Even after goalkeeping gloves finally arrived on the football scene in the 1960s, two of the greatest goalkeepers of their day, Pat Jennings of Northern Ireland fame and Alex Stepney who found European cup-winning glory with Manchester United, chose not to wear them at the time.
England’s Gordon Banks had his own variation on a theme when he wore an old pair of gardening gloves on the pitch, not to protect his hands but to give him better purchase on the ball.
Today, gloves for goalkeepers are paramount, protecting and cushioning the fingers and thumbs to prevent injury – as well as providing grippy palms to hold onto the ball, and padding on the back to punch it away.
Many early goalkeeping gloves were made of cotton, which not only soaked up water and became slippery, but had little effect against injury, and were totally ineffective as a shock absorber against impact.
During the last half century, the bar has been raised by manufacturers, giving gloves the dual role of protecting the hands and enhancing ball control into the bargain.
A Goalie’s Armour
In today’s game, they have become a major part of a goalie’s armour, with padded thumbs and fingers to stave off sprains, strains and fractures, and with gloves specifically designed for youngsters – ensuring they can make an impression between the posts without the risk of injury stalling their career before it has a chance to properly get off the ground.
Many goalkeeping gloves including Reydon P.T.’s Junior Finger Protection Roll 2, Junior Vortex 2 Rollfinger and their Contour 2 Flatpalms are all aimed at younger players, whose still growing bodies and developing bones are reliant on good, solid protection for the hands.
Senior players are catered for by the very latest in hi-tec, hi-spec protection from Reusch, Reydon, Nike, Adidas and Umbro.
Modern goalkeepers have a wealth of options to choose from, including 3mm, 4mm and 5mm foam palms, variable depth of padding on the back for punching the ball, the size of contact area for handling, and the cut and shape of fingers and thumbs.
Midfield players or strikers of the past would never have dreamed of taking to the pitch in bare feet – and yet it’s not that long ago that goalkeepers were expected to defend their goal with nothing to protect vunerable thumbs and fingers.
Thankfully, for the likes of Cech, Hart, de Gea et al, times have changed…..
Gear-Zone copy writer Nicki Williams is an avid football fan and Manchester United supporter. Stockists of outdoor clothing and equipment from brands such as Berghaus, Thermarest and Rab