Many had tried but failed to hold down the role and as a result careers were damaged beyond repair. Promising young keepers like Scott Carson, Rob Green and Paul Robinson were all tossed aside after calamitous errors, and the subject of England's keepers soon became somewhat of a laughing stock to the masses.
However it now appears that a new generation of talented, young English goalkeepers are emerging from the woodwork ready to banish the generalisation that their country can't produce the best between the nets. Everyone is aware of Joe Hart within football circles but only in recent times have the names of Jack Butland and Fraser Forster touched the lips of the majority.
All three have pulled out outstanding performances during the last week alone to belly the hype around the trio and much of Europe is now looking with admiration.
We'll start with Hart, who against Swansea on Saturday evening pulled out save after save from the Swans. Despite the constant threat of Michu baring down on his goal, Hart thwarted excellently, time and time again to help City to a narrow 1-0 victory. As followers of City and England will know, this was not a performance out of the ordinary; Hart has gained City an endless amount of points with stunning goalkeeping showings over the previous few seasons.
Meanwhile as City prepared to kick off, Jack Butland was leaving the pitch with his head held high as Birmingham beat Leeds 1-0. A relatively dour game, was brought alive by some excellent saves from GB's Olympic star, in particular an outstanding point-blank range save from an El-Hadji Diouf header. Whilst Butland is still prone to making the odd error, that is to be expected of someone still at the beginning of their career. With Butland, the sky is the limit if he can apply the correct attitude.
And finally the forgotten man of the trio, Fraser Forster. Whilst Hart and Butland have received more media attention due to playing in England, Forster has been improving at a remarkable rate. A product of Newcastle's academy, Forster left St James' for greater first team opportunities at Celtic, and he's taken to the league like a burger to its bun. Awareness has certainly risen following Celtic's narrow 2-1 loss to Barcelona at the Camp Nou last week, as Forster made save after save to keep the Catalan giants out, but alas you can't keep that firepower out all game when constantly under the cosh. This performance surprised many watching Celtic for the first time, though Hoops fans will be used to seeing performances of such a high standard.
With the oldest of the three - Hart - just 25 years of age, there is three keepers here that are far from their prime. More importantly there is three keepers that have plenty of time on their side, to grow and compete against each other for a jersey that should be hotly contested should all continue on their current development paths.
Beyond the afore-mentioned trio there is yet more depth with John Ruddy and Alex McCarthy both able keepers, demonstrating their talents in the top tier of English football on a weekly basis, whilst if Ben Foster was to strip his stubbornness towards his country and return from his self-imposed exile to international reckoning, England would be huge benefactors. As an outside bet Huddersfield's Alex Smithies is a bright young goalkeeper, once linked with Everton and Villa at the age of just 19. But for injury, we could've been talking about him in the same bracket as Hart, Butland and Forster right now.
A few clubs are now developing their young English goalkeepers rather than looking abroad and it appears to be paying dividends on closer inspection. It's a policy that no doubt the FA will be keen to endorse.
As a nation you have to admire anyone who stands up for their country and wants to represent passionately. David James appeared to take great pride in playing for England as did Paul Robinson and Chris Kirkland, but all lacked the focus and pure natural talent to ever stamp their authority on the position. In terms of natural talent, it's hard to separate Butland, Hart and Forster - such are the outstanding qualities of all - and that should be enough to guarantee that England no longer suffer the goalkeeping woes of previous years gone by.
Right now the future of English football looks like it's in great hands between the posts. One things for certain, it's never looked so promising since the days of Shilton and Clemence battling it out for the jersey. That rivalry brought out the best in both players, now Hart, Butland and Forster must do the same.
image: © illarterate