Goalkeepers Are Different

"Everything you've ever wanted to know about
goalkeepers and a little bit more"

Getting Shirty

In the early history of the game, teams were identified by the colours of their caps and socks or simply by armbands. But by the time the first ever FA Cup Final was played in 1872, teams had adopted their own distinctive strips and team colours, which in many cases have remained essentially the same ever since.

Green is the colourStrict rules governed what was and what wasn't permissible in terms of colours and patterns. Goalkeepers in particular, until the rules were relaxed in the 1970s, were limited to green, blue, scarlet and white tops except for international matches, where yellow was the colour of choice. Green proved most popular simply because of the law of averages - very few teams wore green as their first strip. But it wasn't until the turn of the century that goalkeepers began to take on a separate identity. Indeed, prior to the First World War, the only way a goalie was distinguishable from his teammates was by the fact that he wore a cap on his head - although it must be said that in 1909 Scottish goalkeepers were instructed to wear different coloured jersey from the rest of their teammates.

Early goalkeeper shirts often came in two forms. The first resembled a tight fitting undershirt or long-sleeved vest can often be seen in early photographs, usually being worn by the legendary Billy "Fatty" Foulke. The second was the more traditional woolly polo neck sweater. This heavy-looking thing became commonplace during the cold winter months and only really died out in the early sixties, when fashion dictated that a more athletic jersey should be worn. These light cotton garments were already popular on the continent but it wouldn't be the last time British football was slow on the uptake.

Goalkeepers were also a bit behind the times when it came to wearing a number on the back. It was always assumed that the goalie wore the number one shirt, even if in reality he didn't. He didn't need to, really. The colour of his shirt told you where he'd be playing that afternoon. Squad numbers were originally introduced as a way of identifying the players more than anything and although goalies traditionally wear the number one there's no law in the game to say an outfield player cannot wear that number. Indeed, former Tottenham Hotspur favourite Ossie Ardiles wore the number one shirt for Argentina during the 1982 World Cup Finals while fellow midfielder Norberto Alonso wore the same number when they lifted the Cup in 1978.

And he's not the only one. Alonso wore the same shirt for Argentina during the 1978 tournament while Dutch striker Ruud Geels wore the number one shirt in 1974 after both squads were numbered alphabetically. Closer to home, defender Stuart Balmer was given the same number when Charlton Athletic first listed their squad in the early 1990s.

The earliest record of numbered shirts being worn dates from the 1922/23 American Soccer League season when a team from St. Louis by the name of Scullin Steel wore numbers on the back of their tops for the 1923 Challenge Cup Final. Back home in Britain, numbered shirts didn't appear until August 1928 when Arsenal and Chelsea ran out for the new season, but that little experiment only lasted two League games and they didn't become compulory until 1939, although the experiment was repeated again for the 1933 FA Cup Final. However, on this occasion instead of both sides wearing one to eleven, the two teams were numbered from one to twenty two. Everton's goalie had the honour of wearing the Number 1 shirt while his opposite number in the Manchester City goal had to make do with the Number 22 shirt!

At international level, they first appeared in 1937, when England wore numbers on the back of their shirts for their game against Scotland at Hampden Park. The following year numbered shirts made their first appearace at the World Cup finals in France. Sixteen years later, teams competing in the 1954 Finals in Switzerland were obliged to assign a unique 'squad number' for each player although their names would not appear on the back of their shirts until the 1992 European Championships held in Sweden (although Scotland did experiment with this idea in the early 1980s). The 1954 World Cup also marked the first occasion that an England goalkeeper wore a numbered shirt when Gil Merrick lined up against Belgium.

The colourful Campos Until the mid-nineties, goalkeepers traditionally wore the same shorts and socks as their colleagues. There were exceptions. In the early 1970s England legend Peter Shilton famously wore an all-white football kit until he was beaten by a long-range shot during a mid-week match - apparently Shilton's kit was too reflective under the floodlights, making it easier for opposition forwards to pick their spot. Conversely, Eastern European goalkeepers, such as the Soviet Union's Lev Yashin and Hungary's Gyula Grosics, favoured an intimidating all-black strip. These days, goalkeepers are willing to sport all manner of lurid concoctions. None more so than Mexico's flamboyant goalie-cum-centre forward Jorge Campos.

But not all keepers are happy with their kits. David Seaman in particular was less than overawed at the all-red strip that made him look like "a packet of sweets" while former England goalie Chris Woods was once forced to wear lilac socks when playing for Sheffield Wednesday. Others have taken a dislike to their shirts purely for superstitious reasons. Arsenal goalies, for example, never wear a new shirt unless it has been washed. This practice dates back to 1927 and the FA Cup Final after Gunners keeper Dan Lewis blamed his slippery new jersey for his failure to save the goal that spelled defeat.

Incidentally, it may be worth noting that although gloves are optional, if a keeper chooses not to wear them then he must by law wear a long-sleeved jersey that goes as far as his wrists so that the referee can distinguish the goalkeeper punching or touching the ball through a crowd of players!

Shirty Tales

Ayr United's Hugh Sproat had a novel way of winding up fans of the two Auld Firm clubs in Scotland. If Ayr were playing Rangers, he'd wear a green top, but if The Honest Men were playing Celtic, he purposely pulled on a blue jersey just to get them riled.

Welsh internationl Leigh Richmond Roose caused a similar stir when he played as a guest for Port Vale in a reserves game against his former club Stoke City in 1910. Roose insisted on playing in his old Stoke City shirt and annoyed the opposition fans further by the turning in a Man-of-the-Match performance. The game ended in a riot.

Roose also insisted on wearing the same undershirt for every game - an old black-and-green Aberystwyth top - which was never washed for fear of bad luck.

French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez is often credited for the introduction of short-sleeved goalkeeping tops into the modern game, which he first wore along with fellow keeper Pascal Olmeta during his time at Marsaille.

Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has a collection of jerseys worn by some of the great goalies of the game.

Saint-Étienne goalkeeper Jérémie Janot is known throughout France for his hatred of Olympique Lyonnais, traditional rivals of the club with whom he has played most of career, and once attempted to celebrate Lyon's exit from Europe at the hands of AC Milan by wearing a Milan kit while turning out for Saint-Étienne the following weekend. In 2005 he reinforced his eccentric reputation by wearing a Spider-man themed kit - including the mask! - for a game against FC Istres.

When Croatian keeper Dražen Ladic played his 59th and final game for his country against France in 2000, he symbolically wore the number 59 on the back of his shirt.

Similarly, when Poland's Jerzy Dudek played his last game - and 60th appearance in total - for Poland against Liechtenstein in June 2013 he wore number 60 on the back of his shirt.

Bill Lloyd was once ordered to change his jersey before a league match in the 1950s after the referee complained it wasn't a regulation colour. According to reports, the former Millwall keeper had decided to wear something that bore more resemblence to something his grandmother had knitted rather than a traditional goalkeeper shirt.

Derby County's Stephen Bywater wears the number 43 shirt as a tribute to his mentor and former goalkeeping coachat West Ham United, Les Sealey, who tragically died at the age of 43.

Having twice broken his leg while assigned the number 13 shirt, goalkeeper Nick Hammond decided to take the number 23 shirt for The Robins 1993/94 Premiership campaign because he considered his old number to be bad luck.

Former Partick Thistle and Scotland keeper Alan Rough always wore his original number 11 shirt from his first club under his goalkeeper's jersey for good luck.

Peter Schmeichel used to wear a XXXL-sized goalkeeper shirt.

When Lenny Pidgeley returned to Chelsea after a season-long loan with Watford, his teammates gave him the number 40 shirt to remind him of the 4-0 defeat handed out by The Blues to the Hertfordshire club in the FA Cup while Pidgeley was in goal.

Not strictly shirt-related but Germany's Jens Lehmann was once told he would be dropped from the national side if he continued to wear Nike goalkeeper gloves instead of the pair supplied by Adidas! The warning came in 2004 ater the keeper had just kept a clean-sheet against Iran.

When England faced Romania in their first game of the 1970 World Cup finals keeper Gordon Banks had to change his shirt half way through, switching to a red shirt - England's change strip at the time - because the yellow jersey he was wearing clashed with the Romanians' strip.

A similar thing happened to Millwall's David Forde before the start of The Lions' game against Preston North End in December 2010 when the referee decided that his light grey jersey was too similar to the home side's white shirts. A red North End training top was eventually found and the Irishman went on to keep a clean sheet.

Shilton - Scotland's Number OneRomania's choice of strip proved problematic once again during a World Cup qualifying match in Bucharest in October 1980. Keeper Ray Clemence was forced to run out in a green and black Adidas shirt borrowed from England's opponents after it was discovered that the FA had failed to pack the alternative blue strip that was traditionally worn if the opposing team wore yellow.

Clemence's rival for the England shirt, Peter Shilton, suffered a similar ignominy towards the end of his international career. In 1989, before a Rous Cup game against Scotland at Hampden Park, Shilton was forced to don an opposition shirt after arriving at the ground to discover his kit included a dark blue jersey that clashed with Scotland's traditional blue.

West Germany's Sepp Maier wore a yellow Wales jersey when the two teams met in the mid-1970s, again due to a clash of colours with the keeper's original choice of kits.

According to research carried out by Dr Iain Greenlees, a reader in sports psychologist, and researcher Michael Eynon at the University of Chichester, strikers are twice as likely to miss a penalty if the goalkeeper they are facing are wearing a red shirt.

Manchester United's Tomasz Kuszczak once had to put up with having his name mis-spelt on the back of shirt and was forced to play as "Zuszczak" during a League Cup tie against Crewe Alexandra.

When Spain won the 2008 European Championship, third choice goalkeeper Andrés Palop wore former Spanish number one Luis Arconada's shirt from the 1984 Euro final, receiving his medal from UEFA President Michel Platini, who scored the opening goal in the same match following a mistake by the Spanish goalkeeper.

David Seaman became the first England player to wear a shirt with the Three Lions emblem in the middle of the chest - as opposed to the left breast - when he lined up to face Denmark at Wembley in March, 1994.

Portugal's Vitor Baia opted to wear the number 99 after he discovered that the No.1 jersey was taken following his transfer from Barcelona to Porto in 1999. He kept the same shirt number for the rest of his career.

In September, 2000, Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon caused a stir when he chose the number 88 to wear on the back of his goalkeeper's jersey while playing for Parma. Italy's Jewish community highlighted the fact that the figure was a popular neo-Nazil symbol but Buffon pleaded his innocence, claiming he was unaware of the hidden meaning, and offered to change numbers explaining that the League prevent him from wearing his original choice - 00 - on the grounds that it wasn't a real digit.

In February 2014, Egyptian goalkeeper Mahdi Soliman was forced to wear a Liverpool shirt after Ghazl Mahalla's kitman left his top behind ahead of their match with Al Ahly. With no alternative top available, the club were forced to buy a shirt from a neighbouring sportshop and opted for the kit usually worn by Liverpool's Simon Mignolet. The club still had time to stick the logo of their own sponsors, McDonald's, on the front. Al Ahly won 1-0.

Leeds United's David Harvey wore a red Scotland international jersey during a league match against Leicester City in 1978.