Football: Goram finds fresh impetus

The former Scotland keeper, his appetite still sharp, is making a new start
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The Independent Online
WHEN THE alarm clock rang this morning, Andy Goram must have rolled over and believed he was living out his own personal Groundhog Day. Who is it today? Hearts. Wasn't it Hearts yesterday? Well, yes. But today is a new dawn for Goram.

The troubled goalkeeper will emerge from a seven-month nightmare when he walks out tonight at Fir Park to play his first game for Motherwell. The fact that the opposition and the competition, are exactly the same as his last public appearance in Scotland is merely coincidental.

The Scottish Cup third- round tie will, however, trigger a sense of deja- vu for Goram. Last May, the former Rangers player was a disconsolate figure as he watched Hearts lift the trophy, but then he had more on his mind than just the 2-1 defeat in the final.

That May day was the beginning of the end for the 34-year-old. His personal life had already unravelled, but it was about to be overtaken by his professional one at a far quicker pace. When Goram walked off the pitch at Parkhead, the next date on his agenda was Brazil in the opening match of the World Cup finals; it turned out, instead, to be a reserve game for Notts County at Meadow Lane.

In between, he lost his club, his country, and, some would say, his dignity, drifting from ground to ground in the pursuit of a job far below his undoubted talent. Morton, Ayr United, Notts County, Sheffield United and FC Copenhagen were all stops before the man with 42 Scotland caps surfaced last week to join Motherwell.

"People seem to have been scared off by what they heard," concedes Goram. Certainly, his decision to quit international football just days before Scotland headed to France undid his reputation. The incoming Rangers boss, Dick Advocaat, had already decided he did not want Goram, but the Scotland episode scared off every other manager, too, as interest from Crystal Palace and an Italian club evaporated.

"I have not actually been without a club, since I left Rangers," he points out. "It's just that if you read some newspapers, then you would think I was finished. I had two months at Sheffield United playing in the English First Division when Alan Kelly was injured. But I never doubted I would come back, somewhere."

Goram, though, rails against the suggestion that he pulled the trigger in his own character assassination, insisting: "I never pulled out of the World Cup. I retired from the international team, but people won't accept that. Jim Leighton retired after the match with Estonia recently and no one said a word, but because it was me, people think there was another motive."

However, Goram will not be taking up Craig Brown's offer of returning to the Scotland fold. Is the split unfairly portrayed too? "It has been accurately reported by me," Goram says, "but there have been a few lies on the other side."

Goram claims that being relegated to the bench behind Leighton was "part of the reason why I didn't go to France", and hints that appetite for a football challenge remains, despite those who believe his off-the-field appetites, which have wrecked two marriages, take precedence.

"Lost my appetite for the game?" he queries. "I've always had it, never lost it. I read that the FC Copenhagen coach said that I was too old and not serious enough to offer a contract to. If I had not been serious enough, would I have paid for the whole trip myself? They changed their minds three days before I was due to sign."

Goram was always going to be disoriented after leaving Rangers - which he calls "my wee heaven" - after seven years, but Motherwell offers a haven, if not a similar spirit to Ibrox.

"We went to Tenerife last week for a training camp," he says, "and the boys made it so easy for me to settle in, particularly John Spencer, who I knew at Rangers. Even the foreign lads spoke English, whereas latterly at Rangers there would be about eight languages in the dressing-room.

"Billy Davies [the Motherwell manager] made me feel wanted and the club are trying to be like Rangers off the pitch by doing everything right behind the scenes. We have a verbal agreement for another two years if things go well and I would like to stay here."

Goram admits his attempt at cold turkey convinced him he could not live without football. "This is my 18th season. Football is my life. I missed the dressing-room laughs and playing in front of full houses. There were 300 people when I played for Notts County reserves and I enjoyed it, but crowds add something.

"Funnily enough, Fir Park was one place where I got more abuse than most. There was a guy at our training ground the other day, who shouted `At least you're a bastard for us now'."