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View From The Town End: New ‘Keeper Joe Lumley

‘Boro fan and writer Dana Malt tells all about Reading’s new goalkeeper Joe Lumley.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur: The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

To put it mildly, the signing of Joe Lumley hasn’t gone down well among Reading supporters. The Middlesbrough goalie, who’s joined on a season-long loan deal, has a reputation for being error-prone even just from his one and only campaign in the north east. ‘Boro have seen enough and moved him on a year after he signed from QPR.

So how worried should we be? To find out some more about Lumley, we spoke to Dana Malt, who podcasts for The Boro Breakdown and writes for the Fly Me To The Moon fanzine.

Lumley joins with a reputation from last season as an error-prone goalkeeper – how bad was he exactly?

Though it is unfair to say Lumley was the sole reason Boro didn’t finish the season in the top six (because, as per our striker's patchy form in front of goal reared its head), it’s not unfair to say it contributed to it. He cost Boro points, that much is true. He is in the minuses for goals prevented last season per Wyscout (-2.89) which puts some numbers to what we saw during the season.

He was playing a new role - a sweeper - and that has to be pointed out, but he never looked confident within it, frequently slicing clearances that put Boro in trouble. At points during home games, there were ironic cheers from people around me whenever he got a clean connection on the ball from one of those situations. I don’t expect Reading to play with a high line for situations like that to arise of course, but it paints a picture of how little confidence there was throughout the crowd in Lumley.

There were errors in his shot stopping (Hull at home stands out, Blackpool in the cup too), errors in commanding his area (Birmingham at home for example) and errors in his sweeping. They were frequent enough for him to have been dropped twice during the season - by two different managers.

He remained a regular in the side despite his errors – why was that?

Because much like in 2020/21, when Boro had a goalkeeping duo of Marcus Bettinelli and Jordan Archer, it felt like a case of picking the best of an uninspiring bunch. I personally always felt that our ‘back up’, Luke Daniels, was the superior goalkeeper, but Lumley probably just edged him for that sweeper role. In the end it comes down to ‘keeper recruitment that just hasn’t paid off.

What are your fondest memories of Lumley's time at Boro?

He was impressive in what was a memorable night for Boro in the FA Cup game against Tottenham. He’s a former Spurs academy player and was in and around the same age groups as Harry Kane, who was playing that match. You could tell that that backstory was the sub narrative and individual motivation that he needed that night. He rose to the challenge of facing the most potent goalscoring duo in Premier League history in Kane and Heung-Min Son and played a part in the scalp.

FBL-ENG-FACUP-MIDDLESBROUGH-TOTTENHAM Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images

What were his worst moments?

I think Barnsley away was the low point. We got caught on the counter and he went to mop up but was somewhat stuck between staying and going because Anfernee Dijksteel was trying to recover a poor piece of play himself. Lumley was about 10 yards out from his goal at this point with his legs wide open. The next thing you know I’m watching a scuffed shot trickle through his legs, over the line and into the back of the next. After that, whenever Lumley was in possession, he was booed by a big portion of the packed away end. One fan a few rows in front of me tried to tell everyone to stop booing but to no avail.

What's his character like?

He seems like a genuinely sound bloke, really down to earth. There was a pre-match presser in January where he acknowledged his mistakes and spoke determined to cut them out of his game. Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen but he appears to be a confident but humble guy.

Do you think he could turn things around at Reading?

Never say never, but I wouldn’t expect it.