Player profile

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
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 310 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

SeasonLeagueFALCEuropeOtherTotal
Totals44062703818628
1980-1981 000000
1981-1982 423106162
1982-1983 42386160
1983-1984 422139167
1984-1985 427310264
1985-1986 42870663
1986-1987 31390245
1987-1988 38530046
1988-1989 21500228
1989-1990 38830150
1990-1991 31730142
1991-1992 37945055
1992-1993 5022110
1993-1994 29250036

A more detailed look at the player's appearances

TotalOpponent
34Everton
31Tottenham
28Manchester United
27Southampton
25Norwich City
24Arsenal
23Nottingham Forest
23Aston Villa
22Coventry City
22QPR
21Luton Town
19Ipswich Town
18West Ham United
17Sheffield Wednesday
17Wimbledon
16Manchester City
16Chelsea
13Watford
11Sunderland
10Stoke City
10Newcastle United
10WBA
10Birmingham City
9Brighton & Hove Albion
8Leeds United
8Leicester City
8Notts County
7Fulham
7Crystal Palace
7Swansea City
6Derby
6Sheffield United
6Charlton Athletic
6Blackburn Rovers
6Oldham Athletic
6Oxford United
4York City
4Benfica
4Millwall
4Wolves
4Middlesbrough
4Portsmouth
3Barnsley
3Brentford
3Crewe
2Austria Vienna
2Panathinaikos
2Wigan Athletic
2Auxerre
2Swarowski Tirol
2Oulu Palloseura
2CSKA Sofia
2Odense BK
2HJK Helsinki
2Widzew Lodz
2Exeter City
2AZ 67 Alkmaar
2Lech Poznan
2Swindon Town
2Din. Bucharest
2Dundalk
2Athletic Bilbao
2Port Vale
2Stockport County
2Juventus
2Bristol City
2Bristol Rovers
2Burnley
2Walsall
1Rotherham United
1Hull City
1Independiente
1Flamengo
1Roma
1Chesterfield
1Peterborough United
1Apollon Limassol
1Spartak Moscow
1Kuusysi Lahti
Total Started/substitutions
628 Started
22 On the bench
Substitute
2 Substituted

Goals per season

SeasonLeagueFALCEuropeOtherTotal
Totals000000
1980-1981 000000
1981-1982 000000
1982-1983 000000
1983-1984 000000
1984-1985 000000
1985-1986 000000
1986-1987 000000
1987-1988 000000
1988-1989 000000
1989-1990 000000
1990-1991 000000
1991-1992 000000
1992-1993 000000
1993-1994 000000

A more detailed look at the player's goalscoring

TotalTeam
No records to display.
TotalStarted/substitutions
0Started
0Substitute
TotalCompetition
No records to display.
TotalGoal minute period
01-15
016-30
031-45
046-60
061-75
076-90
091-120
TotalOpen play/Penalty
0Open play
0Penalty

Wartime Appearances / Goals

SeasonAppearancesGoals
No records to display.

Stats note

Milestone Appearances

#DateAgainstStadiumCompetition
129.08.1981WolvesMolineuxLeague
5030.03.1982Birmingham CityAnfieldLeague
10005.02.1983Luton TownKenilworth RoadLeague
15017.12.1983Notts CountyAnfieldLeague
20029.09.1984Sheffield WednesdayAnfieldLeague
25017.05.1985WatfordAnfieldLeague
30005.03.1986QPRAnfieldLeague Cup
35025.02.1987SouthamptonAnfieldLeague Cup
40013.04.1988Nottingham ForestAnfieldLeague
45004.11.1989Coventry CityAnfieldLeague
50004.11.1990TottenhamWhite Hart LaneLeague
55003.12.1991Peterborough UnitedLondon RoadLeague Cup
60018.09.1993EvertonGoodison ParkLeague

Milestone Goals

#MinuteDateAgainstStadiumCompetition
No records to display.

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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?

The player was in the squad the following season

SeasonShirt #Position
1980-1981 * Goalkeeper
1981-1982 * Goalkeeper
1982-1983 * Goalkeeper
1983-1984 * Goalkeeper
1984-1985 * Goalkeeper
1985-1986 * Goalkeeper
1986-1987 * Goalkeeper
1987-1988 * Goalkeeper
1988-1989 * Goalkeeper
1989-1990 * Goalkeeper
1990-1991 * Goalkeeper
1991-1992 * Goalkeeper
1992-1993 * Goalkeeper
1993-1994 1 Goalkeeper
* Note, Since the 1993-94 season players have been allocated a fixed number.

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