Keeping Up With Tradition: A look back on the most bizarre goalkeeping injuries

Life as a goalkeeper can be challenging, with heroism or hatred at stake far more than in any other position on the pitch and in more situations than most would like to comprehend. The abuse and torment is hurtled in a vulgar manor from behind the goal, and if anything goalkeeping success is keeping mind over matter. Bodies need to be put on the line to protect your goal – decision making being key – but with this comes an ever-present liability to injury.

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The likes of Bert Trautmann - a German soldier in the Second World War would play through to the finish despite a broken neck to reach FA Cup glory. This set the scene for a brave image to boost goalkeeping stock, nevertheless, there have been some weirdly wonderful yet pathetic injuries in years gone by since.

David Seaman’s mixed fortunes on his path to the England no.1 Jersey

The former Arsenal and England star is a name known to many, whether that’s for his heroics on the pitch or his trademark ponytail throughout his 23-year playing career. Nevertheless, his journey to tightening his grasp on as England’s first choice goalkeeper was both fortuitous and yet frustrating. He was first an understudy to Chris Woods when record appearance maker Peter Shilton retired from International football after the 1990 World Cup.

Woods had an impressive England record early on since his debut in 1985, with his first seven appearances ending in victories. With 15 appearances to his name by 1990, Woods suffered an unfortunate injury ahead of an April friendly against Czechoslovakia – cutting his finger open with a penknife. Despite only coming on as a half-time substitute for Shilton, this allowed Seaman to gain his third England cap.

David Seaman Arsenal 1995 - Planet Football

Woods would play under Graham Taylor and Bobby Robson but made his England farewell in 1993 as Seaman became first choice in 1994 under new manager Terry Venables. This wasn’t the end of strange injuries impacting on the pair, however. The once Rangers goalkeeper Woods missed half a season with an ear infection, whilst after Euro 1996 heartbreak Seaman missed half of the following season with knee ligament damage from bending to pick up his TV remote.


In some instances, it can be said that goalkeepers are putting their lives on the line going out on the pitch.The potential for opposition fans being behind you goal, however, is definitely more of a risk at times than the actual gameplay itself. In the modern day we are used to seeing the occasional whole-hearted verbal abuse, but very rarely we will see physical abuse. This is an unparalleled world to that of Ronnie Simpson, Bruce Grobbelaar, and Pat Jennings – All of wish suffered hefty blows.

Simpson enjoyed a fruitful spell with Celtic in the 60’s, as the Scot is revered as part of the ‘Lisbon Lions’ – The Celtic side who earned European glory in 1967 to become the first British team to lift the European Cup. This in turn gave the team the opportunity to compete in the Intercontinental Cup (Club World Cup), and in the second leg of the final Simpson was not able to take part after being struck by what was believed to be a brick. John Fallon would replace him in goal as Celtic went on to lose both the second and third legs of the tie.

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In 1979, Pat Jennings played through Arsenal’s match at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and it was the Forest fans who got the early breakthrough as a dart thrown from the Trent End pierced Jennings’ arm. Despite the blow, he would continue to earn his side a 1-1 draw and a point on the board.

As for Bruce Grobbelaar, the weirdly wacky and wonderful Zimbabwean shot stopper would get his fair share of abuse from the terraces. In England Grobbelaar’ would go down in the history books for his famous penalty saving novelties, overall flamboyance and athleticism, and an unfortunate match-fixing case. Despite making over 400 appearances for Liverpool spanning over 13 years, Grobbelaar only ran out for his country 32 times. He returned after a seven-year absence in 1992, though it was a year later that this decision scarred him. A brain scan would follow a World Cup qualifying match against Egypt a year later, after he was struck by a rock.

When emotions get the better of you

At the other end of the pitch, emotions come rushing out when a striker scores a pivitol goal, but when a goalkeeper saves the day there are next level scenes of pandemonium from both fans and players alike. Gone are the days where large-scale objects can be thrown from the crowds, but over time the injuries sustained by goalkeepers have got a bit stupider to say the least.

A number of modern-day moments reflect goalkeeper celebrations gone wrong – most recently Liverpool’s Adrian in August 2019. The Spaniard had only featured at the club for a matter of weeks before writing his name in Liverpool folklore, although as Jurgen Klopp bundled onto the pitch after a penalty shootout win, it was a fan who managed to take out Adrian and consequently left him with a swollen ankle.

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With first choice Allison out for several weeks, the reserve did continue in goal however, but had a difficult afternoon and made an error leading to the opponent’s goal in a narrow 2-1 victory against Southampton. On most occasions the roles seem to reverse, with the keepers’ themselves inflicting injury on themselves.

An outpouring of emotion comes naturally for some, and Jordan Pickford often shows this. The Everton star can count himself lucky though as he made the World Cup Semi-Final against Croatia despite a thumb injury picked up punching the floor against Sweden.

Some were not so lucky though, as back in 2010 Antonio Chimenti of Juventus was side lined after breaking his hand punching a dressing room table. And then there’s what goalkeepers aren’t good at – knowing how to celebrate goals. It can be a lonely feeling at one end of the pitch and when the odd one out runs down the pitch to celebrate with teammates it doesn’t always end well…

This certainly can be said for Federico Marchetti of Lazio – Who back in 2015 showed he maybe wasn’t quite up for running yards in an outfield position as he pulled his hamstring running up the pitch to celebrate a late goal against Sampdoria and suffering a spell in the treatment room in the process.

This piece was kindly written for @TFHBs by Harry Ewbank! - Follow him on Twitter @HREwbank

©The Football History Boys, 2020


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