Date: 10th March 2006 at 6:39pm
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When exactly did all the goalkeeping characters of Scottish Football start disappearing from the game?

It doesn’t seem so long ago that no matter which team in the Premier League we were playing against, you would know fine well who their ‘keeper was. They all seemed to have so much more individuality back in the ’80s and even the early ’90s, with their own styles and traits. There was also much more interaction with the crowd which made for tremendous entertainment on occasions, which was particularly well-received on wet Wednesday nights at places like Love Street and Kilbowie Park!

Whether it was Jim Leighton’s bandy legs or Billy Thomson’s flea-bitten tracksuit bottoms, there was always something for the crowd to give the goalie abuse about. And didn’t some of them just love giving it back?!

Here are some of my most memorable…..

Henry Smith (Hearts)

Henry was an absolute legend. As a ‘keeper he was a genius on his day but was also prone to catastrophic errors, always in big games too!

‘Henry Henry drop the ball’ was a favourite chant from the Jungle at Parkhead after a particularly bad faux-pas in the ’80s and there were worse ones than that, but the big man took it all in his stride and laughed it all off.

Indeed one of Henry’s favourite ploys was to completely take the p*** out of opposition strikers if they failed to hit the target or shot straight at him from close range. Head-shaking and derogatory gestures towards the players in front of the fans with a smile were commonplace, as were his theatrical displays of pretending that a shot was extremely difficult to save when of course it wasn’t! Class.

Billy Thomson (Dundee United)

A very agile ‘keeper who seemed to make more spectacular saves in one game that most did in an entire season! As a youngster I always used to rate him highly because of this, but on reflection doesn’t a great goalie make things look easy?

The main question everyone had about Billy Thomson though, was why he NEVER seemed to wear shorts when playing. He was probably the only ‘keeper in the league who always wore the black leggings instead and he used to get all sorts of abuse for this, which to be fair he always took well.

A mate of mine to this day stands by the “reliable” story he heard about Thomson’s need for the longer garment: it was to do with his apparent inability to fit a certain part of his anatomy into shorts! Strangely enough though, no more information on his “source” was forthcoming!

Andy Rhodes (Dunfermline/St Johnstone)

Rhodes was quite a similar character to Henry Smith in that he would constantly be engaged in banter with the crowd, but I’m not sure it affected his concentration as much as it did Henry!

When we played against Rhodes the guy would sometimes seem unbeatable and he was so infuriatingly smug about it as well! He was another from the Billy Thomson school of making every save look difficult but he just seemed to get a hand to everything.

I know a few Dunfermline fans who said Rhodes’ arrogance eventually led to his departure from the club, but they were always more annoyed by the number of times they had to witness the man’s considerably sized bare backside at games for some reason!

Jim Leighton (Aberdeen, Hibs)

Leighton was brilliant when at Aberdeen. Scotland’s number one ‘keeper by far and this was made even more impressive by those incredibly bandy legs of his, that may as well have been screaming “nutmeg me” at every opportunity!

A fairly quiet guy compared to his competition (and supposedly a dead nice bloke off the pitch), Leighton got dog’s abuse from the Shed when at the School End at Tynecastle. This got to him too, as I can scarcely remember him taking a goal-kick from there that didn’t result in him falling on his backside!

Just to emphasise how bandy those legs were, even Wayne Foster was able to find a way through there when Leighton was Hibs’ goalie in the 1994 Scottish Cup tie that Hearts won 2-1 at Easter Road!

John Martin (Airdrie)

I couldn’t stand this guy or his team. They kicked lumps out of everyone and he just seemed to get in the way when it mattered – whether he knew anything about it or not was immaterial, he just seemed to be there!

Chants of “SCAB” were shouted at him everywhere he went (due to his exploits in the Minor’s Strike I assume) and he just lapped this up. He’d often blow kisses to the crowd and grasp his privates when the chant started or worse, when Airdrie scored against us!

Martin was apparently one of the “hardest men in The Pans” according to a particularly mental source of mine! Indeed this same source apparently had the distinction of fighting John Martin once and “got a draw” (if that’s possible)! Given Martin’s reputation this would seem like a bit of a result!

Alan Rough (Hibs)

I don’t actually remember too much about Roughy as I only started going to games in the mid-’80s, but anyone who sported that perm deserves a mention here!

Any memories I do have of Roughy are brilliant: regularly picking the ball out of his net and standing shaking his head with his hands on his hips! In fact I’m not sure he ever played in a winning Hibs team in a derby? What a guy!

A figure of fun as far as Jambos were concerned, Roughy’s evident love of good food and the occasional pint were often publicly lauded by the Shed, but it was never a hatred thing. How can you hate a guy with a derby record like that?!

Campbell Money (St Mirren)

St Mirren were always very tough to beat and Money was usually a big factor in this. But although he was a very capable goalie, what I remember most about him was the number of times he seemed to either get injured in games..or was he?!

Strangely enough I never saw him adopting this ploy when his team were behind in a game so questions were always asked about Mr Money’s potential Hollywood credentials and I for one was delighted when Ian Baird did genuinely nail him in a cup tie at Love Street in the early ’90s!


One Reply to “Keepers With Character!”

  • Fairly good article MrH, I like seeing the pride ye Scots have in your game, may be the only thing keeping it alive at the moment. All our fans here(Ireland) seem to follow one of four English teams(Manu, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea) and then a handful of real Celtic supporters and of course the Rangers supporters in the North, keep the pride because it may be the only thing keeping the league alive. I’ll watch Celtic play regardless of the quality of the league. Our league has very few fans and I must admit I have no interest in Irish football neither South or North.

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