Are goalkeepers above the law?

Germany's Manuel Neuer.
Germany's Manuel Neuer.
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Let the message go out; if you’re playing in a World Cup game against a German goalkeeper – stand clear.

In an incident reminiscent of Harald Schumacher’s outrageous attack on Frenchman, Patrick Battiston, in the 1982 competition in Spain, current incumbent, Manuel Neuer, gave us, if not quite a repeat performance, certainly a passable imitation of Schumacher’s assault when he clattered in to Gonzalo Higuain in Sunday night’s World Cup final.

Both were predicated on the football fallacy that, if you get the ball, you can do pretty well anything you like afterwards. Especially goalkeepers.

When I was playing, much more so than now, it was taken, not only as acceptable, but actually an imperative part of the keepers’ armoury.

Waterford, in their league winning glory years, had a goalkeeper called Reter Thomas who was so famous for his aggressive dashes from goal that he had his own personal exclusion zone around him.

Harry Gregg was another one not to be messed with. I remember Fay Coyle telling me about his experience with Harry while TRAINING for the 1958 World Cup.

He had accidentally bumped into the Manchester United man in a five-a-side but the big custodian wasn’t best pleased. ‘Keep coming, son’, he said to the young Fay. A couple of minutes later the former Derry City legend again followed a through ball – and Harry flattened him. In training! My own most vivid personal experience didn’t work out quite as expected, though. We were playing at Bangor during Jimmy Hill’s spell as manager and, in the first half, I was getting knocked about a bit by the great Jimmy Jones.

At half-time Hill admonished me. ‘Get those knees up, you big fairy, and let them know you’re there!’ A well-known phrase for ‘do them’.

A few minutes into the second half the perfect opportunity presented itself. Their winger crossed the ball at the perfect height and I could see everyone in front of me. Knees up in attack mode. I fairly clattered into the bunch – scattering friend and foe alike.

When the smoke cleared there was one man left lying on the ground with two broken ribs in his back. Unfortunately it was our centre-half, the late and very much lamented Raymond White.

The point I’m making is that I believe Neuer’s attack was no accident. It should have been a penalty; and Argentina should have won the World Cup! And the fact that the referee actually gave him a free kick is evidence to me that the official knew it as well!