Leeds United: How wily Rob Green still manages to get blood from a stone
Rob Green is at that stage of life where long contracts are a thing of the past. Winning extensions, the goalkeeper says, can be like squeezing blood from a stone but at 37, in a sport which never stands still, Green often feels 'pleased to survive'.
The extended contract he earned from Leeds United last month, an additional 12 months taking him to the summer of 2018, needed no persuasion. Green triggered an appearance-related clause and received new terms automatically but in his present form, Leeds might have been tempted to prolong his stay anyway. Garry Monk classed him as a safe pair of hands when he signed Green eight months ago. The England international has been exactly that.
He has upheld that reputation for two decades, despite the way in which attitudes and coaching have changed. “From 20 years ago, there’s a massive difference,” Green said. “Twenty years ago I was just told to put weight on – get mass, be bigger and bigger and bigger. I ended up about 10 kilos heavier than I am now, to survive and not get beaten up.
“Football’s changed with the speed and quickness of it and you need to change your training around that. Seventy five per cent of (a keeper’s) game now is done with your feet. So much has changed that in some respects it’s just pleasing to survive!
“You reach a certain age in football terms where getting more years from contracts seems to be like getting blood from a stone so to get another one is pleasing. I’ve loved my time here so far. I’m really pleased with how it’s gone.
“I feel good, I feel sharp and I feel like I’m contributing to a relatively successful team over a short space of time. You’re very aware of your own performance and while I’m feeling good and doing okay, I want to carry on playing. I work hard on the pitch, I work hard off it and I live my life well so there’s no reason why I can’t.”
Green is one of several players whose reliability has allowed Garry Monk, the club’s head coach, to consider certain positions filled. He has played in every minute of Leeds’ Championship season and will complete every minute unless injury or suspension opens the door for Marco Silvestri. Chris Wood has scored United’s goals and Green, at times, has been seen as a beneficiary of an aggressive back four who call on him to make two saves a game, marginally more than Newcastle United’s Karl Darlow and fewer than Brighton’s David Stockdale, but the past two months have produced a catalogue of timely and crucial saves. The best of them came at home to Sheffield Wednesday as Green kept out a second-half penalty from Jordan Rhodes and protected a precious 1-0 win. “That’s as good as it gets (for a keeper) – in close games where you manage to pull something out,” he said.
“The one against Sheffield Wednesday was particularly pleasing because it felt like they were coming back into the game. The pressure was starting to mount and that released it a bit. It makes a difference and it’s pleasing.”
Monk feels indebted to Green as much for his nous as his performances. Green is, by six years, the oldest member of Leeds’ squad, with an unrivalled CV in club football and at international level. Green, who came to Leeds after his release from Queens Park Rangers last summer, said Monk had sold him a “blank canvas” at Elland Road and set out to “change the tone” at a club where negativity was rife and progress was scarce. Eight months on, Leeds are on the cusp of the Championship play-offs with eight games to go.
“When I spoke to the manager he made it evidently clear about the potential of the club,” Green said. “In recent years there hadn’t been anything to write home about. It was a period of off-the-pitch headlines. To change the tone and change the way the club’s viewed is full credit to the manager, the staff and everyone.
“The manager’s been very consistent, the players have bought into it all and as a senior member of the team, you keep on being consistent with the message. Eventually the performances speak for themselves and they’re positive for the club and the city.
“Managing myself as a senior figure in the group is about picking the moment to impart advice, to speak to players or stick up for players.”