Chris Maxwell: Does he Deserve to be Heading for the Exit?

Before you shoot me down in flames, just hear me out.

Now, I am not saying his exit is unjustified and I understand the reasoning of his critics, but was Chris Maxwell all that bad? Was he in fact our best keeper? And was he unfairly exiled?

With reports emerging that the Welsh sweeper is set to make the permanent move north of the border to Hibernian, it begs the question: How can we define his time in PR1?

In his three seasons at the club, Maxwell made a total of 76 appearances, keeping 23 clean sheets (30.26%). He also saved 5 out of the 14 penalties he faced and made, on average, 2.6 saves per 90 minutes played.

Comparatively, in his 52 appearances since joining PNE permanently in July 2017, Declan Rudd has kept 12 clean sheets (23.07%). He’s saved 3 out of the 4 penalities he has faced and made, on average, 2.75 saves per 90 minutes played.

But when you consider their stark stylistic differences, these statistics don’t actually mean an awful lot.

While Rudd is an immense shot-stopper, Maxwell offered something markedly different. Embed from Getty Images

A brave sweeper keeper with a bullish confidence, the 28-year-old was not only incredibly able on the ball, but he also supported a lean, athletic frame which meant he was quick off the mark and mobile in the air. He was not just a keeper, but an extra defender that allowed us to play a high line.

While the common criticism aimed at Rudd is that he is glued to his line, Maxwell was quite the opposite: making, per 90 minutes, 0.67 more goal line exits than Rudd.

In fact, he could often be too eager, charging to collect the ball like a faithful hound, even if it was just out of reach. There was certainly no glue left on Maxwell’s line.

For me, the odd mistake was permissable, so long as that odd mistake didn’t result in a goal and was a product of his style, rather than a lack of confidence.

At least you knew what he would do. You knew he’d be there and you knew he wouldn’t dither in moments of uncertainty.

While Rudd unsettles the backline with his frustrating acquiescence, Maxwell instills confidence in the defence, despite making the rare miscalculation.

Another criticism aimed at Maxwell was for his distribution and lack of willingness to go long, yet Maxwell actually made, per 90 minutes, more long passes than Rudd and had a marginally higher success percentage.

It would be easy to define Maxwell’s career by looking at his final moment. A moment of real madness. But it would be foolish to judge a man on 75 minutes out of 7,423.

Maxwell’s closing chapter came at Portman Road, when in the 75th minute, the Welshman charged off his line, perhaps more recklessly than usual, before wiping out Kayden Jackson on the edge of the pitch.

He received a second yellow card and his marching orders and as he sullenly crept down the tunnel, little did we know that this was the last time we would see him in the starting XI.

Declan Rudd was reinstated between the sticks, and Maxwell, after his suspension, put back on the bench.

And even when Rudd endured a horrific run of form that culminated in the howler of the century, Maxwell was still refused entry.

Rudd looked stripped of confidence, while Maxwell was left on the sidelines with a reserve of confidence that was burning away wildly with no purpose.

From a footballing perspective, it made no sense. And I remember sitting in the car listening to former goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly Jr. live on Radio Lancashire, blasting Alex Neil for his decision to completely exile Maxwell.

We will never know what went on behind the scenes, if anything at all. But it seemed like Maxwell was coerced into leaving despite staking a brilliant claim to the number one gloves.

Chris joined Charlton on loan in a move that saw him feature for the grand total of 0 minutes. I mean, at least he got a promotion medal.

Since then, Maxwell has become the forgotten man with no future under Alex Neil, when in reality, he was and remains at this moment our best goalkeeping option.

I’ve seen better, but there are plenty worse than Chris Maxwell at this level.