In-form Northern Ireland stopper Trevor Carson is determined not to rest on his laurels, having seen how other goalkeepers have had their worlds turned upside down in recent days.
Last summer an uncapped Carson was weighing up whether to accept Hartlepool’s offer to play non-league football.
His decision to reject that in favour of a move to Motherwell proved to be, by Carson’s own admission, “one of the best” of his career as he reached two cup finals, finally made his first Northern Ireland appearance and even attracted interest from Celtic.
Yet Carson knows how quickly a goalkeeper can go from hero to zero in the eyes of the press.
Debutant Jordan Archer made two costly errors in Scotland’s 2-0 loss to Peru earlier this week, days after Carson and his Northern Ireland colleagues watched Loris Karius’ two Champions League final clangers from Miami International Airport.
“Ultimately, I know it works both ways,” Carson said of the extra attention he now commands.
“If I’m having a beast every week then I’m going to get slaughtered. Look at the Scotland keeper the other night – if you read the headlines in the paper you would think he has given the worst performance in goalkeeper history.
“If you watch the goals back, obviously he’ll be disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world. You can enjoy it when it’s going well but don’t be too hard on yourself when things aren’t going as well.
“I deleted myself from one of the (WhatsApp) group chats I have with the Motherwell boys because Karius made a mistake and straight away they were on him.
“I just thought – goalkeepers union all the way. If you do well or make a save then it is expected but if you make one mistake…
“It’s so hard to go through an entire game mistake-free. If you look at an outfield player then he probably makes double-figure mistakes but they usually never punished by an immediate goal.
“Maybe you might get away with the odd bad kick, but everything else is punished by a goal.”
“We’re aware of that and that’s why you have to have broad shoulders being a goalkeeper.”
Carson knows any mistake he or any other keeper makes is magnified and it’s the response to such adversity that is important.
“People say that when we make a mistake we should just brush it under the carpet but all you are thinking is, ‘What an idiot’.
“But I think it’s more about how you bounce back after it. It’s impossible to completely forget, but it’s how you bounce back in training and in the dressing room.
“You may be hurting inside but it’s having that character to put on that front. Football is ruthless, it waits for no man – so if you are sitting moping about you’ll be out of the team or released.”
Carson has started Northern Ireland’s past two friendlies, with previous first choice Michael McGovern having played just one EFL Cup game for Norwich last term.
McGovern is not on his country’s tour of Central America, with Leeds’ Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Celtic youngster Conor Hazard the other two keepers, and Carson is keen to win that number one jersey.
“A year ago Michael may have been in his comfort zone because there was really no one challenging him,” Carson admitted.
“But I think he will be big enough to realise that me, Bailey playing at Leeds every week and Conor coming through means it is exciting times for Northern Ireland.
“My challenge is probably to fight Michael for the number one spot while Bailey and Conor are probably fighting for the third place that comes away.
“Once they get that nailed down, they’ll be trying to dethrone me. That’s the life of a goalkeeper at both club and international level.”
- Press Association