The history of the goalie glove: from leather to Predator

The history of the goalie glove: from leather to Predator

The history of goalie gloves is a history of the modern goalkeeper.

While there was no mention of any kind of accessories to cover keepers’ bare hands in the original 1863 laws of the game, there were a few pioneers with an inkling of the future to come. It’s no doubt that the current state of goalkeeping is immense, with Manuel Neuer leading a host of players revolutionising the importance of the position to a team. We decided to have a quick look at the history of the goalkeeper glove and where we’ve arrived, reviewing the new Adidas Predator Finger Rolled gloves to test the latest technology.

Happy birthday to Manuel Neuer, one of the world’s best midfielders.

Posted by Squawka on Friday, 27 March 2015

Just over 20 years on from the first codification of the game as we would recognise it today, a businessman from West Yorkshire named William Sykes was granted the first patent for a pair of leather goalkeeping gloves in 1885.

As the owner of a saddling company in Horbury near Wakefield, he had an eye for new products that would catch on within the growing sporting goods market — the Skyes Zig-zag was the football used for the FA Cup finals either side of World War Two — yet his firm eventually took a different direction, merging with other manufacturers to become Slazenger in the 20th century. The story of the evolution of the goalkeeping glove was destined to veer off onto a different track, and into a different time, with Sykes never putting his patented designs into mass production.

He was too ahead of his time to benefit from his awareness of the demand to come. Keepers only really started looking into the use of gloves in any real numbers in the early 1900’s and it wasn’t until the post-war era that professional shot-stoppers began experimenting with using anything other than their own bare hands. Amadeo Carrizo is thought to be the first big name keeper to try out gloves in competitive games for River Plate and Argentina. His attempts to find something suitable to give his palms and digits some extra grip and protection, especially in less hospitable conditions, mostly revolved around cotton hand coverings. Unfortunately, in the wet and muddy games that they were supposed to help him, they instead soaked up water and became slippery.

They didn’t offer much in the way of support or shock absorption either, not that this hindered Amadeo. Over the course of his 23-year career with River Plate, he won numerous titles and competitions for Los Millonarios, and set an example for those that followed him. Today, he is still seen by many as the godfather of the South American tradition sweeper keepers; a radical lineage that includes the likes of René Higuita — whose scorpion kicks and attacking dribbles from his own area into the opponent’s own half would have made even Neuer blush — and prolific, goal-scoring goalies such as Paraguay’s José Luis Chilavert (62 career goals and the only keeper to score a hat-trick) and Brazil’s Rogerio Ceni (a record 127 career goals).

Higuita

Higuita, with his scorpion kicks and free-wheeling runs, was more of a sweeper keeper than most.

 

Amadeo is one of his position’s great innovators. Not only did he break ground in testing the benefits of covering his hands, but the strategies and techniques he came up with, patrolling his area, closing down attackers and restarting play from the back, inspired so many of his direct and indirect successors across the world. Goalkeeping gloves and have always belonged to the game’s best traditions of progress and reinvention!

Usage increased in the 1960s and 70s, but still mainly during wet conditions. A common complaint remained the loss of feel reported by some keepers when wearing such accessories over their hands, but as designs and technology improved, so did their confidence in gloves.

Gordon Banks gloves

Gordon Banks pulls on a pair of gloves.

 

Gordon Banks tried a pair on for the first time as an experiment at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, and as more and more leading names began to see the benefits to grip and protection in vital games. This lead to the England keeper setting off on a quest to find his the perfect pair; a search that included a stint in which he tried using gardening gloves. Wales’ record-appearance holder and former Everton goalie, Neville Southall, also admitted to trying out handwear more suited to snipping roses than saving freekicks, as well as a pair of kitchen mittens!

Southall

Neville Southall gets the ball moving back up the field.

 

By the 1980s, mainstream designs had finally taken hold, and gloves became a fundamental part of any goalkeeper’s kit bag. Yet manufacturers continued to refine their formulas and try out new materials. Terry cloth, the rubbery coating used on table tennis paddles, was even given a go due to its relatively sticky properties and success at parrying ping pong balls.

The introduction of latex foam was a major advancement, not only in terms of its suitability and durability but also its flexibility. Keepers soon had more choice than ever over what shape and type of glove they wanted and new patterns that would suit them best: flat-palmed gloves, negative cut and roll finger gloves.

Flat-palmed gloves had long been the standard, and are still favoured today by many top players. As the traditional cut for keepers, there remains something classic about the design, with the seams stitched on the outside rather than the interior of the fingers. This makes each digit look more angular and box-like (some call the flat-palm cut the “box cut” for this very reason) making for less of a contact area between the material and the skin and a less tight fit and feel overall. It remains a popular design, but for those that want more sensation when saving and manipulating the ball with their hands, it can have limitations.

Buffon

A glove design with finger seams stitched on the inside, rather the exterior as with the flat-palmed gloves, is called a negative cut: the innies to the flat-palmed outies. They offer a tighter, more snug fit than their outwardly stitched cousins; a good match for keepers wanting more feel when catching, throwing and reaching for the ball.

But what if you’re a goalie looking for something else? Perhaps something more sophisticated than a choice between inside or outside stitching? The roll finger cut has grown in popularity over the last decade to become one of the most fashionable designs in the Premier League. Unlike the flat-palm and negative cut gloves, the entire palm and ball-facing digits of a roll finger cut are made up of wrapped latex rather than two or more pieces of material stitched mid-way around the contours of the hand. Without seams to break up the contact between the glove and the skin, this offers a better all-round feel of the ball and a much tighter fit than the traditional, boxy design of flat-palm pairs.

De Gea saves

David De Gea has been the biggest star between the sticks in the English top flight this season, drawing praise not only for his work as a shot-stopper but also his composure on the ball and distribution from behind the Manchester United defence.

While many of the game’s other top keepers still prefer flat-palm and negative cut gloves, the Spaniard trusts in the wrapped-in feel of the roll finger design, for not only keeping clean sheets but rolling the ball out to begin another counter-attack for Louis van Gaal. De Gea rolls Squawka got their hands on the new Adidas Predator Roll Finger Goalkeeper Glove to test them out and see if they match up to the hype. Well, we start with the actual appearance of the gloves. They look meaty yet sleek at the same time, the padding is generous in the right places but not excessive and the bright red and black colour scheme exudes authority. Get your Roll Finger gloves at Kitbag. Use the code sqwka10kb at Kitbag.com for a 10% discount on this category. Putting these on is an absolute dream, the comfort level is off the scale and the fact they’re so light makes a really big difference. Gone are the days of heavy appendages on the ends of your arms which can make reflex saves so difficult. The next thing to note is how firm they feel when taped up. The nice wide straps loop twice around the wrist which means a tight fit without the classic complete block of blood to the extremities that certain old school gloves delivered. To be honest, I could put up with intense levels of discomfort, the fact that putting your hands in these feels like reaching under the cold side of the pillow in the morning is a bonus; what really matters is the performance, and that’s where these gloves deliver beyond belief. First things first, the grip is astonishing. During some quick warm-ups, my sparring partner had trouble throwing the ball hard enough for me to drop it. Even one-handed, these gloves can catch and hold a pacey ball with alarming ease.Previous shots which got turned away for corners suddenly become surprisingly easy to keep a hold of.

The next point on performance comes back to lightness, throwing a hand up at the last second to tip one over the bar is really helped by the lack of dead weight and the strength of the Rolled Finger.

The final aspect to note about these gloves is the absolutely crucial fact that they are not too hot to wear for extended periods for time. After an hour of continuous use there was barely more than a drop of sweat in there. This is a huge plus for any 5-a-side team with rolling keepers as we all know there is nothing worse than putting on someone else’s drenched gloves.

Browse Kitbag’s entire range of goalie gloves here.