What Can Tottenham Expect from Michel Vorm?


Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl once deemed him England and Tottenham’s “Iron Man.”  Brad Friedel, a Premier League fixture for some 17 seasons, appeared in 476 matches, 50 of them for Spurs.  In the span of his career, Friedel was crucial in preserving Blackburn’s standing in the Premiership, and even scored a goal while manning the woodwork for Aston Villa, a feat previously matched by Peter Schmeichel in 2001, also with the Lions.

For Spurs, he was beyond serviceable, leading the club to a top-four finish despite Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League title depriving Tottenham of a berth in Europe’s most wide scale and prestigious tournament.

During the 2011-2012 campaign, his first with Spurs, Friedel, at age 41, would become the oldest player to make an appearance in the Premier League, and by the beginning of the 2012/13 season, Friedel would see his remarkable string of 310 consecutive EPL starts draw to a close with the arrival of French dynamo Hugo Lloris, who has sustained a relative vise grip on the position.

At present, Friedel’s place on the Tottenham roster is a mere formality.  In 2013, he interviewed for a managerial vacancy in the MLS with the Columbus Crew, with whom he played in 1996/97, two years after losing out to Tony Meola in net during the USMNT’s hosting of the 1994 World Cup (although he would later reclaim the starting position for the USMNT’s magical, yet improbable 2002 World Cup run).

In 2014, Friedel served BBC and ESPN as analyst for the World Cup in Brazil, and, despite his quirky half-American, half-British accent, he proved he belonged, earning a position as pundit with Fox Soccer this past season.

Although not as seasoned or interconnected with Tottenham lore as Spurs legend Ledley King may be, Brad Friedel serves the club as its ambassador, and may continue to do so with a club option to keep Friedel with Spurs in 2015.

Clearly, Friedel’s time as goalkeeper on one of the world’s largest stages is but a distant memory, especially given Spurs’ acquisition of Michel Vorm (and Ben Davies) from Swansea to start the 2014/15 campaign, a move that also saw the departure Gyfli Sigurdsson.

Much like Friedel’s spell as Lloris’s “understudy,” Vorm had only been brought on to start in Europa League and domestic cup matches, doing so with authority, albeit against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Brighton & Hove Albion, teams currently at eleventh and sixth in the Championship respectively.

Then, fortuitously or not for Vorm, Kyle Walker collided with Hugo Lloris within the first sixty seconds of Spurs’ last match against Leicester City, thrusting the young Dutch goalkeeper into his first action in the Premier League as a member of Tottenham Hotspur.

The results were mixed, but otherwise wholly undesirable.  Despite five saves, Vorm yielded three goals against Leicester City, a club currently facing relegation as the EPL’s worst team on the table.  While some of those goals could be attributed to shaky defending and counterattacks from the Foxes, Vorm clearly looked rattled, although a football rendering of a “baptism by fire” could have such an effect on a lad regardless of experience, of which Vorm had plenty (89 appearances) with Swansea.

Reports suggest Lloris will only miss Sunday’s match against Burnley, a sigh of relief given the dangers of collisions and the relative fragility of knee tendons.  Furthermore is this delightful news given Tim Sherwood’s return to the Lane as manager of Aston Villa on April 11, an atmosphere unbefitting of Vorm and far more beseeming for Lloris’s hopeful return to form.

But what if Lloris’s knee is not ready?  Worse yet, what if reports from France Football have some dimension of truth to them?

Others have debunked rumors of a secret clause in Lloris’s contract that would allow him to leave Spurs for a relatively paltry sum of €20m (£14.5m) if Tottenham does not receive a Champions League berth, and rightly so, especially given what Spurs could truly receive for Lloris on the open market from desperate clubs.

More from Hotspur HQ

In the highly unlikely scenario that Lloris leaves Tottenham, Michel Vorm would be Spurs’ most conditioned option at goalkeeper.

Vorm, 31, is at an age considered the prime of a goalkeeper’s career.  The likes of Friedel and USMNT and Everton’s Tim Howard have achieved marvelous things beyond the age of 31, for both club and country.

Contrarily, Vorm touts a resume that is as remarkable as it is unfulfilling.

He was solid for a middling club (FC Utrecht) of the Dutch Eredivisie, and handled himself rather well on two penalty kick tries that earned Swansea their ever first point in the Premier League (in a match against Wigan Athletic in 2011) and preserved a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory against Fulham (on December 10, 2011), by which Vorm stopped an 87th-minute penalty try from then Cottagers’ star Clint Dempsey.

In his first season with Swansea, Vorm tallied 13 clean sheets, earning him a slew of postseason awards disseminated by his club.  The performance was superb enough to maintain Swansea’s place in the Premiership and earned Vorm a more lucrative contract with the Swans.

Unfortunately, like his tenure with FC Utrecht, by which Vorm missed his share of matches with various shoulder and knee injures, Vorm missed an eight-week period in 2012/13 with a nagging groin ailment, and was oft benched in favor of Gerhard Tremmel in 2013/14.

Internationally, Vorm has yet to rate with Louis van Gaal and Netherlands, especially given the club’s options of instead utilizing Fulham and Monaco’s Maarten Stekelenburg in Euro 2012 or Ajax’s Jasper Cillessen and Newcastle’s Tim Krul in Holland’s 2014 World Cup run.  Vorm’s only time as Netherlands’ goal-keep came during injury time of a 3-0 win against Brazil to determine third place in the 2014 Cup.

In short, Spurs may or may not have in Michel Vorm what they previously had with Brad Friedel, less so given the state of Tottenham’s backfield.

Fortunately, Spurs’ next three matches are against clubs no higher than twelfth on the Premier League table, one of whom (Burnley on Sunday) is in danger of relegation.  Such matchups favor Spurs and would do well to build Vorm’s resume with Tottenham if Lloris is indeed not fit.

Presently, Spurs remain Champions League hopefuls, but considering what Lloris is versus what Vorm is not, Tottenham are likely nothing more than long shots for a top-four finish without their captain between the bars.

Could Vorm convince the Lilywhite faithful otherwise?  His first true test beckons on Sunday.