Bruce Grobbelaar talks to Yorkshire Life on charity work and golfing in Wakefield
PUBLISHED: 23:55 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:45 20 February 2013
ONCE a showman always a showman, but Bruce Grobbelaar has been taking his new role as adopted Yorkshireman seriously since his move to the Wakefield area
ONCE a showman always a showman, but Bruce Grobbelaar has been taking his new role as adopted Yorkshireman seriously since his move to the Wakefield area with his partner, Dr Karen Phillips, an anaesthetist at Pontefract General Infirmary and Pinderfields Hospital.
The former Liverpool goalkeeper made headlines recently when he turned out for Glasshoughton Welfare Football Club, complete with handstands and trademark wobbly knees, and continues to swing a mean golf club at Oulton Hall, outside Leeds. Grobbelaar is 50 later this year but, as he is keen to emphasise, 'I've not gone out to grass yet.' Indeed not.
Nowadays the golf is perhaps a little more serious than the football after the 1984 European Cup winner's highly distinguished and decorated 20-year career between the sticks but, having retired eight years ago, the competitive instinct of this glorious eccentric remains as sharp as ever, even when playing five-a-side at his local sports centre.
When one of southern Africa's most famous sporting exports is not turning out in charity football games and testimonial matches, Grobbelaar can usually be found indulging his passion for golf having joined the Oulton Hall club - currently in the final stages of a 7.5 million redevelopment - to assist in fulfilling an ambition to play on the South African Seniors' Golf Tour.
A four-handicap golfer, Grobbelaar is working this summer on getting that figure down. 'It's a serious ambition and one that I am determined to achieve,' says the South African-born former Zimbabwe international player, who took up golf when working as a car salesman in his homeland, when he was also a more than handy cricketer and was even offered a baseball scholarship in the United States.
'I am lucky to have such a good course near to my home. With the new improvements, it's a good test, and will be a real asset as I strive to improve my golf to the higher standard required to apply to join the South African Seniors' Tour,'
says Bruce, who joined other celebrities and local businessmen at Oulton Hall for the inaugural Eddie Gray Classic in aid of the Heartbeat Appeal.
'I have faced plenty of sporting challenges in my career, and this one is among the very toughest. South Africa has produced some of the world's finest golfers, such as Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, and Retief Goosen. It would be a dream to play on its Seniors' Tour, which is for the over-50s, so the timing is ideal.'
Not that he looks his age. It was a long way from his glory-filled Anfield days but Grobbelaar played and thoroughly enjoyed all 90 minutes of Glasshoughton Welfare's 2-1 victory over Maltby Main Colliery XI at the end of the season.
It not only spared the 'Glassies' relegation from the Northern Counties East League but ensured the survival of the club in the former pit village twixt Pontefract and Leeds. Glasshoughton can also now proudly say they have featured in the career of one of football's more remarkable talents.
Signed by Liverpool from the Canadian club Vancouver Whitecaps for 250,000 by manager Bob Paisley in March 1981, Grobbelaar was swiftly plunged into the daunting role of succeeding Ray Clemence when the England goalkeeper left for Tottenham Hotspur a few months later.
Grobbelaar spectacularly rose to the challenge and established himself as not only a wonderful showman but a brilliantly accomplished goalkeeper over more than 600 appearances for Liverpool in 13 years. His goal-line 'wobble' against Roma in the dramatic 1984 European Cup final penalty shoot-out, which prompted Graziani to miss, remains an enduring memory.
The plight of the more than century-old club having been drawn to his attention, Grobbelaar agreed not only to be the star of a fund-raising 'audience with' event but to don his goalkeeping gloves for a match.
Sponsorship and a crowd nearly 10 times the average of 66 spectators (most of whom Grobbelaar managed to chat to, or sign their autograph books) raised sufficient monies to keep the club afloat after a difficult season, as well as projecting the 'Glassies' on the national stage.
Welfare won thanks to goals by Stuart Dove and Mark Newton, although Grobbelaar, displaying all his old tricks and smiling throughout, was beaten late on by a leftfooted strike by Maltby Main's Daniel Payne, for whom he even had a congratulatory hug. 'It's been great. Though I reckon I'll be needing to rest for a week,' he said afterwards.