Player profile

Bruce Grobbelaar

Bruce Grobbelaar

Birthdate: 6 October 1957
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa
Nationality: Zimbabwe
Other clubs:Durban City, Vancouver Whitecaps (1978-81), Crewe Alexandra (loan 1979-80), Stoke City (loan 1993), Southampton (1994-96), Plymouth Argyle (1996-97), Oxford United (1997), Sheffield Wednesday (1997), Oldham Athletic (1997-98), Chesham United (1998), Bury (1998), Lincoln City (1998), Northwich Victoria (1999), Hellenic (2001), Glasshoughton Welfare (2007)
Bought from:Vancouver Whitecaps
Signed for LFC:£250,000, 17.03.1981
International debut:12.10.1980 vs. Cameroon
International caps:Zimbabwe 32/0 - 27.09.1998 + 1 cap for Rhodesia
Liverpool debut: 29.08.1981
Last appearance: 19.02.1994
Contract expiry: 11.08.1994
Win ratio: 57.96% W:364 D:156 L:108
Honours: League Championship 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1985/86, 1987/88, 1989/90; FA Cup 1986, 1989, 1992; League Cup 1982, 1983, 1984; European Cup 1984
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 2 / 0
LFC league games/goals: 440 / 0
Total LFC games/goals: 628 / 0

Player profile

An athletic goalkeeper who kept virtually unstoppable shots at bay and is remembered as one of the greatest number ones in Liverpool's history. After earning plaudits in South Africa the 20-year-old was given a trial in the summer of 1978 at Ron Atkinson's WBA. He couldn't get a work permit and was due to return back home five months later when he heard that Tony Waiters, Vancouver Whitecaps' manager, was holding trials in Derby. Grobbelaar impressed and in November 1978 having travelled through three continents in four days and played in two trial games in as many days signed a one-year contract with the Canadian side, initially as a reserve 'keeper to former West Ham star, Phil Parkes. Unable to oust him from his starting place Grobbelaar was loaned to the bottom club of the Fourth Division, Crewe Alexandra, making his English League debut at Christmas 1979 and featuring regularly for the Railwaymen until the spring, saying his goodbyes by scoring from the penalty spot in his last-ever game! With Parkes gone Grobbelaar was finally a regular for the Whitecaps in the 1980/81 season attracting a host of admirers from England, most notably Bob Paisley, Liverpool's manager.

Clemence left Liverpool for Tottenham five months after Grobbelaar's arrival two weeks before the start of the 1981/82 season. The Zimbabwean was thrown in at the deep end having only featured in three reserve games for Liverpool. Grobbelaar made some errors along the way, but grew slowly into his role as Liverpool's custodian. Grobbelaar remembers it as a baptism of fire. "One old man wrote to me regularly. He said that he had been watching top-class football for 32 years and if Tommy Smith had still been captain he would have already broken my legs three times. That was one of the more pleasant letters. I also began to hear the obscenities yelled from certain sections of the crowd and I took them to heart. It hurt that they were from from our own supporters." It speaks volumes for Grobbelaar's talent that he kept his place in goal from his Liverpool debut on 29 August 1981 to 16 August 1986, playing 317 consecutive games in the most successful team in England. With half of Grobbelaar's debut season gone Paisley took the newcomer aside for a serious talk. "That Boxing Day we lost 3-1 to Manchester City and Bob Paisley pulled me into the bath area in the dressing room and he just said to me: 'How do you think your first six months have gone?' I said: 'It could have been better.' And he said: 'Yes, you're right. If you don't stop all these antics you'll find yourself playing for Crewe again.' And he walked out. It dawned on me I couldn't do all these things I used to do; sit on the crossbar and walking around the pitch on my hands and mess about. He made me realise my mistakes and made sure I put them right." 

Liverpool fans can no doubt easily recollect their favourite Grobbelaar moment whether it was a moment of madness, showboating or a save that displayed his breathtaking ability. Grobbelaar was a man for the big occasion as proved in the 1986 FA Cup final when Alan Hansen's clearance was headed straight at goal with Grobbelaar hopelessly out of position. "I got back as quick as I could and made a real kangaroo leap to reach the ball. It's something Craig Johnston taught me. If I'd tried to catch the ball I would have gone into the net with it," Grobbelaar said. Grobbelaar's most memorable moment came in the European Cup final of 1984 when his antics on the goalline in the penalty shoot-out put off the most experienced players. "Joe Fagan had his arm around me when I was going to the goal and said: 'Listen, myself and the coaches, the chairman and the directors, your fellow colleagues and the fans are not going to blame you if you can't stop a ball from 12 yards," Grobbelaar revealed. "That gave me the great lift, there was great weight off my shoulders. As I walked away he said: 'Try to put them off.' So that's what I did. There were two players that I tried to put off and they were both Italian internationals, Bruno Conti and Graziani." 

Unless he was out injured or suffering from meningitis, as in the 1988/89 season, Grobbelaar was a regular fixture in Liverpool's goal until England's u-21 goalkeeper David James took his place in 1992/93. Grobbelaar went out on loan to Stoke in the last couple of months of the season but reclaimed his place at the start of the following campaign. James made the number one jersey his own from February 1994 onwards and Grobbelaar left for Southampton before the start of the 1994/95 season. He moved to Plymouth Argyle in League Two where Neil Warnock was in charge and later joined Warnock at Oldham and Bury and continued to play League football into his 40's. After being released by the Saints at the end of the 1995/96 season his life was overshadowed by allegations of match fixing. Grobbelaar was said to have been paid £40,000 by a Far East betting syndicate for throwing a match against Newcastle in November 1993 which Liverpool lost to an Andy Cole hat-trick and also accused of trying to influence games after he moved to Southampton in 1994. Arsenal great and television soccer expert, Bob Wilson, was brought in to review tapes of the Newcastle game as well as Liverpool and Manchester United in January 1994, Norwich and Liverpool in February 1994, Coventry - Southampton in September 1994 and Manchester City - Southampton in November 1994. Wilson told the jury he had seen no evidence of match fixing as in the Newcastle game Grobbelaar had virtually no chance with the three goals and he had made three excellent saves. In the Manchester United game, which resulted in a 3-3 draw, Grobbelaar had made two saves that were of the highest order at any level in the world, which had kept his side in the game. He could not have saved the two goals scored against him by Norwich and made a "truly outstanding'' save. Grobbelaar was found not guilty on all accounts.

Grobbelaar's clownish antics made him lovable but some felt that he was too lighthearted on the field that led to him occasionally making incredible mistakes. In fact, Grobbelaar took his craft close to heart and was furious with himself if he made an error. He had acquired a different perspective on life when he was fighting in the jungles of Africa. "I never did get used to killing other men even if they were hell bent on on doing me as much harm as possible," Grobbelaar revealed about his two years in the National service in his autobiography "More Than Somewhat". "I still dream about another encounter which happened shortly before the end of my first year while we were supporting a Dad's Army unit (made of 35-55 year-old reservists) when we were fed the information that a dozen terrorists were close at hand. We selected the killing ground and laid our claymore mines in the rocks and then set our two sticks of four in ambush positions. The mines killed the first three and the rest we caught in lethal crossfire. There was just enough moon for me to see the white teeth bared in horrific screams that still ring in my ears when I have those awful dreams. Nightmares really are made of that sort of stuff as my wife and a few footballer roommates will testify having seen me wander around in the middle of the night before a big game. If war teaches you anything it is an appreciation of being alive and I will never apologise for laughing at life and enjoying my football."

Appearances per season

Season League FA LC Europe Other Total
Totals 440 62 70 38 18 628
1981-1982 42 3 10 6 1 62
1982-1983 42 3 8 6 1 60
1983-1984 42 2 13 9 1 67
1984-1985 42 7 3 10 2 64
1985-1986 42 8 7 0 6 63
1986-1987 31 3 9 0 2 45
1987-1988 38 5 3 0 0 46
1988-1989 21 5 0 0 2 28
1989-1990 38 8 3 0 1 50
1990-1991 31 7 3 0 1 42
1991-1992 37 9 4 5 0 55
1992-1993 5 0 2 2 1 10
1993-1994 29 2 5 0 0 36

A more detailed look at the player's appearances

Total Opponent
34 Everton
31 Tottenham
28 Manchester United
27 Southampton
25 Norwich City
24 Arsenal
23 Nottingham Forest
23 Aston Villa
22 Coventry City
22 QPR
21 Luton Town
19 Ipswich Town
18 West Ham United
17 Sheffield Wednesday
17 Wimbledon
16 Manchester City
16 Chelsea
13 Watford
11 Sunderland
10 Stoke City
10 Newcastle United
10 WBA
10 Birmingham City
9 Brighton & Hove Albion
8 Leeds United
8 Leicester City
8 Notts County
7 Fulham
7 Crystal Palace
7 Swansea City
6 Derby
6 Sheffield United
6 Charlton Athletic
6 Blackburn Rovers
6 Oldham Athletic
6 Oxford United
4 York City
4 Benfica
4 Millwall
4 Wolves
4 Middlesbrough
4 Portsmouth
3 Barnsley
3 Brentford
3 Crewe
2 Austria Vienna
2 Panathinaikos
2 Wigan Athletic
2 Auxerre
2 Swarowski Tirol
2 Oulu Palloseura
2 CSKA Sofia
2 Odense BK
2 HJK Helsinki
2 Widzew Lodz
2 Exeter City
2 AZ Alkmaar
2 Lech Poznan
2 Swindon Town
2 Din. Bucharest
2 Dundalk
2 Athletic Bilbao
2 Port Vale
2 Stockport County
2 Juventus
2 Bristol City
2 Bristol Rovers
2 Burnley
2 Walsall
1 Rotherham United
1 Hull City
1 Independiente
1 Flamengo
1 Roma
1 Chesterfield
1 Peterborough United
1 Apollon Limassol
1 Spartak Moscow
1 Kuusysi Lahti
Total Started/substitutions
628 Started
22 On the bench
0 Substitute
2 Substituted
Total Competition
406 League
70 League Cup
62 FA Cup
34 Premier League
30 European Cup
8 Charity Shield
7 Screen Sport Super Cup
5 UEFA Cup
2 World Club Championship
2 European Cup Winners Cup
1 European Super Cup
1 Centenary Trophy

Milestone Appearances

# Date Against Stadium Competition
1 29.08.1981 Wolves Molineux League
50 30.03.1982 Birmingham City Anfield League
100 05.02.1983 Luton Town Kenilworth Road League
150 17.12.1983 Notts County Anfield League
200 29.09.1984 Sheffield Wednesday Anfield League
250 17.05.1985 Watford Anfield League
300 05.03.1986 QPR Anfield League Cup
350 25.02.1987 Southampton Anfield League Cup
400 13.04.1988 Nottingham Forest Anfield League
450 04.11.1989 Coventry City Anfield League
500 04.11.1990 Tottenham White Hart Lane League
550 03.12.1991 Peterborough United London Road League Cup
600 18.09.1993 Everton Goodison Park League

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Related Quotes

"There was one incident I’ll never forget. We were warming up on the training field the morning after the Christmas party. Bruce Grobbelaar was leading the pack with Roy Evans behind him as we jogged round the pitch. Without warning Bruce breaks wind and as Roy was right behind him, he was the first to run into it. It was so bad Roy keeled over and actually started vomiting. All the other players then ran into it and keeled over or tried to escape the poisonous gas. It really was the most incredible sight I’ve ever seen on a training field."

Ronny Rosenthal

"I had come way out of goal to collect the back pass but Alan mis-hit it and I was stranded, hopelessly out of position. I got back as quick as I could and made a real kangaroo leap to reach the ball. It's something Craig Johnston taught me. If I'd tried to catch the ball I would have gone into the net with it."

Grobbelaar on his miracle save in the 1986 FA Cup final

"Brucie was a great goalkeeper and that save was out of this world."

Craig Johnston on Brucie's save from Sharp in the FA Cup final 1986

"He did a much better job than I did. He looked like a starfish with jelly legs to me but it worked."

Grobbelaar on Dudek's tactics in Istanbul

"The ball was running along the line and Bruce was shouting for me to let it run, but I was thinking, if I let it run, Trevor Steven’s going to get on it. Bruce timed his jump thinking I was going to do as he said, but in the meantime I’d put my foot on it and I had to shield it before he got back. He got a bit panicked about it all and once he’d got the ball, he called me something unrepeatable. I told him where to go and he hit me. I thought I’ve got to hit him back, then you realise the occasion, and of course, Bruce was a jungle fighter, so it was probably best to leave it."

Jim Beglin on his argument with Bruce Grobbelaar in the 1986 FA Cup final

"Bruce Grobbelaar had this unbelievable rat’s tail at one point in his life, I just don’t know what he was thinking!!! I don’t know about the best but Alan Hansen hair has never moved since he was born."

LFC fan asks Steve Nicol: Who had the worst hair in the Liverpool dressing room back in the 80’s?

Other Clubs

Club Season Club rank League apps League goals Total apps Total goals
Durban City South Africa N/A N/A N/A N/A
Vancouver Whitecaps 1979 NASL 1 0 1 0
Crewe 1979-1980 England Fourth Division 24 1 24 1
Vancouver Whitecaps 1980 NASL 23 0 23 0
Vancouver Whitecaps 1980-1981 NASL 9 0 9 0
Stoke City 1992-1993 England Second Division 4 0 4 0
Southampton 1994-1995 England Premier League 30 0 38 0
Southampton 1995-1996 England Premier League 2 0 2 0
Plymouth Argyle 1996-1997 England Second Division 36 0 41 0
Oxford United 1997-1998 England First Division 0 0 0 0
Sheffield Wednesday 1997-1998 England Premier League 0 0 0 0
Oldham Athletic 1997-1998 England Second Division 4 0 4 0
Chesham United 1998 Ishtmian League Premier Division 4 0 4 0
Bury 1998-1999 England First Division 1 0 1 0
Lincoln City 1998-1999 England Second Division 2 0 2 0
Northwich Vict. 1999 Conference 1 0 1 0
Hellenic 2001 South Africa 1 0 1 0
Glasshoughton Welfare 2007 Northern Counties East League 1 0 1 0
Total 143 1 156 1
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