BOLTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Brad Guzan of Aston Villa gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa at Reebok Stadium on December 10, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Poor Brad Guzan seems destined to be the second-best. He arrived at Aston Villa in the summer transfer window of 2008 for a pretty modest fee after distinguishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the MLS. Upon arriving at Villa, he was relegated to the bench in favor of the summer's other signing Brad Friedel, who you may remember as the other bald, exceptionally talented American keeper. For his first three seasons with Villa, Guzan was used almost exclusively as a keeper for cup matches, be they Carling, FA, or UEFA/Europa League. In those competitions he always showed that he was a more-than-competent keeper, but he was never able to usurp the position of Friedel, who was being paid significantly more and doing a fantastic job.
When Friedel left last summer, there was some thought that perhaps Guzan could finally take the job for which he'd been waiting so patiently. Management had different ideas, however, as they signed Shay Given during the summer. Again, Guzan was denied the starting job not due to his own failings, but rather to the sheer jaw-dropping brilliance of Given. On December 3rd, however, Given injured his hamstring and Guzan was afforded his second appearance in a Premier League game. From that point until Given returned - a span of six matches - Guzan showed himself to be a starter-quality keeper. There was even rumor of his taking over the job, though Aaron was quick to debunk the idea.
But once Given came back, Guzan was again sent bench-ward. His appearance in the FA Cup third round against Bristol Rovers would be his last as a Villan. He provided some nice saves that day, as he had done all season, but that was it.
Now that he's gone, maybe Brad won't be second-best anymore. He's clearly shown that he has the talent to be a Premier League starter, and I certainly hope he gets that chance. We've taken it for granted lately that if something happens to our keeper, Villa won't be too badly off. It'll be interesting to see who replaces him, but in the meantime, I wish Brad all the best luck. I hope he catches on somewhere and has a fantastic season. Except against Villa. Do us a solid, Brad, and let in five goals when we see you next.
The send-offs will conclude tomorrow with Alex McLeish.