The backup goalkeeper is an odd role, usually held by a player fitting a very specific bracket; good enough that you’re comfortable starting them for an extended period if the first choice goes down; cheap enough that you’re not wasting money keeping them on the bench for years at a time; content with their limited contribution, and professional enough to still give it their all every day in training.
Given the lack of rotation available at the position, a young keeper who isn’t starting is unlikely to develop much, and thus will often decide to move on, either permanently or on loan. Prime age goalkeepers good enough to play if they have to will seldom accept a backup role, and will similarly look for greener pastures. Thus, the responsibility frequently falls on experienced veterans.
Danny Ward belongs in the former category. Currently on loan at Championship leaders Huddersfield, the 23-year old has continued to build on the promising reputation he earned as a starter for Scottish side Aberdeen last season. After eleven matches, the Terriers average 2.27 points per game and have yet to concede more than a single goal in a match, partially down to the Welshman's 73% save ratio, as well as his 92% success rate when claiming a cross.
Ward isn't about to settle for success in the Championship though, and is paying close attention to the goings-on at his parent club:
“You have to strive and aim to be at the top and hopefully I can get there.
“You don’t sign for a club to settle for what you’ve got. You’ve always got to try to push yourself to be the best.
“At Liverpool, they all look hungry, as if they’ve got a real desire and that’s quite similar to here.
“The manager has implemented his style and brought players in he feels would work and it seems to be paying off.”
A young man with ambition. While he might fall short of Loris Karius in the looks department - as most mortals do - the ability to consistently claim crosses with confidence is one that has been in short supply at Liverpool in recent decades, and one that even the statuesque German has yet to display. If Ward continues his development this season, we might just have a Welsh challenger for the goalkeeping crown next year.