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Is Subbing Goalkeepers for Penalties Long Overdue?

09/07/2014 10:25 BST | Updated 06/09/2014 10:59 BST

Louis van Gaal caused a bit of a stir on Saturday night with his substitution of goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul just before his Netherlands side went to penalties against Cota Rica. Although it turned out to be a successful tactical change, many felt it was a wrong decision. However I believe a penalty specialist goalkeeper, coming on just for spot kicks is way overdue.

The decision to bring on a sub keeper for penalties, win or lose, is an excellent decision and a great way to utilise your entire squad. It is something I was hoping England would do in the last World Cup if we had got that far. Joe Hart was better at penalties than starting goalkeeper David James.

But of course that sort of thing would have been frowned upon by the FA, English media and its public. We know this because of the reaction we saw when Van Gaal did it.

Danny Murphy was really infuriating when he said it was the wrong decision and that 'it was a slap in the face for Cillessen (especially after making the save two minutes earlier)'. Cillessen said after the game he was unhappy to come off. Of course he would be, anybody would. But why would it be a slap in face? The manager would not be the genius everyone makes him out to be if he was playing a goalkeeper he felt was not good enough for the whole tournament. This was always going to be the plan for Holland.

It was only brave because no one has done it before.

It shouldn't be unusual for this thing to happen. Now that it has Van Gaal will be seen as a genius. There is no denying that but there will now be another over the top reaction to how good a decision this was. 

Most of the press wanted to see him fail. You can only imagine how much Roy Hodgson would have been hounded if he had done something similar and failed. He would not be allowed back in the country, perceived as silly old man who shares the tactical nous of a barely trained ape. If we would have won, some would have said he had got away with it. That it was unnecessary or desperate.

Some may argue it would not make much difference. In a penalty shoot-out the smallest details matter. As Van Gaal confirmed Krul is slightly bigger stating "We all thought Tim was the best keeper to stop penalties" and "He is taller and has a longer reach." Alan Shearer was also annoying in his analysis by suggesting Krul must have been doing something good in training and that he had only saved two from 20 penalties he had faced for Newcastle.

Rio Ferdinand meanwhile suggested the pressure is never on a keeper in a shoot out but by bringing Krul on the pressure was on him to save a penalty. I disagree. The odds are still against him. He may have only a slightly better chance of saving a penalty than the previous keeper but he still isn't expected to.

The substitution was meant to give his side a greater chance of winning the game in lots of different ways. Small details can sometimes mean a lot. However, I believe It wasn't just about bringing Krul on to save a penalty.

There was more to it than that. Penalties are all about psychology. It would have played on the Costa Rican players minds that they brought someone on just for penalties. Of course Shearer may be right that in training he might have saved every penalty he faced. But do they know that? No. What it would have done is cause one or two players to second guess where they would put the penalty, and that is where the mind games start.

Another talking point about the shoot out was Krul's antics. Some say it was un-sportsman-like. If he was doing anything against the letter of the law he would have been booked. This happened to Joe Hart in the win over Sweden for the England U21s in 2009. He held on to the ball, walked near the penalty takers and was screaming and shouting at them. He was booked, his second yellow of the tournament meaning he missed the final, but it worked as England went through.

The reaction of the general English fan and press to what happened on Saturday night could contribute to the reason why England continue to struggle. Of course you need talented players who have the heart and determination to play for their country but that is a whole new subject that has been discussed a lot since we went out.

But there does need to be a change of mentality if we are to help the future England stars progress. And football needs a change of mentality when it comes to penalty taking.

The attitude towards penalty shoot outs may have changed forever thanks to Van Gaal's substitution. Every outfield player has certain attributes that they are more equipped to perform in on the pitch and you can change them at will during the game, depending on the situation. So why should it be such a shock that they use the same philosophy for the keeper?

How is it different to bringing on a relief pitcher in baseball? Someone who can get you over the line in the final hurdle. Most English fans would be sick to the core to take a tactic from a sport like baseball but if it works why wouldn't you?

The same can be said about goalkeepers taking penalties before any of the outfield players. The phrase often used by pundits is "I can't believe they couldn't find anyone else to take a penalty before the keeper". Because usually keepers only take penalties when each team have taken 10 each, like it is an unwritten rule. The suggestion is that other players don't have the bottle to take one so the keeper has to.

That view is surely archaic? Manuel Neuer took Bayern Munich's third penalty against Chelsea in Champions League final in 2012 and scored. It was a great penalty. Going back once again to one of the only times England got a shoot out right in 2009, Hart took the second penalty. It was revealed that the reason why he was second in line was because in training he had the 2nd highest scoring ratio when they practiced penalties. Imagine that, practicing penalties. One technique Stuart Pierce's side did use for that tournament was, for two years straight, during qualifying, make every player stand on the halfway line and walk to the penalty spot, simulating and practicing what they would do in a shoot out. You cannot replicate what happens in the stadium with the fans and the pressure, but practise does make perfect, not only for the few steps and connection with the ball. But the walk to it and the thought process that will run through a players' mind.

Sometimes the smallest of details can contribute to winning or losing. If you are to win a World Cup, or any competition, we always hear that you have to utilise your entire squad. That is all van Gaal did. He brought on a goalkeeper to help his side win a penalty shoot out. Well it's about time.