On This Day: 12th June – the ‘Hand of Clod’ is Born as England Draw With the USA in 2010

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For the most part, Robert Green was a pretty tidy goalkeeper. But no England fan will ever remember him for anything other than the most incomprehensibly catastrophic mistake any English goalkeeper has ever made on the grandest stage.

Green was selected ahead of David James and Joe Hart to start in England’s opening group match at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After an outstanding start which saw the Three Lions take the lead through an early Steven Gerrard strike, the USA levelled through what can only be described as an abhorrent piece of goalkeeping.

The image of Green haplessly clawing at the infamous Jabulani ball as it trickled over his goal-line is forever etched into the brains of supporters up and down the country. Green failed to deal with a Clint Dempsey shot that seemed to be travelling at about the pace you would imagine your gran could probably replicate, letting it slip through his hands.

It was both parts hilarious and excruciating, setting the tone for a pretty abysmal 2010 World Cup campaign for Fabio Capello’s men and practically finishing Rob Green’s England career in the process. There was even a brief moment where Green was looking back at the ball rolling past him as if he was in-fact looking back at a career that once was.

Green sat face down on the Rustenburg pitch, with ITV’s commentator Clive Tyldsey only being able to muster “that will take some getting over.”

Yeah, thanks for that Clive.

Green’s blushes could not be spared by any of his teammates who were then unable to find a winner and England were then left with just one person to blame.

As you would expect, England fans weren’t hugely sympathetic for poor Rob. That’s putting it kindly anyway. Green’s mistake was plastered across the front pages and headline writers worked overtime to come up with the catchiest phrase to encapsulate the severity of the error.

The Mirror and the News of the World both led with ‘The Hand of Clod’ whilst the Sun focused on the fact that Green dared to venture out on a golf trip soon after the match, opting for ‘Putter fingers’.

Further salt was rubbed into the wounds when the New York Post led with the headline “USA WINS 1-1” which rubbed many England fans up the wrong way, so to speak.

After the game Green spoke about his mistake to the press (via The Telegraph).

“Dempsey hit one and it’s one I should have saved. Full stop. It’s very disappointing, but it’s happened. The most important thing is not to let it affect myself.I had 50-odd minutes to play in the game and represent my country and I did that I didn’t let if affect me mentally.”

Green was then replaced for England’s remaining matches by veteran David James who must have been about 48 at the time, and Green only went on to represent his country once more, in a friendly away to Norway in 2012.

Green’s tale will be a sharp reminder to England’s current crop of goalkeepers. One mistake and you could be saying sayonara quicker than you can pull on your gloves.

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