Andy Goram “lived to keep the ball out of the goal”, according to his former Rangers manager, Walter Smith.
Smith had previously put the man voted as Rangers’ best goalkeeper on the transfer list for lacking professionalism.
But Goram went on to win Smith round again and the former Oldham, Hibernian and Manchester United keeper, who has died at the age of 58 after a short battle with cancer, will go down as one of Scottish football’s greatest shot-stoppers.
Andrew Lewis Goram was born in Bury on April 13, 1964. His Scottish father, Lewis – a Rangers fan who played in goal for Hibs and Bury – was the driving force behind his career.
Goram represented Scotland seven times at cricket while with Hibs and he might have focused on the former sport earlier. He joined West Brom as an apprentice the same week as joining the ground staff at Lancashire Cricket Club, having captained his county’s schoolboy side.
Although he was released by new West Brom boss Ronnie Allen for being too small, the 5ft 11in goalkeeper opted for football as a career after joining Oldham and making his first-team debut at the age of 16. He established himself as number one under Joe Royle and would go on to be voted in the Second Division’s team of the year by his fellow professionals in 1987.
The breakthrough in his career came when Royle employed Alan Hodgkinson, a former England international of similar stature, as goalkeeping coach. Hodgkinson taught Goram how to take up positions to compensate for his lack of height and later worked with him at Rangers and Scotland. Goram would go on to describe him as his “second dad” with his influence especially important following the death of his father from bronchitis when he was 23.
After more than 200 appearances for Oldham, Goram moved to Hibernian in 1987 in a £325,000 transfer and then moved on to Rangers in a £1million switch in 1991.
Goram was not an immediate success, letting in several soft goals in his early months at Ibrox including two that saw Rangers exit the European Cup against Sparta Prague. Smith asked Goram what he felt could turn his Ibrox career round and agreed to bring in Hodgkinson as coach.
There was another crisis meeting in the summer of 1994 when Goram missed a flight back from a family holiday in Tenerife, when he was meant to recuperating from a back injury in a bid to be fit for the Scottish Cup final. Instead, Goram went on a drinking spree with his former Oldham team-mates and knocked out a Dundee United fan in a bar brawl. Smith put him on the transfer list but nobody came in for him and he was taken off it at the start of the following season after losing weight.
‘The Goalie’, as he was nicknamed, never looked back and became a key figure in Rangers’ record-equalling run of nine consecutive titles. A string of saves in Old Firm games led Celtic boss Tommy Burns to proclaim in 1996 that “Andy Goram broke my heart” would be written on his gravestone. In all, he won five titles and five domestic cups in six seasons.
Goram’s Scotland career took off at Ibrox. Sir Alex Ferguson handed him his international debut in a goalless draw with East Germany in 1985 and he was on the bench during the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. He was number one at European Championships in 1992 and 1996, despite pulling out of a qualifier against Greece in 1995 for not being “mentally attuned”.
After 43 caps, Goram quit international football two weeks before the 1998 World Cup after learning he would be second choice to 39-year-old Jim Leighton. Another factor in his decision was a string of stories about his private life.
Goram returns from the United States after quitting international football (PA)That summer proved a major turning point in Goram’s life. He had been deemed surplus to requirements by incoming Rangers manager Dick Advocaat and struggled to find a new club. After short-term contracts with Notts County and Sheffield United, he joined Motherwell and was made captain.
A bigger move was to follow in 2001 when Ferguson turned to him to solve an Old Trafford injury crisis. Goram made two appearances for United before further short spells with Hamilton, Coventry, Oldham, Queen of the South, where he won the Challenge Cup, and Elgin. He retired in 2004 one game before his 800th appearance with his knees no longer able to take the strain.
Goram held coaching roles at the likes of Motherwell, Clyde, Ayr, Airdrie and Dunfermline but was on the front pages more often than the back pages after his playing career ended.
He was married and divorced three times. His first wife, Jackie Taylor, decided not to join him in Scotland after he signed for Hibs without discussing his move. He had an acrimonious split from his second wife, casino croupier Tracey Fitzpatrick, after joining Rangers, and was divorced from pub manager Miriam Wyllie towards the end of his playing career. Another long-term relationship ended following reports of womanising, gambling and drink problems.
Goram sparked controversy over visits to Northern Ireland. He was questioned and put under surveillance by police following a conversation on a plane with Loyalist terror leader Billy Wright, and then wore a black armband in a game at Celtic Park days after his murder. Goram insisted the gesture was for an aunt who had died months earlier. A photograph of Goram holding an Ulster Volunteer Force banner emerged in the press during his Motherwell days. He insisted he was no bigot and felt more relaxed and welcome in Belfast than he did in Glasgow.
Goram was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer earlier this year. He is survived by sons Danny, from his first marriage, and Lewis, from his second marriage.