Jimmy Glass: From 'legend' to taxi driver but Glass is half full
He is the keeper who scored with the last kick of the final game to save his side from the drop. Ten years on, he's kicked gambling into touch and found peace. Simon Turnbull speaks to Jimmy Glass
Sunday 03 May 2009
Jimmy Glass pulls up at Poole train station wearing sunglasses and sporting a beard. He's a taxi driver down in Dorset these days but behind the wheel of his bottle green London cab he's still recognisable as the one-hit wonder of a goalkeeper who scored that goal for Carlisle United 10 years ago. "Alright, buddy," he says, clearly still the same cheery soul as he was back then. "Let's find somewhere down by the harbour. Got to be down there on a day like this."
Ten minutes later we are sitting in the sunshine outside the Deli on the Quay, yachts bobbing in the harbour, seagulls screeching overhead. Jimmy's glass is full to the brim with a frothing cappuccino. "This is the life," he says, sitting back, stretching out his long legs. "That's Brownsea Island over there, where Baden-Powell had his first scout camp."
Ten years on, people still point to Jimmy Glass and say: "He's the goalkeeper who scored that goal," the goal of Boy's Own comic-book stuff. It was on 8 May 1999 that Glass made a lasting name for himself from Cumbria to the United Arab Emirates and beyond. On loan to Carlisle from Swindon Town, he ventured forth to score the goal against Plymouth Argyle, a right-footed half-volley that saved the Cumbrians from relegation to the Conference.
It came in the 95th minute of the final game of the season, at the Waterworks End at Brunton Park. It turned on the waterworks of sheer joy in Carlisle and of utter despair at the McCain Stadium in Scarborough, where the public address system was already playing "All Right Now" in the mistaken belief that the hosts' 1-1 draw with Peterborough was enough to secure Football League status.
The 10th anniversary falls on Friday and The Independent on Sunday, it transpires, has not been the first to track down the goalscoring goalkeeper. "No," he says, "I got an e-mail from a guy from a radio station in Dubai. They had a phone-in a few weeks ago asking for ideas about devoting a day to a sporting personality and an Irish fellow phoned in and said: 'How about Jimmy Glass?' The guy running the show had lots of different suggestions but he thought about it and he contacted me and we recorded an interview last week. So they're having Jimmy Glass Day on this radio station in Dubai on 8 May.
"With it being the 10th anniversary, I expect there'll be a few people getting in touch, wanting to ask about the goal. I think in the first few years it meant something different to me. I was still chasing a dream of being a footballer, or enjoying the fame that it brought, whereas now, 10 years on, I'm a taxi driver in a small town in Dorset. Most of my Saturdays now are spent running little old ladies from their care homes to the hairdressers and taking people down to the station.
"And when I listen to football on the radio – even when I listen on the local radio to Bournemouth, who I used to play for and who are close to my heart – I feel so far detached from the world of football, and the world of being famous, like I obviously was 10 years ago. It's quite surreal. It's been strange to get my head round. But I'm more relaxed with it. I take it in my stride now."
At 35, Glass has settled into a life of contentment down here in delightful East Dorset. He's a partner in a taxi business, based up the road in Wimborne Minster, a market town which once numbered Thomas Hardy among its residents. He lives on the outskirts of Poole in the village of Lytchett Matravers, with his wife, Louise, and their seven-year-old twins, Jack and Ella. Not that Jimmy's glass has always been full since the day he hit the headlines. Indeed, there have been times in the past 10 years when it has been fairly cracked.
After his 15 minutes of fame as the goalscoring goalkeeper, Glass struggled to re-establish his reputation as a goal-saving goalkeeper. In his younger days he had understudied Nigel Martyn at Crystal Palace and then become a first-team regular in a Bournemouth side featuring the on-loan Rio Ferdinand. That was before a move to Swindon, whence he returned after failing to agree terms for a permanent deal with Carlisle.
He failed to earn a regular first-team place, then had brief spells with Cambridge and Oxford before quitting the professional game, becoming a computer salesman, attempting an ill-fated return to football with Weymouth and fleetingly moving with his family to France. He also turned to gambling as he struggled to cope with the frustration of it all.
"Do you know, it was very hard to understand for the first couple of years," he reflects. "I carried on trying to be a footballer for maybe two, three years – just trying to knuckle down and be the best goalkeeper I could be and get a decent contract and carry on the way I was before. But the truth is it was a bit of a circus.
"It ended up being very difficult wherever I'd go as a triallist after I'd left Swindon. I tore my contract up with Swindon because I just could not get on with the manager, Jimmy Quinn. And after that when I'd go on trial at places it would be people whispering: 'That's Jimmy Glass'. Whereas I just wanted to be a goalkeeper, an anonymous goalkeeper that razzle-dazzled 'em with my skills, everywhere I went I carried the tag of Jimmy Glass, you know, 'That's the one that scored the goal'.
"Maybe it didn't make any difference. Maybe it was all in my head, but for me it just felt like a bit of a circus that I was taking around with me. Maybe I lived up to that circus as well. Maybe I enjoyed it. Maybe when things weren't going right for me it was the only confidence I was getting – the fact I was this goalkeeper, so-called legendary... I'm not sure about the legendary bit.
"I did ask Rodney Marsh once. A few years later we were sitting down after we'd just had a game of tennis and Rodney always says it how it is, obviously, and I couldn't get my head round it. I thought, 'Well if I'm such a legend, right, how come I haven't got a contract or nobody wants me to play in goal?' And I asked him. I said, 'Rodney, am I a legend?' And he thought about it, as he does, and he said, 'No, you're not a legend, Jimmy, but your goal is legendary'.
"It kind of summed it up for me. It made sense from that point on. I stopped wondering why it wasn't working for me after I scored this goal. Now I've come to terms with the fact that the goal is a wonderful, wonderful piece of sporting history and in certain parts of football, and obviously up in Cumbria, it's a legendary goal. But it is what it is. It's a goal. Life goes on and I enjoy it now for what it is.
"I think that being a family man and having a wonderful wife and two fantastic children steadies the ship. I've had problems over the years since my football days. I've struggled with gambling, based on when I was unhappy about things. The goal was a wonderful thing but the rest of football was pretty disheartening for me. I found myself using gambling as my vice to try and deal with all my anxieties and that stayed with me for a few years. Luckily now, today, I've kicked it into touch.
"But, yeah, it is tough to understand why one minute you can be on the back page of every English-speaking newspaper in the world and be on A Question of Sport and the next minute you're selling computers in some small town in Dorset. I think over the years I've found a more relaxing place. And I'm much happier as a person. I still struggle watching football, though – even if it's a game in the park. I find my hands getting twitchy, which is strange because I only really play now in the Northern Masters for Carlisle once a year."
Glass will be in action up in Carlisle today. Invited back to Brunton Park yesterday, where his presence helped to inspire Carlisle to a 2-0 win against Millwall that saved the Cumbrians from relegation in League One, he has stayed over to play for the London-based supporters' club against the Norwegian branch. Even if he starts in goal, it's a fair bet that he will venture upfield at some point in the game.
"I always was a frustrated forward," he confesses. "Even when I was a young boy I didn't know whether to go in goal or play up front. I always felt confident running around on the pitch, scoring goals – probably more confident, if I'm honest, than I was playing in goal sometimes. People think the goal was a bit of a freak occurrence but I scored a hat-trick the day before in training. After I quit the professional game, I played a bit of Sunday league football up front. I scored 24 goals in 10 games – six goals two weeks running. One of them was straight from the kick-off. I lobbed the keeper."
It was an instinct that kicked in at 4.55pm on Saturday 8 May 1999, when Carlisle's on-loan keeper scored the goal that stands alongside Ronnie Radford's thunderbolt and the FA Cup-winning efforts of Ian Porterfield and Bobby Stokes as one of the all-time classics of the romantic footballing genre. Glass chuckles as he recalls finding a snap-shot of the magical moment on the wall of the headmaster's office when he took his twins to the local primary school, in Lytchett Matravers. "It's a difficult school to get your kids into and luckily the headmaster at the time just happened to be an avid Carlisle fan with my picture on his wall," he says. "That might just have helped.
"That's what I enjoy the most about it: that it was such an emotional moment for the people in Carlisle. That elation was something really special for them. It must have been, because they're still talking about it 10 years later."
Iconic goalkeeping moments
Bert Trautmann's neck Manchester City's German keeper, a one-time prisoner of war, played the final 17 minutes of the 1956 FA Cup final with a broken neck.
Rene Higuita's scorpion Wembley was stung into silence when Colombia's curly-mopped keeper executed a stunning save in a 1995 friendly against England.
Jim Montgomery's magic It was the keeper Sunderland's manager Bob Stokoe jigged on to embrace at the 1973 FA Cup final after he somehow pushed a Peter Lorimer thunderbolt on to his crossbar.
Harald Schumacher's smash The Cologne keeper was voted the most hated German in France, ahead of Adolf Hitler, after a brutal forearm smash floored Patrick Battison at the 1982 World Cup.
Bruce Grobelaar's jelly legs A soldier in Rhodesia's Bush War, Liverpool's eccentric Zimbabwean employed gorilla tactics to help win the 1984 European Cup.
Gordon Banks' wonder save Pele was already celebrating when England's No 1 performed his miracle at the 1970 World Cup.
Life after football
David Harvey The former Leeds and Scotland keeper is a postman and farmer in the Orkney Islands.
Alan Comfort The former Orient and Middlesbrough winger is now the Reverend Alan Comfort, vicar of St Mary's at Loughton in Essex. He is also Orient's club chaplain.
Leighton James Former Welsh winger won the 2007 Rookie Lollipop Man of the Year Award. As well as helping kids with their crossing, he is also a radio pundit.
Gordon Davies Once upon a time a nuisance to opposition defences, the former Welsh striker runs a pest control company.
Ray Wilson England's left-back in the 1966 World Cup final became an undertaker after hanging up his boots. He retired in 1997.
John Chiedozie The former Spurs winger is now a bouncy castle vendor. He runs a company in Hampshire renting equipment for children's parties.
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