Keep it in the family
Over the international break, we’re bringing you the countdown on Albion’s 10 greatest post-war goalkeepers. To qualify, they’ve kept 25 clean sheets in the league and from there, we’ve worked out their clean sheets to games percentage. Eyes down for a full house…
3. Peter Latchford
81 games, 26 clean sheets, 32.10%
Having Peter Latchford so high on this list might come as surprise to a few. After all, he was only a youngster when he was tossed into a struggling Albion side in place of John Osborne, he was here for a relatively short period and he left us for a career in Scotland, albeit with Celtic.
But his success is a reflection of somebody who was determined to be very much his own man. He had to be, given he was the third of footballing brothers, goalkeeper Dave and striker Bob both already making it big down at Birmingham City.
While the Don Howe era was less than a success at the time, Albion dropping out of the top flight for the first time in a quarter of a century, for those at the defensive end of the spectrum, Howe was a great coach to work with. He helped lay the foundations for the epic careers of John Wile and Alistair Robertson and Latchford too benefited from one of the greatest coaches in the English game, not always directly because there was no real goalkeeper coaching in that sense beyond the basics, but he learnt plenty from watching the defensive organisation in front of him.
Thrown into the side in 1972/73, he kept six clean sheets in 26 games, no mean feat when you consider that we were hurtling towards relegation. Ultimately the pressure got to everyone and, after a string of heavy defeats, Latchford was dropped, ironically only just after keeping a clean sheet that had ended that run as we beat Arsenal 1-0.
Latchford was upset to be left out, Osborne returning for the run-in as we tried, unsuccessfully to stave off the drop, but it was a lesson learnt and he returned for the following season, not missing a game as we kept it tight a the back but, with Jeff Astle an ailing force, couldn’t find the goals at the other end to take us up.
Even so, Latchford had excelled during that season, keeping 14 clean sheets, one in three, and it looked as if Albion might have found a ‘keeper for the next few years. That impression was only strengthened at the start of 1974/75 when he enjoyed another six shut outs in the first 13 games, but after Albion lost successive games to Nottingham Forest and Bristol Rovers, Howe made a change, Osborne was back and Latchford was in the wilderness.
With no goalkeepers on the bench in those days, he was quickly looking for a move and was sent up to Glasgow, initially on loan, before the switch was made permanent by their boss, Jock Stein. He knew a thing or two about how to spot a player as well.
3. Peter Latchford
4. Tony Godden
5. Stuart Naylor
6. Ben Foster
7. Alan Miller
8. Jim Sanders
9. Ray Potter
10. Norman Heath