A good goalkeeper, like a poet, is born, not made. Nature has all to do with the art in its perfection, yet very much call be done by early training, tuition and practice. A "natural" goalkeeper seems to keep his form without much effort. All the training possible will not make a man a goalkeeper. You must coach him, explain the finer points of the game to him, and show him the easiest and best way to take the ball to the greatest advantage, and how to meet this or that movement of the attacking forwards, and then he will be something more than a mere physical entity or specimen. Granted that the aspirant has the inherent and essential qualities in him to become successful, it is the early work and coaching that are the determining causes of after success, without which he can never hope to attain the ideal.
In the other positions in the field success is dependent upon combined effort and upon the dovetailing, of one player's work with another. With the goalkeeper it is a different matter entirely. He has to fill a position in which the principle is forced upon him that "it is good for a man to be alone" - a position which is distinctly personal and decidedly individualistic in character. His is the most onerous post, and one which is equally responsible. Any other player's mistakes may be readily excused, but a single slip on the part of the last line of defence may be classed among the list of the unpardonable sins - especially when the International Selection Committee is on business bent. His one mistake or lapse may prove more costly than a score of errors committed by all his fellow clubmates put together....
Everything that the aspirant to first-class rank attempts to accomplish should be marked by a steady, quiet confidence. There should be nothing, to denote the novice about his play, albeit a champion in embryo. As a rule, men are clever at a game because they are fond of it, and when a man is fond of anything in which he takes part, he does not usually or as a rule scamp such work as he participates in.
Players with intelligence to devise a new move or system, and application to carry it out, will go tar. And for that reason the possession of personal conception and execution is desirable, although a "player with an opinion" nowadays which is not in consonance with the stereotyped methods of finessing and working for openings is shunned to no small degree, as though lie carried about with him the germs of an infectious disease.
A goalkeeper, however, can be a law unto himself in the matter of his defence. He need not set out to keep goal on the usual stereotyped lines. He is at liberty to cultivate originality and, more often than not, if he has a variety of methods in his clearances and means of getting rid of the ball, he will confound and puzzle the attacking forwards....
A goalkeeper should be one possessed of acute observation and independent thought. He should be aggressive, and have the fighting instinct or spirit in him, and if in combination with a modicum of "temper" - so called - he will be none the worse for that. Temper is only a form of energy and, so long, as it is controlled, the more we have of it in a custodian the better. He should know every move of the game as well as he knows the alphabet, and study the mysteries of attack and the intricacies of defence, at the same time carrying his individual attitude with perfect balance. If he can give to his work the spice of a little originality, it will prove to be his advantage. Stale minds rather than stale bodies and muscles are responsible for many of the indifferent displays we read of. When a person's mannerisms seem part of the man, unconscious and necessary to the full self-expression of his work or play, it is folly to attempt to cramp one's methods for the sake of conformity to a general type. When, however, they are foreign to his role, they become a just source of irritation, and the reason for their adoption is possibly found in the fact that the person who has aped somebody's methods, which were in turn sub-aped by others, was suffering at both extremities of his person in that lie was the possessor of a swollen head and had grown too big for his boots.
The fairest judgement of a man is by the standard of his work, and the best goalkeeper is the one who makes the fewest mistakes. Perfect custodians are not in evidence in this mundane sphere. There certainly are degrees of comparison in the best of goalkeepers, albeit of a limited kind, as the tactics indulged in by keepers are merely matters of personal equation...
There is a speculative element in every goalkeeper's venture from under his posts. Leaving one's goal is looked upon as a cardinal sin by those armchair critics who tell a goalkeeper what he should do and what he should not do, and administer advice from the philosophic atmosphere of the grand stand. They wobble mentally, in proportion with the custodian's success or want of success in rushing out to meet an opponent even when the result is as inevitable as when a man's logic is pitted against a woman's tears. A goalkeeper should take in the position at once and at a glance and, if deemed necessary, come out of his goal immediately, even if things were not what they at first seemed. Never more than in this case is it true that he who hesitates is lost. He must be regardless of his personal consequences and, if necessary, go head first into a pack into which many men would hesitate to insert a foot, and take the consequent gruelling like a Spartan. I am convinced that the reason why goalkeepers don't come out of their goal more often is their regard for personal consequences. If a forward has to be met and charged down, do not hesitate to charge with all your might. If you rush out with the intention of kicking, don't draw back but Kick (with a capital K!) at once.
If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing properly and with all one's energy, and he who gives hard knocks must be prepared to accept hard knocks in return. A goalkeeper should believe in himself. If you don't have the confidence, it is a moral certainty your backs cannot, and their play will show it by lying close to goal and doing most of your work. As a consequence of this, the half-backs have too much defence thrown upon them, and are thus hampered, and cannot feed their forwards, so that there is a weak display all round which takes its origin from the defects of one man, and a want of confidence in the last defensive unit on the side.
Consistency should be aimed at. A goalkeeper on whom you cannot rely or depend is like a man to whom you ask an inconvenient question, and who prevaricates in his answer. He should not be one of those who "keep" one day with extreme brilliance, and another day make repeated and egregious mistakes. His work should be notable for its uniformity and in distinct contrast to the curate's egg, which was found to be good only in parts...
If a player has the ability to keep goal, he should set about trying to improve his style. He may possibly be a little unfinished at first, but he is bound to improve if he combines with the agility of youth a matured observation of the game which time alone can give. A sure eye, a perfect sense of time, and a heart - even as big as a hyacinth farm - are necessary to a goalkeeper's art, for it is an art of the rarest type. He should be as light on his feet as a dancing master, yet nothing is more reprehensible in a goalkeeper than taking wild, flying kicks, or using his feet in any way when he can use his hands, as there is safety in numbers and two hands are better than one foot. When he does kick, his kicking should be accuracy itself, so as to land the ball exactly where he intends. There must be boot behind the ball, muscle behind the boot, the intelligence behind both. He should be as cool as the proverbial cucumber, and good temper is an essential. Excitability and an uncontrollable disposition or temper are antagonistic to good judgement, and the goalkeeper who is devoid of judgement is useless for all practical purposes.
If a player is mapping out a goalkeeper's career for himself, his course should be one of moderation, regularity, and simplicity. Nothing is ever achieved without effort or even sacrifice in one's pastimes, as in the higher walks of life, and only a study of its points and experience will educate him up to the standard expected of him. Let a player take that for granted, and he will succeed.
The Book of Football 1906.
The Book of Football 1906.