Who could forget the brick wall that is Bruce Grobbelaar? The unbeatable keeper that graced the Anfield pitch throughout the golden age of the 1980s, and helped the club to a memorable penalty shoot-out victory in the 1984 European Cup final, where he successfully put off Francesco Graziani by wobbling his legs around as he awaited the Roma striker’s shot.
For those that have forgotten the iconic Liverpool goalkeeper, ‘Brucie’, as he was often known, is a former Zimbabwean football who enjoyed vast amounts of success at Liverpool throughout a phenomenal 13 years. Before he found his way to the Premier League, the eccentric star had served in the army in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, which is usually cited as the place where Grobbelaar’s carefree, untroubled nature developed.
Grobbelaar had played some low level football prior to his army days, but his big break came after, when he was handed a contract at North American Soccer League (NASL) side Vancouver Whitecaps. After just one season Liverpool snapped him up in a £250,000 deal.
Life was initially tough for the keeper, and both Grobbelaar and Liverpool struggled throughout the first half of the season. Although, the club stuck by their new man, and I bet they are glad that they did. Liverpool went on to win the old First Division, and picked up another five league titles during his time at the club, as well as two FA Cups, three League Cups and a European Cup.
Grobbelaar is undoubtedly one of Liverpool’s best goalkeepers of all time, but the later stages of his career were blighted by allegations of match fixing involving him, two other top flight players and a Malaysian businessman.
The Sun newspaper had obtained video footage in which he was heard discussing fixing games in order to benefit a betting syndicate. Although, Grobbelaar claimed that he planned to report those involved to the police, and the case was eventually dropped as the jury failed to reach a verdict. He then tried to sue the newspaper for libel, only for the case to be thrown out, and he was ordered to pay the opposite party’s legal fees, totalling upwards of £500,000. Grobbelaar was unable to pay, and was soon declared bankrupt.
Although, Grobbelaar continued to play an active role in the football community, despite the bad publicity that resulted from the allegations. Following his retirement, he decided to move back to South Africa, where he was born, in order to take up coaching.
While his time as a coach was far from the trophy-laden decade he spent at Liverpool, he did go about saving a number of clubs from relegation. He successfully guided South African side Seven Stars out of the relegation zone during his first managerial stint, and performed a similar task at Thanda Royal Zulu.
While he has stated that he would love to one day return to manage The Reds, his post-playing career has never really progressed, and he now finds himself back in Canada operating as a goalkeeping coach for NASL side Ottowa Fury FC.
Despite now working a long way away from the Merseyside club, Grobbelaar has returned to the UK on a number of occasions to partake in a variety of different charity games – most notably the hugely popular TV programme ‘The Match’, as well as an appearance in a friendly clash against Everton, which was organised to raise money for Cancer Research. Unsurprisingly, Grobbelaar’s side won in all of these games.
The top job at Anfield seems a long way away for the outlandish shot-stopper, and the odd comment about Simon Mignolet’s rubbish goalkeeping, or an appearance in a charity game every now and then is about as much of the Zimbabwean that the Premier League is likely to see any time soon. Although, whatever he does, and wherever he ends up, Grobbelaar will always be remembered as an Anfield great..