Football through the decades has evolved and with the evolution of the game, football positions have revolutionized. This is definitely the case for full-backs, who are expected to participate heavily in every single movement of the game and are required to be at the highest level in peak physical condition. The same can be said for the strikers as well who also contribute comprehensively in more capacities. The times of the beau monde poacher who does little other than notch goals are drawing to a close.
Yet, there is one role that has undergone major metamorphosis, the role of a goalkeeper. The constructive, interceptive, ball-playing shot stoppers that we admire today existed barely a decade ago. Furthermore, if you go back to the early 1990s, goalkeepers were even allowed to collect back-passes from defenders directly. It is an all-inclusive role nowadays, crucial in both the classic and modern ways. Shot-stopping and reflexes remain as crucial as ever, but new techniques such as movement, sweeping up, offensive positioning, and improved agility also reign supreme.
There are very few goalkeepers in the world that have witnessed and become a part of this monumental change of style. One of the foremost names that come to my mind is of Mark Schwarzer. The Australian was the part of the revolution right from the onset and remained in the mix until the new prototype for a modern day goalkeeper was developed. Taking reference from George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, in many ways Mark could be regarded as one of the “First Men” who were considered to be the rulers of Westeros for thousands of years. Then came the Andals i.e, the modern day goalkeepers who invaded the Westeros i.e, who changed the game forever.
While the Alisson’s and the Ederson’s rule the world between the posts, it were players like Mark Schwarzer who helped fans across the globe realize the importance of goalkeepers in the game. Let’s travel back to spectate a senior career journey that lasted for 26 years.
Where it all began..
Even though Mark Schwarzer’s arrived in the Premier League in 1997, his ride from Colo Cougars to Middlesbrough is nothing short of ecstatic. After 4 seasons and 58 appearances at Colo Cougars in Australia, Mark Schwarzer arrived in the land of a great goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. Throughout 1994, Schwarzer’s exploits in Germany with Dynamo Dresden and 1.FC Kaiserslautern did very little to help him achieve his dream. In November 1996, Mark Schwarzer joined Bradford City and the six feet four inch Schwarzer made an outstanding debut at Charlton Athletic on November 23 to keep his place ever since, including Bradford’s shock fourth round FA Cup win at Goodison Park. Schwarzer dreamt of playing in the Premier League and his hearty performances between the sticks suggested a move was round the corner. The Aussie had a stipulation in the contract allowing him to leave if an offer from any Premiership club arrived.
February 21, 1997 will always be regarded as one of the most important days in Mark Schwarzer’s life. An offer of £1.25 million arrived from Everton. Soon after news surfaced about Toffees’ offer, Middlesbrough also jumped into the scene and were quick to agree personal terms with Schwarzer. Middlesbrough were able to promise something that Everton could never have until Neville Southall remained at Goodison Park, that was first team action. The choice was easy and Mark became a Boro player.
He made his debut against Stockport County in the League Cup semifinals which was back then called the Coca Cola League Cup. Boro advanced to the final after two legs winning on 2-1 aggregate. Schwarzer also featured in the final against Leicester City which ended as a 1-1 draw. However, the Australian was injured for the replay of the final which Boro lost 1-0 after extra time. The 1996-97 season saw Middlesborough get relegated after finishing 19thin the Premier League. Even though the team got eliminated, Schwarzer was praised for quickly adapting himself to the surroundings and the pace of the Premier League despite arriving mid-season.
A legendary career..
The following season, Bryan Robson, then manager was able to not only win back promotion but also guide his team to the League Cup finals once again. Mark Schwarzer’s heroics often proved valuable in Boro’s journey to the final of the Coca Cola League Cup. However, Chelsea proved to be a little too much for the humble Boro side as they lost the second consecutive league cup final.
With the end of 1997-1998 season, Schwarzer started to become a growing name among the loyal Middlesbrough fans. A flying rumor circulated among the top newspapers that Mark was linked to Old Trafford and that Peter Schmeichel’s days at Manchetser United were numbered. During those days, being linked to United was considered an achievement in itself and Mark Schwarzer’s association with arguably the best team of that time was evidence that his career path was on the right track.
Middlesbrough continued their satisfactory journey in the league accomplishing acceptable mid table finishes. During the 2002-03 season Boro gave a glimpse of their potential for the first time making a promising start and also reaching the thirs spot in the table during early October. The fans had real hope for a top six finish. However, post that period it seemed as though Middlesbrough pressed the self-destruct button and could only finish 11thin the league. Mark featured in 38 Top flight games through the season, keeping 10 clean sheets.
For every Middlesbrough player and supporter, the 2003-04 season holds a special memory in the heart. Why? This would finally be the year that their 128 year old thirst for a domestic trophy would be relinquished. They toiled and had an appalling start to the Premier League campaign and even lingered in the relegation spots early in the season but the team were determined enough to turn games in their favor and achieve the 11thspot in the league. Despite an awful league campaign, Middlesbrough shocked many with their industrious outings in the league cup.
Middlesbrough managed to reach the League Cup final and on the road defeated Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Wigan and Brighton. Mark Schwarzer was set to play his most important match of his club career as Boro prepared to take on Bolton Wanderers in the final.
The Teessiders went in front inside two minutes from a tap-in by Joseph-Desire Job after a Boudewijn Zenden cross. Five minutes later Middlesbrough were 2-0 ahead through a Zenden penalty after Emerson Thome brought down Job. A Mark Schwarzer howler gifted a goal back for Kevin Davies but the keeper made amends by twice denying Youri Djorkaeff and Boro held on. Despite making an early mistake, the Socceroo produced outstanding saves throughout the game as Middlesbrough held onto the narrow one goal advantage.
The 31 year old goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer achieved impressive stats personally, playing 42 games and keeping 16 clean sheets. In this process he also collected his first medal as the Teessiders won the League Cup.
After the triumph in the League Cup final the previous season, Middlesbrough fans were optimistic that this season would be a success. After 37 games of chasing the European spot and maintaining their position, the entire weight of the season fell onto the final game of the league: An encounter with Manchester City. The Citizens too were in the hunt for European football and needed to secure a win to overthrow the Teessiders from the 7thspot. A win for either side would ensure UEFA Cup qualification. Mark Schwarzer saved an injury-time penalty as Middlesbrough earned a place in next season’s UEFA Cup. Robbie Fowler missed the kick which would have seen City qualify at the expense of Boro. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s brilliant 30-yard free-kick put Boro ahead, but Kiki Musampa levelled after the break. City boss Stuart Pearce brought on Nicky Weaver and pushed goalkeeper David James up front in a frantic finale, but Boro held out. It was a dramatic end to a match in which City dominated possession without fashioning clear chances against a determined Boro back line.
Schwarzer lead from the front and gave Middlesbrough something that he can always be proud of. It was his jaw dropping penalty save during the dying moments of the game, when adrenaline and stress is at the highest of levels, he was the one with ice in his nerves making am brilliant save.
However, the next season was not something the ageing goalkeeper would like to remember as injuries took him down repeatedly. Despite poor form in the league, Boro continued to impress on the continental stage as they managed to reach the finals of the UEFA Cup. Schwarzer returned to the line up in the final against Sevilla but couldn’t produce an inspiring display as the Teessiders went 4-0 down to the Andalusians.
After a couple of more seasons which turned out to be ordinary ones, Mark decided to move away from Riverside Stadium. With his contract set to expire in June 2008, Mark announced on 21stMay that he had signed a 2 year contract with Fulham. The Australian also revealed that he had offers from heavyweights like Juventus and Bayern Munich but he turned the opportunity down as neither could guarantee him a starting place or adequate playing time. He made his Cottagers debut against newly promoted Hull City but tasted defeat in his first game. However, post that he build on his performances and went on to play every minute of the season, helping Fulham finish 7thand qualify for UEFA Europa League. The 2009-10 season saw Fulham do exceptionally well in the Europa League as they managed to reach the finals from the third qualifying stage. While Schwarzer played an important role in helping the team reach the final, he couldn’t do much in the final as Fulham narrowly lost to Atletico Madrid. At the age of 36, he managed to play 60 games in the season and kept 21 clean sheets, a feat in itself.
Following the productive season Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was tempted to sign Schwarzer and also made a couple of bids but the Cottagers firmly rejected the advances from Arsenal. In 2012, Schwarzer signed a contract extension that would keep him at the Craven Cottage till the end of 2012-2013 season. In April 2013, Schwarzer added another record to his name as he played his 500thPremier League game. The 40 year old could remember his first day of arrival in the league and how in 16 years he became one of the pillars that could define a goalkeeping era. The 500thappearance also meant that he became the first non British or Irish player to play as many matches. Rumors circulated that Marteen Stekelenburg could arrive at the Craven Cottage and once the transfer was confirmed, Schwarzer announced that he would look seek pastures elsewhere and not renew his contract.
In July 2013, Mark Schwarzer signed a one year deal with Fulham city rivals, Chelsea. On his presentation at the Stamford Bridge, the Australian admitted that it didn’t take much convincing to sign for the Blues as they are already one if the best clubs in the world. Perhaps, Jose Mourinho was a fan of Schwarzer and decided to sign him as a back up to Petr Cech after seeing two bids rejected for John Ruddy of Norwich City. The former Middlesbrough goalkeeper’s journey could be termed nothing short of a fairy tale. Despite being 40, he knew his career in English football had taken off late and at this age no one expected him to give 40 games a season but to play for one of the best clubs in business was a humongous achievement. He made his Chelsea debut in the league cup against Swindon Town, keeping a clean sheet as Blues managed a comfortable 2-0 win. Schwarzer was the first choice goalkeeper in the domestic Cup games and his second game would be an encounter with arch rivals Arsenal in the League Cup. Schwarzer turned up in style making plenty of impressive saves to deny the Arsenal attack as the Blues’ frontmen capitalized on a depleted Gunners defence and won the game 2-0.
In April 2014, Schwarzer became the oldest player for Chelsea to feature in the Premiership game when he started between the sticks against Sunderland. At 41 years and 195 days old, he overtook Graham Rix’s record (37 years 203 days old) by quite some distance. Petr Cech suffered an injury which would keep him out for a few weeks meaning that Mark had to deputize for him in every competition.
The 41 year old started a very important game against Liverpool, a game that would have a lot of influence on the title hopes of the either team. This was the famous game where Gerrard slip happened and Liverpool virtually handed the title to Manchester City. Schwarzer pulled off some brilliant saves from Daniel Sturridge, giving Chelsea the much needed stability and confidence in their defence. The clean sheet against the Reds meant that the net minder had now managed a mammoth 150 clean sheets in the Premier League. Till date, only two other goalkeepers have managed to achieve that feat: David James and Petr Cech. Reports suggested that Chelsea would release the 41 year old but they eventually extended his deal by one more year. However the 2014 season was nothing notable as the Australian didn’t feature even once for the Blues.
Eventually, in January 2015 he moved to relegation battling Leicester City on a free transfer. The world turned upside down for the Australian, he had just switched from a club that was aiming to kiss the league trophy to a club wrapped in the arms of relegation but Mark had already seen these days and he was up for the challenge. He made his Foxes debut against Spurs in the 4thround of the FA Cup which Leicester won 2-1. In the process, Schwarzer also became the oldest Leicester player to feature in a game. Leicester did manage to escape relegation that season.
Mark Schwarzer’s former club, Chelsea, won the league title in 2014-2015 season. Mourinho announced that even though he never featured for the Blues in the 2014-15 season, the Socceroo player would receive a replica of the winner’s medal for his contributions during the first half of the season. The 41 year old was also invited to the title winning party at the end of the season.
The 2015-16 season could never be imagined in anyone’s wildest fantasies. Leicester City pulled off a shock title win. From relegation battlers to title winners. Schwarzer never made an appearance in the league for the Foxes and did not qualify for the Premier League medal as a playing 5 matches was the minimum requirement to secure a medal but he would always be remembered as a part of the angelic squad.
Despite not having a winner’s medal, he became first player since Eric Cantona to be a part of two different Championship winning squads in consecutive seasons. He was released by Foxes at the end of the season and eventually hung up his gloves in 2016.
What was Mark Schwarzer footballer like…
Mark Schwarzer has built a solid reputation for himself as one of the top goalkeepers in Premier League history. Schwarzer has proven that he can still be called upon when needed and can handle the rigors of the Premier League.
As a shot stopper he possessed a lot of quality often known to stretch his body to pull off unimaginable saves. Mark Schwarzer was never known as a sweeper keeper but his work between the sticks never invited criticism. On the contrary, it was said that he made such excellent diving saves along with his alertness covered up for his lack of on the ball skills.
Schwarzer is the type of a keeper that stays in his six-yard area and is at his most confident there. A good shot stopper with great reflexes but not the best on the ball. You get the feelings it’s “you’re good at what you do so do it”. Shot stopping is the bread and butter of the goalkeeping game. It’s a fundamental base and an “awful lot of work” goes into being an elite shot stopper. Schwarzer was never considered a sub par shot stopper. The Australian was always lauded for his shot stopping skills and excellent positioning that often made it easier for him to pull off saves.
Mark Schwarzer had one of the quickest reflexes during his time and often used other parts than his hand to make saves.
To the casual fan, reflexes are perhaps the most thrilling characteristic of a goalkeeper. Heart-stopping moments are created by the ability to respond in split seconds, contorting your body to block shots from close range or moving your torso to get some of your body on a goal-bound shot.
What are the moments we remember Mark Schwarzer for…
Move to the Premier League
Seven years since turning professional and trying his luck in Australia and Germany and England’s Football championship, the day had finally arrived that Mark Schwarzer would turn his dream into reality. After inspiring outings for Bradford, Everton and Middlesbrough came looking for Schwarzer and the Aussie chose the club that would offer him better playing opportunities. 445 appearances and 11 years later, Schwarzer had turned into a Boro legend but most notably he became a player that every Premier League fan would remember.
Ticket to European football
We often read about strikers scoring decisive goals that lead the team to trophies but however not enough credit is showered upon goalkeepers when they make season defining saves. Mark Schwarzer made one such save that helped Middlesbrough get a ticket to European football. In the 2003-04 season, after 37 games in the league, the Teessiders sat 7thand had to avoid a defeat to ensure UEFA Cup qualification. They faced Manchester City, who themselves were in the hunt for the 7thspot. A win for City meant that they would qualify at the expense of Boro.
Middlesbrough’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink bludgeoned an absolute 30 yard free kick putting the Teessiders ahead. However, City dominated most of the ball and eventually Kiki Musampa scored to put the tie back on level terms. A tie would have been enough for Boro to qualify but the Citizens kept on knocking. But for all their huff and puff, there was precious little end product. The atmosphere reached fever pitch late on as Pearce replaced Claudio Reyna with keeper Weaver and moved James into a centre-forward role. The game took a dramatic twist as referee Rob Styles penalized Franck Queudrue for handball late in the injury time. Despite protests from Boro players, the penalty had been awarded which meant that the golden ticket to European football was now in the hands of Schwarzer and he didn’t disappoint as he pulled off a jaw dropping injury-time penalty save to deny Robbie Fowler and in turn deny Manchester City into Europe.
An entry into a special club of players
Mark Schwarzer added his name to a special club of players when he started in goal for Fulham against Arsenal in 2013. He became the first and so far the only Non British or Irish player to have featured in more than 500 Premier League games.
Mark Schwarzer joined elite players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and many others.
Even though the Cottagers lost the game, Schwarzer would have been proud of himself that day that he had not only fulfilled his dream but also carved a career that would be an example to plenty of youngsters who dreamt of making it big in England.
150thPremier League clean sheet
Since signing for Chelsea in 2013, Mark was only a back up to Petr Cech but finally got a chance to prove his worth when the Czech international had to miss the game against Sunderland due to flu. Schwarzer struggled in his first match as a starter in over four months. Many thought he was at fault for Sunderland’s first goal in their infamous 2-1 victory over the Blues. The next game meant more nightmare for Chelsea when Cech suffered a shoulder injury in the UEFA Champions League game against Atletico Madrid. Following a poor game against the Black Cats, Schwarzer was low on confidence but had to come on as a sub for the injured Petr. He rose to the occasion, making important saves and keeping a clean sheet.
The clean sheet gave him confidence and he certainly built on that. Many predicted a humiliating score line for the Blues when he was called to the field to tackle a wild Liverpool team on their title march with a “B-team” defense ahead. What happened next was one of the most prominent displays of defense and goalkeeping seen in a very long time from a football team. Schwarzer and his deputy defenders held off the assault on Liverpool and irritated their formidable strike force. On the day, Schwarzer made eight saves and had what many football fans call between the sticks a “worldie.” Precisely when the club needed him he came up big and he proved he deserves all the plaudits as one of the greatest goalkeepers to play in the Premier League. After pulling off swashbuckling saves, he kept a clean sheet. The clean sheet meant that he had now kept a total of 150 clean sheets in the English Top Flight, becoming only the third player to do so after Petr Cech and David James.
A Premier League champion without a medal
Mark Schwarzer left Chelsea for Leicester City in January 2015 in order to deputise for the injured Kasper Schmeichel and also provide counsel to younger players to deal with the relegation battle.
He helped Foxes beat relegation but on the other hand saw his former side Chelsea win the Premier League. Blues manager announced that despite Mark leaving mid season, he would receive a replica of the winner’s medal because of his contributions. Jose was so humble with the Australian that he even invited the ex-Chelsea player to title winning party.
The 2015-16 season saw Leicester win their first Premier league title ,however, Mark didn’t play a single minute in the Premier League. This meant that he didn’t qualify for the winner’s medal despite the Foxes winning the league title. This was the second time in two years something like this happened in Schwarzer’s life. His team won the league but he wouldn’t have a winner’s medal to showcase his triumph. He also became the first player since Eric Cantona to win the league with two different squads in two successive years.
Where is Mark Schwarzer currently ( April 2020 )…
Post his retirement, Mark Schwarzer has worked as a pundit and a match analyst for BBC on various shows like Football Focus Show and BBC 5 Live Radio. Mark has established himself as one of the Australia’s top football commentators. Mark currently works with Optus Sport as a commentator, providing expert opinion, whilst conducting interviews with the biggest names in the sport.
How other premier league professionals view Mark Schwarzer …
Jose Mourinho said “As a goalkeeper, when we needed Mark Schwarzer, he was there for us, and as a person and a professional he was an amazing guy in our group. On behalf of myself, my staff and my players I want to say we are going to miss the big guy and we wish him all the best in his new life at Leicester.”
What does Mark Schwarzer say about Mark Schwarzer…
“I don’t remember any of it but as a kid I grew up watching World Cups and unfortunately never got the chance to watch Australia playing.” on his thoughts about watching the FIFA World Cup.
“It’s one of the biggest and best clubs in the world, and it’s an honour to sign for Chelsea. I didn’t take much convincing to come here.” on his move to Chelsea.
“I’ve been hearing that for a while. It’s no great surprise and I’ll be looking for another club.” On Marteen Stekelenburg’s arrival at Fulham.
“It was difficult because all of a sudden I wasn’t Italian and I wasn’t Australian, I was a German again and I was pushed aside a little because I wasn’t from their community. But like anything in life it takes time. You need to gain that bit of respect, you need to perform well and then you receive acceptance.” On his struggles during the days he played for Marconi Stallions.
“The English league was always a popular league back in the 70s and 80s but it has never been as popular as it is now. Why? Cristiano Ronaldo is one reason, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres are others. There’s not an English player like them, as much as everybody in England wishes. Wayne Rooney was supposed to be that good but even he hasn’t progressed as they’ve wanted him to.”
“There is a fine line between having too many foreign players in one league. Foreign players will only stop the educational path for home-grown talent if the clubs are not putting in the groundwork to establishing the right networks at academies. Over the last 10 years some academies, like Boro’s, have done that and progressed while others haven’t. I actually think that foreign players benefit everyone in this country, not only the League and its profile worldwide, but children who can watch and learn from the best.”
Mark Schwarzer trivia..
Mark Schwarzer has worn the same pair of shin pads since he started his professional career at the age of 19 with Marconi Stallions, in the National Soccer League.
He has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2009.
He is the oldest player for Chelsea as well as Leicester to feature in the Premier League game. He did so while playing for respective clubs. (Chelsea 2014) and (Leicester 2015).
The goalkeeper amassed 108 caps for the national team of Australia.
Mark Schwarzer stats , what you can find on Wiki ( and other sites )…
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