Opinion

Aussie Premier League Legends: Mark Schwarzer - A record-breaking 'tower of strength'

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Since the Premier League started in 1992, there have been some top-class goalkeeping imports: Peter Schmeichel, Petr Cech and Allison to name just a few. But Mark Schwarzer deserves to hold his head, or perhaps hands, in the same company.

The Australian’s English exploits are unforgettable.

His arrival at Middlesbrough from Bradford City in 1997 was little heralded but by the time he hung up those gloves almost two decades later, he had become the first, and still the only, non-British player to make more than 500 Premier League appearances.

“When Boro signed Schwarzer from Bradford, many people asked who and why? After all, this was a side that had just signed Ravanelli from Juventus,” Simon Chadwick, Professor of Eurasian Sport at Emlyon Business School and Middlesbrough fan, told The World Game.

“However, any concerns or doubts that fans had were quickly dispelled. Schwarzer went on to become a Boro legend, a cornerstone of the successes the club enjoyed between 1997 and 2006.”

With the Sydney-born shot-stopper between the sticks, the Reds had one of their brightest periods.

The club finally lifted a major trophy, winning the League Cup in 2004. Then they famously reached the 2005-06 UEFA Cup final following a dramatic run, only to lose to Sevilla.

“He was a tower of strength and a commanding presence for Boro, as good as any keeper that I can remember,” Chadwick said.

"We had previously had some great keepers but I don't think even they came close to the confidence and discipline that Schwarzer brought.

"For me and many other Boro fans, when it was announced that he would leave, it marked the end of a special era.

"Indeed, until Darren Randolph arrived a couple of seasons ago, I don't think any other keeper had evoked quite the same sense as Schwarzer did.”

After the decade up in the northeast, the Aussie moved to London in 2008 to join Fulham for another lengthy and successful spell.

“No foreigner has made more Premier League appearances than Mark Schwarzer while few players have appeared in European finals for two English clubs with no tradition of success on the continental stage,” Guardian and Independent writer Rich Jolly said.

“It says something about his quiet consistency that he is definitely Middlesbrough's finest keeper of the Premier League era and might pip Edwin van der Sar to the title of Fulham's best: after all, he conceded under a goal a game in 2008-09, another remarkable feat for a club of Fulham's size.

“He probably was underrated, but that may have been in part because he played in an era of very good goalkeepers - Brad Friedel was another who was outstanding but still spent the majority of his career at smaller clubs - and they could be overshadowed by people like van der Sar, Petr Cech and Jens Lehmann.”

Little was expected when the Socceroos centurion, after a spell at Chelsea, joined Leicester City in 2015 as cover for Kasper Schmeichel (the fact that the Aussie was playing with the son of one of his former contemporaries shows his staying power), but by the end of next season, the Foxes had a Premier League title.

It perhaps didn’t matter that he was never number one at one of the giants but it would still have been fascinating to see.

“One indication of how good Schwarzer was is that Arsenal wanted to sign him as their first choice, and that they probably erred by not completing the deal,” Jolly said.

It was Arsenal’s loss.