A disclaimer before we get into the nitty gritty of this piece: if you twisted my arm and asked whether I’d prefer Luke Southwood to be given a proper chance or for Joe Lumley to come in on loan and be our number one, I would 100% prefer Southwood between the sticks.
However, it’s clear as day that Paul Ince hasn’t fancied Southwood since he walked through the door, and when Ince has given him a chance - notably in the 4-1 loss at Blackpool - the academy graduate didn’t put in a performance that would’ve done much to change Ince’s mind.
So, whether you agree with it or not, a ‘keeper was always going to be high up on the priority list for this summer. And the player we’ve ended up with is Joe Lumley.
Now, I would be lying if I said I had any proper idea about whether he's a good goalkeeper - the only time I’ve ever seen him play was in the 1-0 win against ‘Boro last season (where, funnily enough, Lumley nearly got on the score sheet in added time).
However, Lumley’s departure from his parent club and transfer to us has largely been met with glee from the Middlesbrough fans and a lot of heavy criticism from the Reading fans. I don’t really have much to say about how the Middlesbrough fans are feeling about Lumley leaving, but the criticism he's received from our fanbase, before he’s even kicked a ball for us, doesn’t sit right with me.
Yes, we’ve all seen the two-minute Twitter montage of Lumley making mistakes. But come on, you could do that for literally any footballer who has ever kicked a football. Ever.
Case in point: we’re all desperate to keep Lucas Joao right? And we're all pretty unanimous in the opinion that he’s one of the best strikers we’ve had at the club in recent times? Well, we all know you could make a montage of Joao that would make him look like a pub Sunday League player.
Also, with goalkeepers it is even easier to make a montage of their mistakes. A keeper's error is near enough always punished more than an outfield player's, and therefore always looks worse.
Let’s be honest with ourselves shall we: how many of us would’ve given a good review to a Wycombe Wanderers fan when they signed Garath McCleary? Or a good review to a Pisa fan when they signed George Puscas? Both of those moves turned out okay.
Furthermore, I remember clear as day Brentford fans giving us a damning condemnation of John Swift when he signed for us. And when we signed Marcus Hanhemann, he was Fulham’s third-choice goalkeeper.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that judging Lumley off the video montages and the social media opinions of ‘Boro fans, rather than waiting to see him actually play for us and making a judgement on that is, in my opinion, nonsensical.
Another very important stat that people may not have seen or just chosen to ignore is that Lumley kept 13 clean sheets last season - eight more than any of our keepers managed combined. Yes, a decent clean-sheet record is a collective defensive effort, but stats like that suggest Lumley might just be an upgrade on what we’ve already got.
Banter and criticism is banded around all the time on Twitter, and I'm sure (I hope) that a large proportion of the criticism being aimed towards Lumley is tongue-in-cheek. But if there are any fans who are completely writing him off already, I urge them to stick with him and let him at least play a few games in the shirt first.
If eight, nine, 10 games into the season we’re bottom of the league, he’s conceded 40 goals and made five absolute howlers then yeah, fair enough, knock yourself out. But I fear that there are a few fans who like criticising signings straight up so they can have the gratification of saying ‘I told you so’ later down the line if the signing doesn’t turn out to be a good one.
The term ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ also springs to mind. We all know the financial position we’re in. We can’t be expecting to be signing the top Championship players or promising young players from the lower divisions. We’re reportedly in a position where we can’t even sell players because we’d be unable to reinvest the funds.
We also all know how difficult this season is going to be. We’re going to need to back the boys from day one next season. Don’t expect anything other than an absolute dogfight to stay in this league from the moment the first whistle blows. Writing players off before they’ve even played for us won’t help with the atmosphere and camaraderie we’ll need throughout the club this season if we’re going to stay up.
Would a ‘keeper have been high up my priority list for this summer? No. Would I have picked Lumley as my top pick if I was told we had to sign a keeper? Probably not. But he’s here now, and we have to get behind him, like we would any other player.