Opinion

Aussie Premier League Legends: Mark Bosnich - 'He was brilliant'

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Mark Bosnich may have played for Manchester United and Chelsea, but there is no doubt that the Australian goalkeeper is associated in England with Aston Villa.

Capable of hitting the heights on the pitch and the headlines off it, Bosnich became a legend with the Midlands giants, making over 200 appearances for the former European champions during the 90s.

“In terms of goalkeepers, he’s held up there  as one of the best in our modern history," James Rushton of the Birmingham Mail told The World Game.

"If you are talking about evaluating a good goalkeeper these days, they usually get held up against Bosnich.”   

“He'd been at Manchester United briefly, so the feeling was that he must have had something about him,” Stevie Green, Villa podcaster and journalist, said.

“Nigel Spink was still the first choice keeper when he arrived, but Bosnich played 17 games in his first season at Villa so once he got going the position was his to lose.” 

The Socceroo shotstopper really cemented his number one status at the club with his heroics in the semi-final of the League Cup against Tranmere Rovers in 1994.

There is glory to be had for goalkeepers in the penalty shootout of a major cup game and the Aussie seized his chance with both gloves.

“He was phenomenal in that game against Tranmere, despite almost being sent off for fouling John Aldridge," Green said.

"He stopped three penalties in a shootout to help send the club to Wembley and eventual glory against his former club, Manchester United.

Before that, he'd obviously come in for Spink - a club legend - and deputised so well that he took his spot.

He was a lot younger than Spink and more acrobatic and over time fans just felt more comfortable with 'Bozzie' between the sticks.”

And rightly so.

“He was brilliant, apart from his kicking! If it hadn't been for his injuries and off-field problems he'd be regarded much higher.

"He was a player that stood out in several Villa teams that had their fair share of talent. Unorthodox at times, but always reliable and hard to beat, he was a big character in a time when characters were huge in football.

"I feel he doesn't get the credit he deserves when the conversation turns to Premier League goalkeepers, whether that's because Villa were unfashionable or because the nature of goalkeeping has changed so much, I don't know.”

It was also welcomed by Villa fans that Bosnich did not play too often for his country.

"I don't think there were many Aussies in the Premier League at that point, and Australia wasn't a country that was known for importing many players to the UK at the time so there was maybe a bit of skepticism.

"Once he started to get called up by the national team in 1993, I think fans weren't enamoured with the idea of him flying to the other side of the world and back for games, but he only played a handful of games for the Socceroos so it was probably never much of an issue.”

And then he left in 1999 as his contract expired to join Manchester United as a replacement for Peter Schmeichel.

At first fans were, according to Green, “slightly bitter. Villa were always on the cusp of something bigger in the nineties but one thing or another held them back.

Villa had lost Dwight Yorke to Manchester United the summer before 'Bozzie' left, so that wound was still raw.

His contract was up and he wasn't signing a new one and that hurt the fans who'd grown attached to him and supported him through his injuries.

“Looking back, I think you have to say fair enough. He left to go and win things and he was joining United as Peter Schmeichel's replacement - the opportunity was too good to turn down.

"The only thing that really annoyed me was seeing a newspaper headline that read 'I never really left United' above a picture of him holding a scarf. After seven years, to see those words hurt.”

It didn't really work out at United but anyway, time has healed those wounds and left nothing but memories.

“Ask Villa fans of a certain age who their favourite Villa goalkeeper is and nine out of 10 will say 'Bosnich'.

"He would most definitely be welcome back at the club. He was the last Villa goalkeeper to win a cup and he won two of them.

"When he does speak about the club, and the city of Birmingham, he does so with affection and that has been returned to him two-fold.”

Source SBS The World Game