Association Football and How to Play It/Chapter 1

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Association Football



Goalkeepers and Goalkeeping.

Goalkeepers, like poets, are born, not made. It is really the most difficult position on the field to occupy. If the half-back makes a mistake it can be rectified by the man behind him, but if the goalkeeper makes a blunder it is fatal. It is the one position on the field that I have never occupied, and I never had any desire to figure there. My ideal for that position would be a man who stood six feet and weighed at least thirteen stone, with an eye as keen as that of a hawk. He must be able to divine where and when the opposing forward is about to shoot. All the great goalkeepers have been of a fearless disposition, practically throwing themselves at the ball, even at the risk of receiving a kick from the attacking forward. Fearlessness is undoubtedly a tremendous asset in the making of a great goalkeeper. He must also have a perfect understanding with his backs, and they must trust him infinitely, which makes his responsibility all the greater.

I have often been asked the question whether the goalkeeper should train as regularly as any member of the eleven, and I have replied without any hesitation "Certainly." In one way he does not require such a severe course as a half-back, who has to go through much more work than he does. He should go in for plenty of short sprinting, so that when running out of his goal to meet any forward who has broken through he will be able to meet the ball quicker than his opponent. The reason for this is obvious, as half a yard in twenty will make all the difference between a goal being scored or not. I do not believe a great deal in gymnastics for footballers in general, but this method of training does a goalkeeper a world of good.

Punch-ball exercises are some of the best he can practise, and nearly all clubs have a ball fitted up in their training room. He ought to also practise place kicking, and endeavour to do so with both feet. I have often seen a goal scored simply through a poor return by the goalkeeper. Many allow one of the backs to take the goal kicks, but this is a big mistake, as it entails extra work on him, and he probably has as much to do as he can get through. I always like to see the ball thrown or kicked to the wings instead of the centre, where the play is generally concentrated. It is a mistake to attempt to punch a ball when it is wet and greasy and there is plenty of time to give it a lusty kick. Many a match has been won and lost through the goalkeeper attempting the former. The inauguration of the penalty kick has made the position more difficult than in the olden days. Critics say that

Illustration of a goal keeper blocking a ball coming in high.


eleven goals should be scored out of twelve. This is all very well in theory, but in practice it is another matter. It is, however, from both points of view a most trying time in any game, especially when the result of the match depends upon whether a goal is scored or saved. I shall never forget last year at Chelsea, when in the closing moments of the game Notts County were allowed a penalty, from which they scored.

That goal saved them from going down to the Second Division of the English League, and also saved thousands of pounds for the County.

When I was Manager of the 'Spurs I always made a rule that a goalkeeper should have plenty of practice in this department. I found that in a big match things were certainly different, and especially if there was a large crowd present. The eye of the multitude is concentrated on the keeper and the kicker, and there is a great strain on both, although to my mind the goalkeeper has the advantage in this way. If a goal is scored no one blames him, as it is expected. If the forward fails there is usually a loud groan.

L. R. Roose, the great Welsh International, in a well-written article for a standard book, has very well defined the chief duties that fall to his lot.

1. To prevent the ball passing between the space bounded by the upright posts.

2. To kick off when the ball has been sent behind the goal-line by one of his opponents.

Another great point where the goalkeeper must use special discretion is whether to run out to meet the forward or to "stay at home," as it is called in the football world. Undoubtedly if the forward is clear of the other players he should leave his post and endeavour to meet the forward. Every yard he goes out means that he leaves less space to be guarded. It is a well-known fact that the more work the goalie has to do the better he shines, and it often happens that the side that has been resting for half an hour breaks away and a goal results. A forward or a half-back is always in the midst of it, and gets warmed whether his side are losing or winning, but the keeper has often to exercise the faculty of patience. There have been many great goalkeepers, and it is very hard to pick out even half a dozen who stand out for their fame. In Scotland, when I was a boy, Macaulay was considered to be the principal goalkeeper, and quite deservedly so, if only for the simple reason that in International matches, especially against England, he always rose to the occasion. Moon, of the Corinthians; A. Trainor, of Preston North End; Toone, of Notts County; and, later on, Sutcliffe, of Bolton, and Robinson, of Southampton, were always to the fore, and of the pair it is very difficult to say which was the better. Both have played for England on many occasions, and at no time were they ever disgraced. Their methods in many ways were different, but the one thing they had in common was that they both knew the right moment to go for the ball. Robinson was without hesitation the more fearless, but Sutcliffe made up for it in many other ways. I have played against both on several occasions, and cannot honestly say that one is greater than the other, for what one is deficient in the other makes up for in some other way or by some other method. The goalkeeper, like the policeman, has a very happy time in comparison with fifteen years ago. In the olden days one could practically do as he liked, and it was not at all uncommon to see the goalie bundled over the line ere the ball came near him. He is protected now in every way, and he cannot now be charged except when in actual contact with the ball. This is a good rule, and has done a great deal for the game.