REVIEW BY MATT EVANS – @Matt_The_Met
The position of goalkeeper has always intrigued me, growing up in the 1980’s I was lucky enough to witness some of the best the game has had to offer. The never say die approach of Neville Southall; the eccentricity of Bruce Grobbelaar through the leaden-footed Peter Shilton to the intensity of Peter Schmeichel with also an honorary mention for David Seaman and his ponytail.
I think the adage that it takes someone with a special temperament to play between the sticks is ultimately true. The attributes needed not replicated anywhere else on the pitch. The concentration of a test batsman combined with the agility of a gymnast; it takes a person of a certain ilk to be a member of the goalkeeper’s union.
In the excellent ‘Glove Story’, former Waterlooville goalkeeper Rob Stokes takes us through his childhood from the early days of his goalkeeping journey as his obsession develops into what it is today. Ably assisted by the duo of authors behind the ‘Got, Not Got’ series – Derek Hammond and Gary Silke, with hypnotic illustrations from Doug Nash – it is a veritable treasure trove for anyone interested in the world of football custodians.
The attention to detail is stunning, you find yourself nodding and smiling along as memories jump off the page; you can almost smell the PU from a pair of Sondico Pro File. Brought to life by the array of cigarette cards, illustrations, posters, programmes and adverts, all bases are covered. Just as a thought pops into our head on something goalkeeper related, you turn the page and lo and behold, there it is.
Particular highlights for me include a chapter on the now-defunct goalkeeper bag or in Jimmy Rimmer’s case, bags, and the role of the deputy keeper, where Leicester City’s Russell Hoult was informed he’d be making his League debut whilst tucking into a pre-match hot dog. A section on ‘secret goalies’ with author Albert Camus, conspiracy theorist David Icke, revolutionary Che Guevara and crooner Julio Iglesias all donning the gloves in their time, another of great interest.
Stokes’ love for all things goalkeeping really comes across in his writing. He regales us with the story of his first pair of gloves, ordered from the mythical Sukan Sports shop and his pilgrimage years later to find the goalkeeping goldmine in the backstreets of Reading. The holy grail for the young budding goalkeeper growing up in 1970’s Drayton.
It’s not all sentimentality though; the evolution of the goalkeeper’s role and the history behind their kits and equipment are all covered. Peter Shilton’s choice to play in an all-white kit to make him stand out from the crowd, the limitations on what colours they could wear and the work of Gebhard Reusch in bringing glove design into the modern era of particular note.
The book is interspersed with a number of series highlighting some of the games ‘greatest saves’ and its most legendary glovesmen. Rene Higuita’s ‘scorpion kick’; the save to end all saves from Gordon Banks in the 1970 World Cup included alongside profiles on ‘El Divino’ Ricardo Zamora; Dave Beasant and the story of his Cannonball gloves via John Burridge and a remarkable story involving autograph hunters; no stone is left unturned. A coiffured Phil Parkes with his Cossack hairspray and matching kit bag shows some of the various endorsements keepers signed up to, a topless Peter Shilton showing off the advantages of using a ‘Bullworker’ with its built-in power meter another.
Despite being focused on goalkeeping there is something for everyone here, due to the vast amount of content crammed into the book. Any fan of the beautiful game, young and old will find something of interest here. The layout is a feast for the eyes and is such that you notice something new each time you look at a page, perfect for dipping into as much as reading from cover to cover in one sitting. It is clearly a labour of love for Stokes, a life’s work if you like. From sneakily unwrapping Christmas presents knowing they would be new gloves to his ever-growing memorabilia collection, many of which are displayed here across the 148 glossy pages.
Glove Story is priced at £10 from Conker Editions and is in support of the wonderful work done by the Willow charity, who provide special days out for seriously ill young adults. It will happily sit alongside fellow goalkeeper-based tomes such as Brian Glanville’s ‘Goalkeepers Are Different’, Bob Wilson’s ‘The Art Of Goalkeeping’ and Jonathan Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’. It would make an ideal stocking filler for the goalkeeper in your life, whether they wore the gloves past or present. As Rob Stokes himself says, once a goalkeeper, always a goalkeeper.
Glove Story by Rob Stokes, Derek Hammond and Gary Silke is available from Conker Editions HERE