Jabroni Drive: Charles Itandje

Dan Thomas takes a look back at the more, well, mediocre players to have graced the hallowed Anfield turf. Starting with a back-up goalkeeper who had his Liverpool career end in disgrace.

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Liverpool's Manager Rafa Benitez

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If you care to join me in a stroll down Jabroni Drive, you’ll unfortunately find that this road is one well-trodden.

The sad fact is that we have, over the past twenty years at any rate, signed some absolute turkeys. From the bottom of the globe to the top, Liverpool have scouted the finest wasters and brought them to Anfield.

For those of you not familiar with the term, “jabroni” it roughly means “loser” – and this term applies to any of the litany of dreadful players we’ve seen fit to sign.

Let us start with Charles Itandje. Not necessarily because he’s our worst ever player but because Liverpool goalkeepers have been a topical theme in recent times.

Itandje was signed as back up to Pepe Reina in the summer of 2007. The Spaniard had endured a difficult start to his Liverpool career but by the end of the 2006 – 2007 season was one of the best goalkeepers in the league. With hero of Istanbul Jerzy Dudek departing for a new challenge at Real Madrid, there was a need for back up keeper which is where Itandje marched in with ill-deserved confidence.

Little was known about the Lens goalkeeper as he arrived under the radar for a shade over £4m. He had forged a reasonable reputation in Ligue 1 and had caps for France U21. He was also briefly selected for the French national squad but upset then coach Raymond Domenech by talking up his chances of being selected for the 2006 World Cup and was never again to darken Le Bleus’ doorstep. Long after his Liverpool spell he would eventually play for Cameroon 12 times, conceding 8 goals in the 3 group games in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

One can only assume that he improved drastically after leaving the Reds, or the Cameroon number one at the time was on holiday, because Itandje was an atrocious goalkeeper for Liverpool. Itandje even accepted that he was number two when he was signed:

“At Liverpool there is a very good keeper who has been there three years. I am clearly going to be number 2. But, there are 60 matches a season and it is planned that I will play the League Cup and FA Cup.”

Unfortunately that was the case and Itandje would make seven appearances for the Reds, shipping ten goals in the process.

He would become one of the posters boys for some poor Rafa Benitez recruitment.

The Spaniard bought his premium players well but squad fillers such as Itandje were anything but a success.

He made his debut in a rocky 4-2 win at Reading in the Carling Cup and would keep only one clean sheet, in a 5-0 third round replay hammering of Luton in the FA Cup. It was indeed his antics in the FA Cup that drew attention to Itandje’s lack of ability.

Whilst most goalkeepers were a significant step down from Pepe Reina at that time, the difference when Itandje played was profound. He was the antithesis of Reina in every conceivable way.

A particular highlight of his was being in situ when non-league outfit Havant and Waterlooville came to Anfield and scored twice in the first half. The Reds would go on to win 5-2 but found themselves 1-0 and 2-1 down, firstly to a header from beanpole striker Richard Pacquette. The fact he found himself under no pressure from the goalkeeper in the six yard box should tell you everything you need to know.

Itandje was perhaps a little unlucky with the second, which deflected over him whilst he was sat on his pants on the floor but there’s no smoke without fire. He had no command over his box, he lunged wildly for crosses and either missed them or got nowhere near them and fell over his own defenders. Martin Skrtel, making his debut, got the blame for most of the defensive ills but that was papering over the cracks – Itandje was a catastrophe.

The death knell for his Liverpool career sounded in an embarrassing 2-1 home FA Cup defeat to Barnsley.

In a calamitous second half performance, Itandje came for a cross and then went back with disastrous consequences as Stephen Foster headed home an equaliser against the run of play and in the 90thminute showed too much space at his near post as Brian Howard squeezed a shot in, ending the Reds’ 2008 FA Cup run at the 5thround stage.

Diego Cavalieri would arrive in the summer and Itandje would be a third choice, not even on the bench. He resisted attempts to move him on until April 2009 when he was caught mocking parts of the Hillsborough 20thanniversary concert and his deplorable behaviour sealed his fate. He was loaned out to AO Kavala in Greece and never came back to the club, working his way around Greece and Turkish leagues with the anonymity that he deserved.

So when you have someone spouting off about Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius being “the worst we’ve ever had,” if you can get a word in sideways, remind them of this jabroni.

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