David Preece: The curious case of Bruce Grobbelaar’s sunglasses and The Crazy Gang!

Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar in action against Sunderland in the 1992 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar in action against Sunderland in the 1992 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
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This time last week I was in exactly the same position I am now.

Sat in front of this laptop having coffee fed to me via an intravenous drip and going through a repetitive cycle of typing words and deleting them until they make sense. To me, anyway.

I’ve convinced myself this is “the creative process”, although what it mostly creates is a sense of panic as I push back reasonable deadlines agreed with Ross, the Echo’s Head of Sport, with excuses of there being nothing to write about.

Or at least when it comes to writing about Sunderland, that there’s nothing new to be said that hasn’t been said before in the Groundhog type of existence we currently find ourselves in.

There’ll be other defeats like the Boro one before the season’s end comes, and there’ll be other Wednesdays to write about them.

So, as I sat waiting for inspiration to hit me, I flicked channels on the TV and ESPN were showing the 1988 FA Cup final.

Perfect, as I was due to be at Wembley on Sunday to watch Spurs take on the new and true incarnation of that fairytale winning Wimbledon side.

It was a welcome distraction and, as one eye on the game became two, I gave it my full focus.

It was Alan Hansen that did it for me. A little ungainly in his very upright posture, but somehow stylish, every possession of the ball he had became an event. As a spectacle, the game is more intriguing than breathtaking – like watching a play at the theatre.

Seeing the nuanced detail between the characters becomes far more interesting than big scenes.

Referee Brian Hill blows for a penalty when Clive Goodyear clearly plays the ball on his tackle with John Aldridge.

Dave Beasant lurches to his left to beat away the resulting spot-kick and becomes the hero of the day. Justice served.

The final whistle sounds and hugs of triumph and consolation are shared, along with some saliva. The two keepers, the victorious Beasant and the humbled Bruce Grobbelaar, share a moment.

They greet and Beasant touches Grobbelaar’s face with a consolatory hand and goes to move away, but the Liverpool keeper pulls him back.

Words are exchanged, and Beasant gestures over to the tunnel area to ask if they can swap shirts. Beasant turns away and moves on to Beardsley, Ronnie Moran . . . hold on a minute. What was that? It was like my brain had recoiled, rewinding the footage and replaying it in my own head. So I reached for the remote and did it physically.

I take it back to them coming together and watch it again. Did . . . did Bruce Grobbleaar just pass Dave Beasant a brown envelope and say “This is for you”.

I’d watched this game many times, but I’d never noticed it. Surely there must be an explanation above the few that were circulating my mind because of the allegations levelled at Grobbelaar that he was later cleared of.

My reasoning wouldn’t accept it though. This guy was one of my goalkeeping heroes, and still was – despite those court cases.

It simply couldn’t be what I, and many others on Twitter after I had asked the question with the accompanying clip, had assumed. And even if it was what I first assumed, I still had no idea why.

Maybe it had been a side bet, Grobbelaar offering up the equivalent of his win bonus if Wimbledon had done the unthinkable.

An act of bravado, such was his overwhelming confidence, that he was paying out on. Could it be something Beasant had left in the goalmouth?

I was as puzzled as every one of the 88,000 people who had clicked on to the clip, saw what I did and reacted the same; with incredulity. Apart from two people that is.

A mate of mine, Eddie Kehoe, a goalkeeper coach and Liverpool fan, messaged me that he remembered a Bruce doing a photo shoot wearing a pair of novelty Wimbledon tennis sunglasses and Beasant making an appearance with them on Wogan a few days later saying they were a gift from Grobbelaar.

So I went back to look more closely at the clip. Could it be a glasses case?

It still looked like a folded up envelope to me, but then I received another message.

Another goalkeeper coach mate of mine, Glen Johnson, had got in touch with Dave Beasant’s son, Sam, to get to the bottom of it and he said: “Yes, they were tennis sunglasses. Bruce said he would be having such an easy game he would be able to walk down to Dad’s goal during the game. It didn’t quite work out like that.”

That was it then. Case closed. Nothing sinister, underhand or involving money.

Just a stupid pair of sunglasses shaped like two tennis rackets. Sam says he actually still has the glasses tucked away upstairs in his loft and, while they’re a great piece of memorabilia with a story attached to them, they probably aren’t worth a great deal.

But that sheepish look on Grobbelaar’s face as he hands them over to his dad? Well, that’s priceless.