Brian GlanvilleComment


Brian GlanvilleComment

It seems fairly certain now that FIFA will bring in legislation during 1966 to prohibit charging the goalkeeper. In effect, an unwritten law to this extent is already in force throughout the Continent and South America. Thus, Britain alone will be affected.

My own feeling is that the law is long overdue. Of course, there will be opposition to it. The health-and-moral-strength brigade will try to convince us that we are taking one more step towards the emasculation of the Briton, and his national game. Others will deplore the licence given to goalkeepers to hold up play by eternally bouncing the ball, while their forwards run into position, and their defence moves up to put the opposing forwards offside. Charging, these people will tell us, is historically "part of the game", which is undeniable.

It has existed in British football virtually from the beginning; the laws quite clearly permit it now. The goalkeeper may be charged within his own area, if he has both feet on the ground while in possession of the ball, and at any time when attempting to play the ball, in the penalty area - given the usual restrictions. In years gone by, certain British forwards were famous, or notorious, for their assaults on the goalkeeper. The most assiduous of them all was Harry Hampton, the Aston Villa and England centre-forward of pre first world war years; a relatively little fellow, whose aggression compensated for his lack of weight. He was even bold enough to launch himself against the Gargantuan Sheffield United goalkeeper, Bill "Fatty" Foulke. On one such occasion, Foulke somehow eluded him and Hampton, rushing in full pelt, ended upside down in the goal net, for all the world like a victim of a retiarius at the Colosseum. To his frantic appeals, Foulke turned a deaf ear. "Tha got oop there," he briefly responded, "tha can get thysel down!"

Now, there is a great deal of double think and hypocrisy in Britain over charging the goalkeeper. That is to say, our forwards do it at home, but they are very, very wary about doing it abroad. Tactically, in fact, they are playing under two different codes. In Britain, they know that charging the goalkeeper is countenanced. Abroad, they assume that it is not, and that they will be penalised if they do. Never is this more apparent than in certain European competitions, played on a home and away basis.

A British team which has left the goalkeeper cautiously alone in the first leg, played on, foreign soil, assaults him furiously when they play the return. I remember, particularly, a European Cup-Winners' Cup tie between Spurs and Slovan Bratislava. In the Slovan goal there was the excellent Wilhelm Schroif, who had helped Slovan to win the first leg. Almost from the kick-off at White Hart Lane, it became clear that Bobby Smith, the Tottenham centre-forward, meant to challenge, charge and bustle Schroif at every opportunity. Some of his charges were fair; some, I seem to remember, were penalised. What was beyond doubt is that they utterly demoralised Schroif, who had a wretched game. Spurs won very easily.

The year 1958 produced two highly controversial instances of charging the goalkeeper, each of them involving Nat Lofthouse, the Bolton Wanderers and England centre-forward, each of them taking place at Wembley. In the Cup Final, that May, he hit the Manchester United goalkeeper, Harry Gregg, squarely amidships while Gregg was still in the air, knocking both of them into the net. The referee, most dubiously, awarded a goal. To many of us, it seemed, first that Gregg did not have both feet on the ground, as the laws prescribe; secondly, that Lofthouse was manifestly going for the man, rather than the ball - which was in any case being hugged well out of his reach. Lofthouse maintained at the time that he was, in fact, going for the ball, but the consensus, in the intervening years, is solidly in favour of a foul charge. It was certainly a most displeasing and unsatisfactory way to decide a Cup Final.

Many were reminded of the still worse incident the previous year, when a disgraceful charge by Peter McParland, the Aston Villa left-winger, who had no chance of getting the ball, severely _ injured Ray Wood, Manchester United's goalkeeper, who had to play out of goal for the remainder of the match. But to return to Lofthouse, his second harrying of a Wembley goalkeeper took place that autumn, when England played Russia. It was Lofthouse's final game for England, and a superb one. But there is no question that it was facilitated by the way his charges demoralised Belayev, the young Russian goalkeeper, standing in for Yachin. After a few such challenges, it was apparent that Belayev's confidence had gone, that he was looking for Lofthouse out of the corner of his eye, every time he went up for a high ball.

We come now to another powerful argument in favour of changing the rule; the infinite trouble it can cause between British and foreign teams. There is no question that European and South American players, conditioned to regard the goalkeeper as sacrosanct, are simply enraged by an assault upon him. We saw as much when Chelsea, this season, played at home to Wiener Sportklub in an lnter Cities Fairs Match. Szanwald, the Austrian international 'keeper, actually kicked out at the players who charged him and the rest of the game was overshadowed by the incident. Fouls proliferated, till at last another veteran Austrian international, Knoll, was sent off the field. All this seems a heavy price to pay to preserve the so-called "virility" of football.

The writing should have been on the wall in 1949, after the disgraceful incidents in a match between Arsenal and Flamengo, in Rio. Arsenal, making a first and most distinguished tour of Brazil, found themselves in the middle of a holocaust when little Bryn Jones charged the Flamengo goalkeeper. At once, a couple of players attacked him, then police ran on to the field, and beat him on the head with their truncheons! There was no excuse for such excesses, but it was clear enough where charging the goalkeeper might lead.

It remains to deal with the argument that goalkeepers will now be permitted to hold up play. Beyond argument, this can and does happen. Anyone who has consistently watched football on the Continent will know how a game can die for half a minute, while a self-indulgent goalkeeper musingly and wearily bounces the ball to the edge of his penalty box, unchallenged by any forward. But this does not happen very often, football in South America and Europe seems to be going on reasonably enough, despite it, and in any case, there is a perfectly clear remedy in the laws, which F.l.F.A. could stress. For a goalkeeper who wastes time in this way is manifestly guilty of ungentlemanly conduct, allowing a referee to award against him an indirect free kick. Once it became internationally known that referees could and would do this, I do not think the problem would be one of any gravity.

Finally, it seems to me that charging the goalkeeper really became a fiasco in 1951, when the new law on obstruction was brought in. Previously, we were all very familiar with the photographs of defenders; arms outspread, keeping aggressive forwards from their goalkeeper. Now, such conduct rates a free kick for obstruction; a desperately frustrating and even exacerbating situation for a defence. Charging the goalkeeper, then, must go, and the sooner the better. And if it is, or was, an integral part of the game, then so, once upon a time, was hacking... 

This article originally appeared in the February 1966 edition of World Soccer Magazine.  You can subscribe for a ridiculously low sum by clicking here.