Worst keepers

A goalkeeping blunder can be remebered more by fans then a 40-yard screamer. Cris Freddi takes us through some of the more memorable howlers

Let’s start with goalkeeping errors that decided FA Cup finals, shall we? There are enough for an article of their own. The most famous of all was perpetrated by a Welshman playing against a Welsh team, back in 1927. When Cardiff’s Scottish centre-forward Hugh Ferguson hit an ordinary ground shot from the edge of the area, Arsenal’s Dan Lewis had time to go down on one knee and scoop the ball into his midriff.

It’s said that he was wearing a brand new jer­sey, that the wool was still greasy and that ever since Ars­enal keepers have al­ways had their shirts wash­­­ed before play­ing in them for the first time. More to the point, Lewis seems to have spied Len Davies following up out of the corner of his eye and taken the rest of it off the ball, which slid under his body and horribly slowly over the line. It’s the only time the Cup has been won by a club from outside England. By the time Arsenal won it for the first time in 1930, Lewis was in the reserves.

The 1953 final, as we all know, was decided by a man called Stan. With Blackpool 3-1 down, Matthews hit a long cross too close to the keeper, Stan Hanson spilled it when it looked easier to hold on and Mortensen stabbed it in. Bolton, of course, lost 4-3. One Stan scored a hat-trick, another won his winner’s medal at last, the Bolton one never did.

Second Division Fulham might have sneaked the 1975 final against West Ham but for two errors by Peter Mellor. First he couldn’t hold a shot hit straight at him by Billy Jennings and Alan Taylor hit the rebound in between his legs. Then four minutes later he made an even worse hash of Graham Paddon’s shot and Tay­lor scored his second (“bloody goal­keepers” said Bobby Moore). Before the match, Mellor had watched Bob Wilson on the box talking about goalkeepers losing Cup finals. Don’t look, somebody said, but big Peter wasn’t bothered: “It couldn’t happen to me.”

Man Utd’s famous comeback in the 1979 final came to nothing when Gary Bailey went for Graham Rix’s cross (Bob Wilson, watching from only a few yards away, called it “a naive and bad decision”) and Alan Sunderland knocked in Arsenal’s late winner. The 1996 final was decided when David James, who otherwise had a good game, punched a corner weakly away for Eric Cantona’s shot to win the Double – which leads us to the lifetime achievement award, which goes to Liverpool for their long tradition of using brilliant but fallible keepers, from Tommy Younger through Tommy Lawrence to James.

Bruce Grobbelaar, for instance, cost them two European Cups. Four days after winning the 1982 League Cup final, they were successfully defending a 1-0 lead in Sofia when their new keeper came out for a late cross and presented Stoicho Mladenov with CSKA’s first goal. Next season, the same thing only more so, this time trying to catch a high cross one-handed. Miroslaw Tlokinski tapped it in, Widzew Lódz won 2-0. Ten years later, in the Cup-Winners Cup, he kicked the ball straight to Spartak Moscow’s Valery Karpin, who shot past him as he chased back. Grobbelaar then gave away a penalty and was sent off as Liverpool lost 4-2 on the way to a 6-2 aggregate defeat.

But our Bruce had learned from the mas­ter. England were level at Hampden in 1976 when Ray Clemence let Kenny Dalglish’s soft shot in be­tween his legs. When he was at Tottenham, he let Antonio Olmo’s equally easy long shot straight through his hands in a Cup-Winners semi-final. Tottenham were held 1-1 at home, Barcelona went on to win the cup.

Some Scottish goalkeepers have had genuine Wembley nightmares. Frank Haffey was responsible for about four of England’s nine goals in 1961 and wasn’t capped again. Nor was Stewart Kennedy after his shocker in the 5-1 defeat in 1975. Four years later George Wood let Peter Barnes’s weak shot bumble across him and fumbled a shot to let Steve Coppell score the second in England’s 3-1 win.

Scotland would have qualified for the second round of the World Cup in 1990 but for Jim Leighton’s error against Brazil. His confidence low after a poor run with Man Utd (he was left out of the FA Cup final replay), he didn’t hold Alemão’s straightforward ground shot and Müller scored the only goal of the game with only eight minutes left. Leighton wasn’t capped for another four seasons, but recovered well enough to help the Scots reach the 1998 finals, where he had a much better game against Brazil but not Morocco.

Goalkeepers have cost a number of Scottish Cup finals, ever since Hibernian’s Bill Harper let the ball bounce over his head in 1923. When Ally Maxwell kicked the ball against Christian Dailly in 1994, he cost Rangers their second successive Treble and gave Dundee United the Cup for the first time in their history after six defeats in the final. Two years later Rangers did better out of an honorary Scotsman, Gilles Rousset letting Brian Laudrup’s poor low cross slip under his body. Walter Smith’s understatement (“it knocked the stuffing out of them a little bit”) was put into perspective by Laudrup: “It was very important… a great blow for Hearts.” They lost 5-1.

English goalkeepers have had their moments too, of course. David Seaman against Nayim, Gil Merrick and Peter Bonetti in the World Cup. In 1970 Joe ­Corr­igan turned his back after hitting a clearance and West Ham’s Ronnie Boyce kicked the ball past him from long range. Big Joe’s facial expression is still worth the licence fee. When Watford were short of keepers before the 1987 FA Cup semi, they sent out an SOS for Gary Plum­ley, who was running a wine bar by then – and it showed. After five minutes he spilled Clive Allen’s simple ground shot for Steve Hodge to score, then let Paul Allen’s shot in at the near post and finally gave up the day job after Watford’s 4-1 defeat.

Others we have enjoyed from around the world: Pat Bonner against Holland, of course; Kazadi of Zaire letting Joe Jordan’s header in under his armpit in 1974; Antonio Ramallets and Ivano Bordon in the European Cup finals of 1961 and 1972; Manuel Bento generally, especially for Benfica against Liverpool in 1978 when he missed Emlyn Hughes’s cross from the touchline and kicked in Ian Callaghan’s shot; Félix of Brazil conceding unbelievably soft goals against Peru (in off his thigh) and Uruguay in the 1970 World Cup; in the same tournament, the great Ronnie Hellström letting a low shot in under his body to give Italy their only goal in the group matches; Luis Arkonada doing the same with Michel Platini’s free kick in the 1984 European Championship final; Juan Botasso of Argentina and Moacyr Barbosa of Brazil gifting Uruguay their win­ning goals in the World Cup finals of 1930 and 1950; Czechoslovakia’s Viliam Schrojf spoiling his brilliant 1962 tournament with the errors that gave Brazil their three goals in the final; likewise Harald Schumacher in the 1986 final.

The best of all, important enough but above all a pleasure to behold, was committed back in 1938. If you get a chance to see a video of the quarter-final between the hosts France and the holders Italy, grab it with both hands, something Laurent Di Lorto should have done. Trust me, it’s a beauty.

Surrounded by defenders on the corner of the penalty area, Gino Colaussi mishit his volley, looping it straight at Di Lorto. Earlier in the season, he’d played a major part in holding Italy to a goalless draw. Here he hopped up for the easy catch then decided to push it away. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had knocked it straight out; instead he palmed it sideways, tried to follow it as it fell into the net, crashed into the goalpost, and kicked the ball away in disgust. He didn’t play for France again but left behind a genuine masterpiece, the best-looking goalkeeping cock-up of the century, and all his own work.

From WSC 153 November 1999. What was happening this month