Jeepers keepers! Is Flappyhandski becoming Safehandski? Mike Walters' Big Lunchtime Read

Jeepers keepers - was it really 37 years ago this month that England were knocked out of the World Cup by a Polish 'clown' at Wembley?

Jan Tomaszewski had the last laugh on TV pundit Brian Clough that night with a remarkable exhibition of goalkeeping which sounded the death knell for Sir Alf Ramsey's reign as England manager.

Never again, after that night of the long sighs in 1973, would Englishmen sneer at a Polish keeper. At least, not until Arsenal's Lukasz Fabianski announced himself in the Gunners rearguard with a series of high-profile flaps at the back end of last season, notably at Wigan.

Once again, however, the 'clown' may yet have the last laugh. Fabianski was excellent in Arsenal's 3-0 win at Manchester City, producing a fabulous reflex stop from David Silva when it was still 0-0 and another smart save, from a tight angle, when Arsene Wenger's side were clinging on to a 1-0 lead against 10 men.

We have been quick to criticise Fabianski when he has come up short - 'Flappy Handski' was one of the kinder nicknames he acquired during his previous incarnation as a liability - and now it is only right and proper that we should recognise his conversion to Safe Hands.

So, for what it's worth, an apology. It has been brought to this column's attention that, where Fabianski was once the subject of audible groans, if not ridicule, among his own supporters, new evidence has come to light that he is, in fact, a reputable last line of defence who spreads confidence among his defenders where they were once consumed by panic.

Fabianski's new lease of life can be traced back to the night he saved a late penalty from Partizan Belgrade's Brazilian striker Cleo in the Champions League.

Arsenal were 3-1 up against the Serbs, but the Stadion Partizan - as it had been all evening - was still rocking. Had Cleo converted his second spot-kick of the match, the Gunners would have spent the last eight minutes with backs to the wall amid the tumultuous racket of Partizan's orchestrated and intimidating support.

Lesser men have buckled in such a din (for sustained volume, nobody does it better than the big noises of Belgrade), but Fabianski not only sprawled full-length to deny Cleo but then produced an even better save to thwart Partizan sub Ivica Iliev.

Since then, Wenger's much-maligned Pole has looked a decent stopper. Yes, Arsenal lost at Chelsea - but that was as much down to negligent finishing as flimsy goalkeeping. But at Eastlands, he was top-class.

From John Lukic to David Seaman and Jens Lehmann, Arsenal's title-winning sides of the last 21 years have all shared the common denominator of a reliable No.1.

It remains to be seen, in the long-term, whether Fabianski has turned a corner over the past month, but the signs are promising. Bring on the clowns - they might yet deliver the title to the Emirates.

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