Female goalkeeping standards could be improved by allowing young players to train alongside male counterparts, says England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.
The Manchester City keeper, 34, has been criticised for errors at past World Cups and is aware her position is often used as a stick with which to beat the women’s game.
But England boss Phil Neville says “there is not enough respect for goalkeepers” in women’s football and that coaching standards have improved over the past 12 months.
Bardsley, who was born and raised in California, believes there is no reason why women cannot train alongside men at academy level in order to help that development.
“I trained with some great keepers at college, alongside full-grown men, and it helped me 100%,” she said.
“The speed of play, the reaction, the strength. Those things were invaluable to me as well as the mindset. They were all helpful.”
Asked if that practice should continue, she added: “I personally think so. We have done it in the past, but to be honest, health and safety have stepped in and stopped it.
“The only technical difference you will find is, if you are keeping goal as a male they will play a bit further out, but set positions are the same and techniques are constantly evolving.”
‘Standards have risen incredibly’ – Neville
The standard of women’s goalkeeping has once again been debated at the World Cup.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes believes that goals should be made smaller to compensate for women generally being smaller than men.
But former United States goalkeeper Hope Solo says that suggestion is “infuriating”, adding that improvements should be made through “better goalkeeper coaching”.
Neville also praised Argentina’s Vanina Correa after her player-of-the-match performance in England’s 1-0 win as she saved Nikita Parris’s first-half penalty and produced a string of other saves.
Neville said: “Goalkeepers in women’s football get a lot of criticism but the Argentina goalkeeper produced a performance of world-class ability.
“I think goalkeeping in the women’s game over the last 12 months, with the coaching, has risen incredibly, and I think not enough respect goes to the coaches and the goalkeepers that are performing fantastically.
“So if anyone wants to challenge me on goalkeeping standards, then what I have seen from the last 12 months is that we’ve probably got six or seven England internationals in the Women’s Super League, in our pathway, that are all of a fantastic level, and you’ve seen it in every team that we’re coming up against.
“The save from Nikita Parris was world class.”
Bardsley added: “I’ve seen my share of bad goalkeeping and I’ve had my moments. But I’ve seen some excellent goalkeeping as well.
“I don’t see why people can’t praise when they see something done well – even if it is by a woman.
“I’m not here trying to burn a bra or anything, I’m not like ‘yeah we need to take over!’
“But one of my most important values is ‘credit where it’s due’, regardless of who it is.”
‘Goalkeeping needs to be made sexier’
Bardsley, who was rested for the game against Argentina having played in the 2-1 win over Scotland, also believes that goalkeeping in general needs to improve its image.
She says that playing in goal is likened to “custodial duties” in some people’s eyes, and recognises it could have further repercussions in the women’s game, where the focus can be on mistakes by goalkeepers rather than good play by strikers.
She argues that making saves is as enjoyable as scoring goals.
“I think what we need to continue to do is make goalkeeping a sexier position, really getting people that want to play the position,” she said.
“The constant messages I heard growing up was: ‘If you’re unfit, you go in goal. If you’re no good, you go in goal.’ How do we change that? How do we give goalkeeping more respect?
“Obviously the game’s changed loads. If you look at the impact Manchester City’s Ederson and Liverpool’s Alisson have made coming, playing out but also being good shot-stoppers, having a presence.
“Those are the things where you I think have to start re-thinking how impactful that position is, as opposed to someone just doing custodial duties at the back.”