Goalkeepers are different

Graeme Jamieson pays tribute to Andy Goram, a goalkeeper who has reached the top of his profession despite his penchant for pints and pies

For Sale: One used goalkeeper, slightly soiled by tabloid press. World-class reactions with recently installed dead man’s ligament. No fee.

The recent news that Scottish international goalkeeper Andy Goram will be leaving Rangers in the summer was, of course, the start of media speculation as to which English club he would pitch up at. Early contenders are Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Man City, but there are bound to be many more before the days get too long.

At the risk of sounding like a Which? report, if your club happens to be among them, then this is what you can expect for your money: a brilliant goalkeeper, albeit with knackered knees, a player you can read about from cover to cover in the Sunday tabloids and a satisfying sense of entertainment in the bland modern game.

In this era of The Consummate Professional, the mavericks stand out a mile, and this one sticks out further than most. Goram is simply living proof that it is possible to succeed despite adversity.

He shouldn’t be that good. As keepers these days have to be eight-foot tall, he has a clear height disadvantage (he’s the only sub-six-foot goalkeeper in the Premier Leagues of Britain). But coupled with a career-long weight problem it seems to be asking too much of stressed-out plastic knees. Goram is consistently a stone over his fighting weight – which is a stone overweight anyway.

And yet, he has been as responsible for Rangers’ past seven League titles as anyone. Excelling in Europe and for his country, he has been the unfortunate victim of Rangers’ inadequacies in the Champions League. A supreme shot-stopper with an apparent grudge against Celtic, he has frustrated them for years with match-winning saves. When Tommy Burns asked for his tombstone to be engraved “Andy Goram broke my heart”, he was being only partly ironic.

For a two-year spell, Goram was seemingly perfect, which was why late last season an embarrassing own goal against Aberdeen was greeted with silence while the crowd drew breath. Nobody could believe it had happened. When major blunders began to enter his play this year it was uncomfortably like finding out you could do things just as well as your Dad – the man was no longer infallible. If the Emperor was not actually naked, he was certainly showing us glimpses of his underpants.

Tabloid revelations about his private life have entered Scottish football folklore. A string of affairs, boozing and gambling have fuelled many fictitious terrace rumours. Some prudes out there may be tutting but I like my footballers to be three-dimensional, not some bland, faceless athlete. To vilify a player for simply behaving as most young men do every Saturday night is barefaced hypocrisy and besides, he’s rather good at it.

But all good things come to an end, and with disciplinarian Dick Advocaat arriving at Ibrox there is no place for the maverick. Brian Laudrup rates Goram as highly as Schmeichel but also considers him “the best goalkeeper I’ve played with who doesn’t do any training”. I like to think that if somebody can still perform at the top of their game while clearly living life to the full then maybe there is hope for me yet.

So if a fat Scottish goalie signs for your club in the summer, treat him properly and he’ll reward you with many clean sheets and much entertainment. Buy him a pint, but don’t lend him any money…

From WSC 135 May 1998. What was happening this month