It was never going to be easy stepping into Fraser Forster’s shoes.
Vasilis Barkas, signed by Celtic for £4.5million from AEK Athens (Scottish Sun), was the man chosen to take the reigns after big Fraser refused to come back up the road.
And whilst we all know that Barkas was always going to be compared to his predecessor, it’s all getting a bit ridiculous now.
Whenever Barkas has let in a goal, you’ll find at least a handful of opinions on social media giving it “Forster would’ve saved that”. It doesn’t really matter if the Greek stopper is blameless, Forster still would’ve saved it apparently.
Kris Commons was the latest to pretty much say the exact same thing. Reflecting on Celtic’s Champions League exit to Ferencvaros last week, Commons said the following (Daily Mail, 31/08, The Verdict, Page 12)
“I’m not convinced at all by Vasilis Barkas. He’s a Greek international goalkeeper, but the jury is still very much out on him.
“Hatem Abd Elhamed took a lot of stick for the second Ferencvaros goal last week, but Barkas wasn’t much better.
“A top goalkeeper – one like Fraser Forster, let’s say – would have saved that all day long. You’ve got to expect better from a £5m keeper.”
Forster hardly saved everything that came his way
For a start, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest Forster would’ve saved the second goal on Wednesday “all day long”. Case in point – Copenhagen at home. Pep Biel easily slotted under big Fraser’s legs at Parkhead. You can also look to our game vs Lazio at home when Forster was beaten too easily at his near-post by Lazzari.
The point being that Forster didn’t save everything that came his way. You can’t just pick up goals that Barkas concedes and assume our former number one would’ve kept things out.
It’s a shame that the big Greek hasn’t actually gotten praise for things he’s done well since he arrived. His distribution has been a substantial improvement on what Craig Gordon and even Forster offered.
In addition to that, he’s shown great ball-handling when met with powerful strikes at goal. Barkas hasn’t spilled much, and clearly looks like a goalkeeper that knows how to hold onto the ball.
He also made a fine stop against Motherwell yesterday that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. A deep ball into the Celtic penalty area found Tony Watt. Before he could even control it, Barkas came roaring out and made himself big, forcing Watt to strike it off his chest as it diverted away from goal.
Oh but of course, that’s nothing Forster wouldn’t have done so it doesn’t deserve credit. Or at least that seems to be the narrative.
Barkas needs the time Fraser was given
It’s worth remembering how long it initially took Forster to impress when he first arrived at Celtic. He made some poor errors both domestically and at European level when he first signed for the club.
The difference is he was given time and leeway to make those errors. And look at how he’s improved since then. The comparisons between Forster and Artur Boruc weren’t as incessant as what Barkas is having to go through with Forster.
It’s time we all took a step back and allowed Barkas the time to really show what he can do. He’s shown some promise since arriving, but that’s been overlooked due to defensive errors that have left him far too exposed.
Pretending that Forster would save every shot Barkas has had to deal with does nothing for us. It’s time we all backed the new man and stopped living in the past.
Barkas may or may not end up a success at Celtic. But one thing’s for sure, the signs are a lot more positive than the likes of Commons will have you believe.