Was Hurst correct to let Leutwiler go?
Jayson Leutwiler will be remembered as the best goalkeeper during the first ten years at the New Meadow. His debut season in 2014-15 saw him break records, achieving 27 clean sheets in 54 appearances, and play a key role helping Town achieve 2nd place in League Two.
Paul Hurst has rebuilt the squad this summer, attempting to tackle the major flaws in the team that for the last two seasons has narrowly avoided relegation. One position widely debated on forums was that of goalkeeper.
Leutwiler’s speedy reactions led to some super shot stopping, but poor distribution and an inability to command his area frequently resulted in errors with the defence unable to rely on him for support when defending crosses or corners. Defending set pieces was a major flaw in the Mellon era, especially in the 2016-17 season when Town’s central defenders were ill equipped to clear the ball. Conceding direct from a corner against Rochdale was a particular low point.
Since the change to the pass back law in 1992 goalkeepers have had to be capable of using the ball with their feet as well as their hands. Unfortunately Leutwiler’s ball play was consistently poor: players under pressure seldom passed the ball back to him to clear and his kicking often failed to find a Town player. During his worst games the ball went directly out of play all too often, putting pressure back on a side that were already struggling.
Leutwiler missed seven games after coming off with a broken nose and concussion in the FA Cup tie at Grimsby. Many fans argue he was never quite the same player after this incident, losing his confidence to command the penalty area effectively.
With news Leutwiler had signed for Blackburn (as an understudy for David Raya), fans were sharing highlights of his time in a Town shirt. Celebrating on the pitch at Cheltenham is my favourite memory. When Leutwiler returns to the Meadow he will get a round of applause from all three stands. A total of 141 appearances in the modern era of two year contracts is an achievement that cannot be forgotten.
Good luck Jayson.