Wednesday, 28 July 2010
103 Keith Welch
Position : Goalkeeper
Played : 1986-7 to 1990-91
Appearances : 205
Goals : 0
Two heroes in succession now. Keith was induced to switch from Bolton’s YTS scheme to ours and got an early chance when Dave Redfern broke a finger in January 1987. Keith made his debut in a Freight Rover tie at home to Chesterfield, kept a clean sheet and didn’t relinquish his place until he was sent off for a professional foul at Hereford four years later.
Keith had nearly everything you want from a keeper; he was agile, brave, consistent and smart being particularly good when faced with a one-on-one situation. If he had a weakness it was that being a quiet lad he didn’t really take charge in the box and could be indecisive on crosses. Particular highlights of his time at Dale included an heroic display in our historic Fifth Round FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace (and only Les Sealey let in fewer goals in the competition that year) which followed another a week or so earlier at Turf Moor in our famous 9-man 1-0 victory there. Keith channelled all his anger at the referee Terry Lunt (rhyming slang) into his play coming out to take crosses and inspiring his beleaguered defence. His best individual save was in a top of the table clash at home to Torquay when faced with their veteran striker Tommy Tynan in a one on one. Tynan seemed to have taken the ball around him but Keith hurled himself backwards to take the ball off his toes, Tynan himself joining in the applause. He was also denied a goal by an inattentive linesman on a blustery day at Maidstone when their keeper Nicky Johns looked to have taken his long kick over the line.
His move to a bigger club was long-predicted but didn’t happen until the summer of 1991 when Eddie Gray’s former assistant Jimmy Lumsden took him to Bristol City for £200,000, money that was used to finance Dave Sutton’s first tilt at the playoffs with the likes of Andy Flounders. Instead of it being a stepping-stone to the Premiership, Keith was there for 8 years making 321 appearances before moving on to Northampton. He was there for 3 seasons making another 117 appearances and getting a great reception from the Dale fans when we played them in September 1999, despite him keeping the score down to 1-0. Later that season he went 467 minutes without conceding a goal. In 2002 he moved on to Tranmere but dislocated his shoulder in his second game. He recovered to have brief spells with Torquay and Mansfield before retiring in 2003.
Was Keith the best keeper for Dale ? That's a toughie pitting him against Neil Edwards. Edwards in his first couple of seasons with us was a more complete player and if he'd kept that standard up he would be undisputed number 1. But he didn't (injuries didn't help) and I'd argue that Keith was more consistent over a longer period so i'd say the answer is just about yes.