Goalkeepers Are Different

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

In The Net

The Woodwork
Although the crossbar was a later addition, goal posts date from the earliest days of the modern game - albeit in primitive form - with the English Football Association decreeing in 1863 that the posts should be 8 yards apart (7.32m), a measurement which has never altered since. Often little more than long sticks, these goalposts also helped players to keep track of the number of goals scored by each team - every time a goal was conceded a little nick was put into the post, hence the phrase 'to score a goal'. Goal posts nowadays take the form of an elliptical post although the traditional wooden square posts, which were usually made from Douglas Fir, can still be found at lower levels of the game and in Scotland. It is a little known fact that though goal posts are almost invariably painted white, there is no rule within the game about this. Theoretically, they could be painted any colour you like (Tottenham Hotspur's posts were once painted blue and white, for example).

Crossbars became compulsory in 1882, having been experimented with as early as 1875 (Both Sheffield FC - England's oldest club - and Queen's Park, their Scottish counterparts have claimed responsibility for introducing them into the game). Before that, tape was stretched between the posts eight feet above the ground - as in the first FA Cup Final in 1872 - although when the first laws of the game were drawn up, there was no mention of a crossbar. As in rugby today, a goal could be scored at any height as long as the ball went between the sticks or posts.

The modern crossbar is curved to allow for the effect of gravity, which pulls the middle down when it is in position. The exact height of the crossbar is laid down in the rules of the game and is rigidly enforced, although there have been occasional lapses.

In 1989 Portsmouth were somewhat embarrassed when it was discovered that one of the crossbars at Fratton Park was an inch too low. Hearts, meanwhile, were shocked to discover that one of the crossbars at Spanish club Mallorca was lower than the other prior to a European Cup Winners Cup-tie in 1998.

In 1888, Swifts, a team based in Kensington, London, were disqualified from the FA Cup when opponents Crewe Alexandra lodged a complaint about one of the crossbars after their Cup tie had finished 2-2. They claimed that it was two inches lower than the one at the other end of the field and two inches below the height required by the rules. The FA upheld their complaint and Crewe went on to reach the semi-finals but the Football Association passed a rule that all protests about the gound, markings and goals must be made before kick-off and not after the final whistle.

Reg Cutler's destroyed nettingOn occasion, games have been disrupted by part of the woodwork breaking. In the 1994 World Cup Finals the QuarterFinal tie between Mexico and Bulgaria came to a halt when the Mexican goal collapsed under the weight of several players falling into the net. In this instance a replacement goal enabled the game to continue but in 1981 Chester had to abandon a League game when a goal collapsed after goalkeeper Grenville Millington collided with the goalpost. Other breakages of note include a seven-minute break in play during an FA Cup tie between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bournemouth in 1957 after Cherries striker Reg Cutler became entangled in the netting (see picture), and a delay of over 90 minutes in Madrid after one of Real's goalposts collapsed during the pre-match warm up before a European Champions League game.

But the first recorded stoppage due to the woodwork breaking came during the 1896-97 season when William "Fatty" Foulke brought a First Division game to a halt by snapping the crossbar after he decided to hang off it to relieve his boredom.

Of course, no mention of breaking woodwork would be complete without another Chic Brodie anecdote. "The One-Man Natural Disaster" managed to destroy his entire goalmouth while playing for Brentford after swinging from the crossbar in an attempt to put a dangerous looking cross over the bar in a game against Lincoln City...

When Swansea Town entered into the Southern League in 1911 it was such a rush job to bring the Vetch Field up to scratch that workmen were still completing the erection of the goalposts as the home side and their opponents, Cardiff City, took to the field for their first game.

In 2013 Algeria and Togo's Africa Cup of Nations match was held up for more than 15 minutes after striker Adlene Guedioura threw himself into the netting in frustration and broke the Togolese goalposts in the process. Play had continued until referee Hamada Namplandraza noticed that the goal frame had started to lean out of shape. The goalposts were eventually taken down and fixed while a crowd of 20,000 looked on.

Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence had an unwelcome guest in his penalty area during a game against West Ham United in April, 1972 in the form of a stray dog, who promptly cocked his leg against Clemence's goalpost and urinated.

During the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, the bases of the goalposts were marked with coloured tape, although the reasons why this was are not clear although it has been mooted that it was related to the ticker tape parade that welcomed the hosts onto the field of play and the officials inability to judge goaline decisions.

Back in 1974, Athlone goalkeeper Mick O'Brien broke his crossbar not once but twice during a FAI Cup semi-final against Finn Harps at Oriel Park. After taking 15 minutes to repair the first break, the game continued only for the bar to come crashing down again after O'Brien attempted to mend it further after noticing it was coming loose once again three minutes from time. However the referee took exception to the goalkeeper clambering over the woodwork and sent him off. Athlone lost the game 5-0.

In 1971 a game between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Werder Bremen had to be abandoned with just two minutes left on the clock after one of the goals collapsed. The scores were level at 1-1 when the referee was forced to blow time prematurely but the match was awarded to the vistors Bremen as punishment for Mönchengladbach not having a replacement readily available. Fortunately it didn't stop them from going on to win the League that season.

The same thing happened at Molineux when Wolverhampton Wanderers entertained Norwich City on the opening day of the season in August 1973. On this occasion the goal was fixed and the match was allowed to continue. Wolves went on to win 3-1.

The Netting
Goal nets were the invention of J. A. Brodie, a civil engineer who would go on to build the Mersey Tunnel, who took out a patent for his invention in 1890 after seeing Everton denied victory against Accrington Stanley after a legimitate goal was incorrectly chalked off by the referee. The first official use of nets date from 1891 when they were used at Crosby Cricket ground near Liverpool, then home to a section of Old Etonians playing for a club called Liverpool Ramblers AFC, and at Nottingham Forest's Town Ground. They were first used in an FA Cup Final in 1892 but it was some time before they were used regularly in International matches, which led to the odd disputed goal.

When Jack Barton scored the ninth goal for England against Ireland in Belfast in 1890, the Irish players claimed the ball had gone over the bar and when Willie Gibson scored a very late equaliser for Ireland in 1894, England's goalkeeper Joe Reader claimed the ball went past the post. It was the first time Ireland avoided defeat against England. Finally, when Billy Bassett put England ahead against Wales in 1889, the Welsh defenders claimed the ball had gone past the post.

But even when nets became widespread there were still disputes. The tautness of the mesh of those early nets was a particular problem, as the ball would often rebound. In the 1908-09 season West Bromwich Albion missed out on promotion by a fraction of a point after a referee disallowed a goal, thinking that the ball had hit the crossbar, and Aston Villa were relegated to the Third Division after a similar incident in 1970. Crystal Palace's Clive Allen had a perfectly good goal wiped-out against Coventry City in 1980 when his free-kick rebounded off the stanchion at the back of the net while Millwall's Paul Ifill saw a goal ruled out in 1999 during a game at Colchester United's Layer Road ground after the officials failed to realise the ball had hit the back of the netting and bounced out again.

Worse still, there have been occasions when goals have been awarded and even disallowed because of holes in the meshing of the netting. In 2013 there were two such high-profile incidents, the first of which occurred in Germany in October when Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling headed the ball through a hole in the side of the net in a game against Hoffenheim. Referee Felix Brych failed to spot that the striker's header had gone wide and awarded the goal that proved to be the winner as Leverkusen ran out 2-1 winners. Hoffenheim protested after the game and demanded a reply that was not forthcoming.

The following month Wrexham thought they had pulled a goal back during their match against Kidderminster Harriers. However although Dragons striker Adrian Cieslewicz's low, hard drive flew into the back of the net it also went through a hole, leading referee Amy Fearn to believe the ball had gone out for a goal-kick. After six minutes of deliberations with her assistant and players from both sides, the goal was eventually awarded. Kidderminster went on to win the game 3-1.

The deepest goal nets in Europe are thought to be those at La Romareda Stadium in Zaragoza, where they extend a full four metres back from the goal line.

The first personalised nets were made by the inmates of Durham Prison, who make around 750 goal nets a year. These are sold to a number of football clubs, including Leeds United and Sunderland, and cost up to £200 a time.

Queen's Park goalkeeper Andrew Baird was left red faced during the 1894 Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers when Gers striker David Boyd headed home unopposed because Baird had caught his hand in his net.

Port Vale striker Roddy Georgeson scored on his debut against Rochdale but then suffered the ignomy of having to be cut free from the netting by the referee and club officials after he became tangled up in it when forcing the ball over the line.

A goal net can trap even the most prestigious of goalkeepers. In November 2014 former England international David James was left rather embarrassed when he became tangled in the netting after trying to take his frustrations out on one of his goal posts. James, who enjoyed a glittering career with Liverpool, Aston Villa and Portsmouth among others, had just made a fine save for Kerala Blasters in a game against Goa but was powerless to prevent his opponents from scoring from the rebound. Aiming a swipe at the post, the goalkeeper missed, got his boot stuck in the net and ended up falling into his goalmouth.

A Championship game between Birmingham City and Leeds United was delayed by nearly ten minutes in September, 2014, after a strike by the Blues' Wes Thomas in the 38th broke the net. Thomas's shot dislodged the stanchion fixing at the back of the goal causing the net to sag and had to be hastily replaced by groundstaff.