe because of the coach, and now he has started making mistakes every week.
``Houllier doesn't give him the confidence. As a coach you have to say `you are my number one'. It's different from saying `watch out, you make another mistake and we have to change you'. That's what happened to me.''
Don't be fooled be the false sentiment. These comments are more about Sander Westerveld than Jerzy Dudek.
Beneath this apparent sympathy for his successor is an attempt to justify his own departure from Anfield and perpetuate the myth he was treated unfairly, not given support and paid the price for a few mistakes.
His not-so-thinly veiled attack on Houllier poorly disguises his misplaced belief he should still be playing for the club.
Dudek is a world class goalkeeper suffering a crisis of confidence.
Westerveld was never more than a good keeper who was given chance after chance to improve and failed to do so.
Indeed, if there is one player who was backed longer than he should have been by the manager, it was probably Westerveld.
The popular belief is Westerveld's obituary was written after a costly error against Bolton Wanderers, but his fate was sealed far sooner.
It was during the UEFA Cup Final against Alaves that Westerveld's limitations were exposed and nearly cost Liverpool the treble.
He may not have made an obvious howler, but he was at fault for all four Liverpool conceded on the night and even conceded a blatant penalty which was never given.
This climaxed an inconsistent season for him where, to be fair, he made a good contribution but not an outstanding one.
It wasn't that he was making awful clangers but he wasn't saving much either.
Houllier was asked on one occasion prior to a UEFA Cup tie if he was prepared to give Pegguy Arphexad a chance for more than just the Worthington Cup.
His reaction both publicly and privately was the same.
``I believe in Sander. He will come good,'' he insisted. Dudek is receiving exactly the same support now.
Westerveld blunders, however, became more obvious and, unlike Dudek, who accepts responsibility, the Dutchman's excuses were comical.
He dropped the ball at Middlesbrough in a 1-0 defeat and blamed ice on the ball.
At Chelsea he punched a corner into his own net and claimed he'd been pushed by that well known six-foot powerhouse Dennis Wise.
He's even bizarrely claimed he couldn't show how impressive he was because Liverpool's defence was too good.
Strange. There was little evidence in the 4-3 defeat at Leeds when every shot beat him because he dived six months too early. Liverpool drew with Southampton 3-3 after leading 3-0. Again, only three shots were needed to earn the home side a point.
Still Houllier stood by him. Then his patience ran out because one of the best keepers in Europe and England's next number one became available. The Bolton error was incidental.
When Westerveld left for Real Sociedad he did so with dignity. He had the good wishes of the staff and supporters and has established an excellent reputation in Spain.
But in recent times the bitterness he feels has surfaced more and more.
Westerveld should look at himself before being so quick to blame others.
Jerzy Dudek is a class act who needs a rest. Gerard Houllier and Liverpool fans could do with a rest from Sander Westerveld.
Copyright - Liverpool Echo