At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures - be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.Robert Green has agreed to join Queens Park Rangers on a two-year deal after rejecting an improved West Ham United contract offer. Green, who is on international duty at Euro 2012, was a free agent after his contract with the promoted Hammers came to an end. His deal with Queens Park Rangers will begin on July 1. The Loftus Road outfit have been in talks with the 32-year-old for some time and manager Mark Hughes is clearly delighted to have landed his target. "It was important we brought another quality keeper into the group," he told the club’s official site. "Rob is obviously someone with vast experience at international and Premier League level and his pedigree speaks for itself. He's got all the characteristics of a top keeper and he'll be a huge addition for us who will stimulate the goalkeeping group, which can only be good for the squad as a whole."
Green will now compete with current QPR goalkeepers Paddy Kenny and Radek Cerny for the No. 1 spot, although the former is widely expected to depart before the new season begins. The 6ft 3in keeper has amassed over 480 club games during a 13-year professional career that started at Norwich. He was signed by Alan Pardew in 2006 for £2m and went on to make more than 240 first team appearances over a six year period for the Hammers. Green's last game for the East London side was at Wembley in May, when West Ham beat Blackpool 2-1 in the Championship play-off final. The Hammers were keen to retain Green, with joint-chairman David Gold writing on Twitter last month: "Robert Green is a free agent, he has chosen to move on. Nobody wants Rob to leave but nothing is forever, he must do what's best for him and we must do what's best for us." Green's refusal to sign a new contract despite being offered a healthy incentive to do so - reported to be double that of his existing salary - meant that he was always likely to leave on a free transfer this summer. His departure means that Stephen Henderson and new signing Jussi Jasskelainen will now do battle for the vacant number one shirt.
The England backup goalkeeper made his international debut against Colombia in 2005, but was out of the England side until 2009 when he played a role in the successful qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He retained his place in Fabio Capello's squad for the tournament and was picked to face the United States in England's opening group game. That match will forever be remembered for Green allowing Clint Dempsey's 25-yard shot to squirm under his body and roll over the line in a 1-1 draw. Such is the lot of the goalkeeper, mused Eduardo Galeano, that the man called doorman, goalie, bouncer could just as well be called martyr, pay-all, penitent or punchbag. They say where he walks, the grass never grows.
Just as moss will never grow on the memory of a fine Spring afternoon when Green produced the game of his life; standing unbowed at The Emirates in the face of a 30 shot Arsenal cannonade that prompted one Times journalist to remark: "Rarely in the history of the Premiership, let alone English or, perhaps, world football, can a match of such a one-sided nature have ended in favour of the oppressed." Not that Green was just about making saves that day in 2007, for he kept goal in the truest sense of the term. His judgment in leaving his line was impeccable as he came out to deny Freddy Ljungberg a shot in the 11th minute and again when he advanced to thwart Jérémie Aliadière's attempt to beat him at the near post in the 66th. His handling was flawless and he knew all his angles. His numerous saves jostled one another for superlatives, the one-handed stretch to keep out a point-blank header from Gilberto Silva just pipping an earlier dive to palm away the Brazilian's shot. "I'm here to make saves and keep clean sheets," said the man whom the team stood and applauded as he entered the dressing room after the final whistle, "it's the goalkeeper's job." After such a display this was a bit like Horatius saying he was just there to keep bridges.
In 1930, Albert Camus was Saint Peter guarding the gate for the University of Algeria's football team. He had been goalkeeper since he was a beggar child, because in that position your shoes don't wear out as fast. During his years in the net, Camus learned many things but chiefly he learned to "win without feeling like God and to lose without feeling like rubbish." It is not a skill so easily acquired, but it is something every good goalkeeper with aspirations for longevity comes to intuitively understand. The keeper wears the number one for a reason. Is he the first to be paid? asks Galeano, before answering his own question. No, the first to pay. It's always the keeper's fault. And if it isn't, he still gets blamed. When the team has a bad afternoon, he's the one who pays the bill, expiating the sins of others under a rain of flying balls. It is to his credit that Green has since recovered from South Africa, winning the latest of twelve caps representing his country against Norway in May, in one of England's Euro 2012 warm-up games.
Now Green has decided he will be paid; embarking on one last adventure, and in all probability, more than doubling his money by signing for someone else. Yes, generally goalkeepers last longer than a jar of reduced fat mayonnaise in Yakubu’s fridge, but they can’t keep playing forever, reasoned Iain Macintosh in a piece he wrote in defence of Green. He is 32 and this will surely be his last gigantic deal before he enters a world of rolling-contracts and pay-as-you-play. Why shouldn’t he cash in? What's wrong, ponders Macintosh, with admitting: "You know what? People are tripping over themselves to pay me money now, but in 10 years time, I’ll be lucky to get a seat on a sofa in a TV studio, helpfully pointing out that a winger ran very fast or that it only takes a second to score a goal. I don’t want to be a manager, I don’t want to be a coach and I do NOT want to end up like Neil Webb, traipsing up and down the street delivering your bills. I’ve got a wife and I’ve got kids and I want to make sure they’ve got everything they need for the rest of their lives. I had to put up with the entire nation calling me a butter-fingered twatbag in 2010, so I don’t owe anyone anything. I love West Ham, I’ll always love West Ham, but Mr Fernandes here wants to pay me £50,000 a week to catch a ball every now and then and that’s fine by me."
West Ham fans, even the terrifying ones who have sticky-out veins on their foreheads and shout at passing clouds, would struggle to find fault with that, thinks Macintosh. Green was largely blameless for their relegation but stuck around long enough to repair the damage, even at the expense of his international ambitions. He hasn’t criticised anyone, he hasn’t hitched his skirts up at every passing scout and the last thing he did in a West Ham shirt was to help keep Blackpool at bay at Wembley. He has done enough in his six years service- perhaps even in that one famous game- to be mentioned in any discussion of the pantheon of West Ham goalkeeping greats. Yet when he lines up against his former team-mates on September 29 there may well be a small section of fans, faces contorted in rage, who will let the spittle and invectives fly, who will accuse the man of greed or disloyalty; who will choose to remember those rare occasions when he was left to look ridiculous, when the ball skid or his fingers of steel turned to silk. But I won't be among them. Instead, my mind will doubtless drift back to that warm day in 2007 and one of the finest individual performances in a West Ham shirt I have ever witnessed. Then I'll smile, as would Camus, assailed by thoughts of a life that wasn't mine anymore, but one in which I'd found the simplest and most lasting joys. Thanks for the memories Greeno and best of luck to you.