Bruce Grobbelaar is this weird guy you used to get, who played in goal for Liverpool.
Born in South Africa, Grobbelaar took dual British/Zimbabwean citizenship because South Africa was at the time rightly regarded as the pits of the earth.
He came to England in the early 1980s as part of the 'Zimbabwean Explosion' which consisted of himself and, later, Peter Ndlovu. He signed for Liverpool and became part of a team which dominated English football throughout the 1980s, so completely that in 1987 a rule was passed allowing opposing teams to field up to fifteen men against them.
Despite an enormous haul of honours, Grobbelaar is best remembered for being a strange, frightening man who was always doing funny things with his legs, assaulting team-mates, dribbling to the edge of the opposition's penalty area, and being accused of racism and match-fixing. His best-documented eccentricities include:
Bizarre Goalkeeping - Even at his brilliant best, Grobbelaar was prone to errors, many of them arising from his inability to stay in, or anywhere near, the goal he was meant to be defending. Unlike today's goalkeepers, who will normally only venture forward if desperately chasing an equaliser in the last minute, Grobbelaar's default position was somewhere just front of the central midfielders. As his gifted Liverpool team-mates - who included John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ian Rush - monopolised possession completely and Grobbelaar found himself with no saves to make, TV cameras would often pick up the Zimbabwean maverick mouthing 'fuck this, this is boring', before making a 60-yard sortie from goal to contest a header in the centre circle. Grobbelaar would also do things like catching a ball with one hand when he definitely had two at his disposal, and performing handstands as his back four was trying to deal with an inswinging corner.
The contrast between this extrovert goalkeeping and the dour efficiency of a defence led by Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson was so extreme that many pundits wondered whether Grosbelaar was some sort of impostor. The mystery was cleared up in 2004 with the leak of an document which shows that the Football League forced Liverpool to play Grobbelaar, invoking the little-known Rule 43b: 'if a team shall get so good that it is tiresome, they shall be forced to field a maniac in goal'. Manchester United fell foul of the same rule at the start of this decade, leading to the enforced signings of clown-like keepers Fabian Barthez and Massimo Taibi. After this, United appealed against the rule and were allowed to buy Edwin van der Sar.
Violent Temper - Grobbelaar was one of the pioneers of the modern tendency for goalkeepers to scream non-stop abuse at their defenders, which reached its nadir when Peter Schmeichel famously attempted to beat Henning Berg to death with a truncheon for needlessly conceding a free-kick just outside the box. Rather than scream indiscriminately at the back four any time an opponent was allowed to get within 30 yards of goal, as his successors would do, Grobbelaar concentrated on random, sudden attacks upon individual team-mates. He menaced Jim Beglin after an error in the 1986 FA Cup Final, even though they were playing Everton, and so were certain to win in the end. More famously still, he physically assaulted a young Steve McManaman in another Merseyside derby, seemingly for a mistake which led to a goal, though eye-witnesses say Grobbelaar accused McManaman of 'being so bloody wavy-haired' and 'having a name which just goes on and on aimlessly'.
Antics - Though he was always pulling weird shit of one kind of another, Grobbelaar's most celebrated antics came during the spaghetti legs incident of 1984. On the way to penalty shoot-out victory against Roma, a deranged-looking Grobbelaar bit the goalnet and waggled his legs about, causing two Roma players to understandably miss their spot-kicks. This is now an official tactic used solely by Liverpool keepers in very specific situations.
Probable Match-Fixer Edit
In 1994 The Sun newspaper alleged that Grobbelaar had conspired to fix matches with various other players and a Malaysian named Heng Suan Lim, one of these despicable pieces of shit who run betting syndicates and approach players with a view to destroying football.
Grobbelaar claimed that he was only collecting evidence and planned to take it to the Police. He had used a similar defence when found at Munich Airport with ten tons of semtex, which, again, he was 'just about to hand in to lost property', and in his days in the Rhodesian Army when he shot a colleague 'in order to stop anyone else shooting him'. A long, tedious and inpenetrable legal battle followed. Jurors were hard-pressed to make up their minds, because on the one hand Grobbelaar's story seemed flimsy; on the other, The Sun's reliability was undermined by its tendency to print things that were not in any way true (only five years before, it had published filthy, unsupported allegations about the Hillsborough Tragedy which were not retracted until 2004). To make it even more complicated, all footage of Grobbelaar in action was inconclusive, as he played so strangely at the best of times that he might have been match-fixing for years.
After studying film of Grobbelaar keeping a clean sheet against Sheffield Wednesday whilst mounted on a pogo stick, jurors eventually ruled in the goalkeeper's favour, and he sued the Sun for damages. They appealed, however, and won far greater damages in return. By the end of this farcical process, still nobody knew if the alleged cheating had taken place, but Grobbelaar had lost all his money and became football's first bankrupt Zimbabwean European Cup winner.
Probable Match-Fixer Edit
After a bit of time at Southampton, Grobbelaar became, like Paul Gascoigne, a semi-tragic itinerant figure, playing for a string of clubs for one or two games at a time. His last game was for Glasshoughton Welfare, a struggling non-league side, who played him as a publicity stunt to raise funds. Glasshoughton won 2-1 with the now-fat and middle-aged Grobbelaar playing well and also screaming in the face of a 15-year-old team-mate who had failed to call loudly enough for a 50/50 ball.
He returned to Africa to coach clubs with absurd names like Umtata Bush Bucks and is probably still there, except for the odd appearance on these slightly cringeworthy five-a-side tournaments for out-of-breath former professionals, which you inadvertently see on Sky Sports Xtra when returning drunk from a night out.
Once Grobbelaar had departed, Liverpool decided they had had quite enough of employing unpredictable, error-prone keepers, and settled upon David James as a successor.
Yep, Grobbelaar was a strange piece of work all right.