The Scottish Premiership's best performing goalkeeper, Rangers link, tipped for 'fantastic career'

When Livingston defeated Aberdeen at the Tony Macaroni Arena earlier this season, one of the more notable aspects of the game was Shamal George. The Livingston goalkeeper was in clear discomfort with defenders required, at points, to take goal kicks.

The 25-year-old had a thigh issue and was put in some awkward situations when the ball was passed back to him. Such is his quality and importance to the West Lothian side he continued on between the sticks when in other instances he would have been replaced.

“I think we are now seeing the benefits of Shamal being here and dealing with our training loads on a weekly basis,” Livi boss David Martindale said last month. “We got him in a good place and then he hurt his thigh. Fair play to Shamal, he played through three or four games he probably shouldn’t have. It was to the detriment of Shamal, to be honest, but we thought we'd try and get to that winter break and nurse him over it.”

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George is back to full fitness and will once again be a key figure for Livi when they welcome Rangers to the Tony Macaroni on Saturday afternoon. A six-figure sum was spent on the goalkeeper in the summer and he was handed a four-year deal. Two further indicators of how highly the club and Martindale value him. Watching him in action since his move from Colchester United, you can understand exactly why and any reluctance to replace him during that victory over the Dons. As his manager said “he’s got everything”.

"He’s very athletic, a great size for a goalkeeper," he said. “Everyone is looking for someone who is 6ft 6ins but it’s hard to get these players. He’s good with the ball at his feet, great reflexes, he’s agile and he’s quick across the ground.”

The impressive stats

Comfortable with the ball at his feet, George has an excellent range of passing. Livi play, on average, seven fewer longer passes per 90 minutes this season, but with greater accuracy. Not only does he average the most number of long passes per 90 minutes (12.17) in the Premiership but the best accuracy (76.89 per cent). He's solid off both feet and is so composed, especially when hitting a pass as the ball runs across his body. Yet, first and foremost, it is about keeping the ball out of the net. Only Celtic, Hearts and Rangers goalkeepers average fewer goals conceded per 90 minutes than Shamal's 1.12. No goalkeeper has prevented more goals in the league, as per Wyscout. He uses his athleticism to elevate his shot-stopping, displaying very good reflexes.

The Livi star has a really good presence in his box. He is not a goalkeeper who will stay rooted to his line, instead confident and comfortable at taking command of his box, relieving pressure on his backline.

Shamal George has been a key player for Livingston since joining in the summer. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)Shamal George has been a key player for Livingston since joining in the summer. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Shamal George has been a key player for Livingston since joining in the summer. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

It therefore won't be a surprise when there is interest in the player. Rangers were loosely linked with George earlier this week – ahead of the meeting between the two clubs this weekend – but The Scotsman understands there has been no contact with Livi. Martindale does expect him to “go on and have a fantastic career”, following in the footsteps of, or perhaps surpassing, Matija Sarkic, the Montenegro international who had a successful loan spell at Livi during the 2019/20 campaign.

"I think there is a lot more to come from Shamal," Martindale said. “I genuinely believe he can go on in the game. This won’t be Shamal’s last club. Shamal will go on to a bigger club than Livingston. I think he’s a top, top keeper, one of the best I’ve had at the football club. I genuinely believe he can go on and have a fantastic career.

“If I look at Matija Sarkic, who we had earlier on, he’s at Wolves and has gone on loan to Stoke. He’s started games at Wolves, he’s been at Birmingham and Aston Villa. Shamal reminds me of Matija slightly.”



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