Liverpool FC legend Bruce Grobbelaar was the guest of honour at a sportsmans evening at Port Sunlight’s Royal British Legion last night.
The former goalkeeper gave an entertaining talk in front of around 200 guests about his glittering career and spoke mostly about his days playing for LFC.
52-year-old Grobbelaar made 627 appearances in 13 years at Liverpool, which brought him 13 major honours comprising six League titles, a European Cup, three FA Cup winning medals and three League Cups, which is ironically a total matched by another former Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence over his two-club career.
Controversy has surrounded the eccentric Grobbelaar ever since he was accused in 1994 of match fixing, only to be cleared of all charges three years later.
Grobbelaar said: “I always remember my first big football contract when I was young boy growing up Durban, South Africa. I signed for Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada and whilst there I was told a big club wanted to sign me. I was thinking ‘could it be Liverpool or Manchester City or Arsenal?’ ‘No’, they said. ‘West Bromwich Albion’. ‘Oh right’, I said. I was unable to get a work permit to play for them, but then did I really want to play for West Brom? No.”
Grobbelaar returned to Canada but managed to get a loan deal with Crewe Alexandra. He jokingly said: “I was told to meet Crewe’s representatives in an industrial estate which wasn’t the nicest of places and it was there where I first got introduced to the brown paper envelope!”
Whilst playing for Crewe, Liverpool FC’s chief scout Tom Saunders and manager at the time, Bob Paisley, came to watch him. He said: “I thought it would be good to entertain a little bit and walk on my hands, bring out an umbrella but I was told, ‘you mustn’t have impressed them because they’ve now gone to watch Stoke!’
“Six months later, when I was back playing for Vancouver Whitecaps, I was told again, ‘two very important people want to talk to you’. I said ‘let me guess. Is it Tom Saunders and Bob Paisley?’ And it was.
“Bob Paisley was a man of very, very few words and when he did speak it was sometimes very difficult to understand him. He said to me, ‘Bruce Grobbelcheck’, which is what he’d call me, ‘do you want to play for Liverpool?’ I said ‘yes’ and that was it.”
Grobbelaar was signed by Liverpool for £250,000 in March 1981 and made his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 29 August 1981, following the departure of Ray Clemence.
During his talk, Grobbelaar recalled his nights out when travelling with his team-mates such as David ‘Doc’ Johnson, Alan Kennedy, Ronnie Whelan and a young Ian Rush.
The Zimbabwe international also talked about his famous ‘spaghetti legs’ moment, during the penalty shootout in the 1984 European Cup final, when he put opposing Roma players off like Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani by pretending to have wobbly legs, which would help clinch the trophy, known now as the Champions League, for the forth time under Joe Fagan.
Grobbelaar would play his last game for Liverpool in February 1994 against Leeds United when Roy Evans was the club manager.
“Nice man Roy Evans,” Grobbelaar said. “He was that nice I would find out I was being sold to Southampton on the radio!”
Grobbelaar played at Southampton for two seasons. “After Southampton I went on a tour of England playing for Plymouth, Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Oldham Athletic, Chesham United, Bury, Lincoln City and Northwich Victoria.”
Grobbelaar, who now lives in Canada, joined other celebrities and chef Marco Pierre White on the ITV show Hell’s Kitchen in April this year, but cut his time short by walking out of the programme after saying he’d missed his wife Karen.
He currently is not involved with football.