It’s one of the worst nightmare scenarios for a football manager.
They’ve used up their allocation of substitutions, before something happens to their goalkeeper – either they get sent off or suffer an injury of such significance that they can no longer continue.
What can the manager do? Well, he or she simply has no other choice: they have to hand the gloves to an outfield player and hope for the best.
It’s the sort of thing that happens in park football every single week, but at the top level? It’s a rather rarer occurrence – although Olivier Giroud had an unlikely taste of life as a goalkeeper for AC Milan in October.
The Frenchman was called upon to go between the sticks for the Rossoneri in their 1-0 victory over Genoa – his countryman, Mike Maignan, sent off in injury time after making a reckless foul.
Christian Pulisic offered to don the gloves, but Milan boss Stefano Pioli decided that Giroud was the man he wanted between the sticks – for the simple reason he is ‘taller’.
Often in these situations, the makeshift goalkeeper is well protected – but not against Genoa, who found themselves bearing down on Giroud in the dying embers of the game.
But the Frenchman made a double save of epic proportions – diving headfirst to block George Puscas’ shot, before turning and pouncing on the spinning ball before a Genoa forward could prod it into the empty net.
Incredible fan footage of Olivier Giroud’s last minute save for AC Milan 🤯 pic.twitter.com/2UxPLrlRI2
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) October 8, 2023
To celebrate what was a remarkable final seven minutes of the game, AC Milan have announced that they will be selling goalkeeper shirts with Giroud’s name and number on the back, although it’s not thought that he will be selected in goal for Milan’s next outing.
Of course, the French striker isn’t the only outfield footballer that has been forced to go in goal – and some big names have taken on the responsibility in years past….with mixed fortunes, it must be said.
There’s every chance that you have never heard the name Alexander Bonsor before.
But he deserves his place on this list, if for no other reason than it’s thought that he was the first outfield player that ever had to fill in for a goalkeeper.
Incredibly, this was in an international game too – Bonsor’s England taking on Scotland way back in 1875. Back then, players would often have to make their own way to games, and England’s first-choice goalkeeper, William Carr, was late for the kick-off due to a delayed train.
So the decision was taken by the England team (this was in the days prior to managers formally taking charge) to start with ten men, fielding Bonsor in goal who could then take up his place out on the pitch when Carr arrived.
Finally, the England goalkeeper turned up 15 minutes into the contest – at which point Bonsor had kept a clean sheet.
In the early 1900s, substitutes were not permitted in professional football – either an injured player just carried on playing or the team was reduced to ten men.
So disaster struck for Newcastle United in 1915 when their goalkeeper, Bill Mellor, picked up an injury during the warm up.
It meant that an outfield player would have to play the entire 90 minutes in goal, so step forward John King – traditionally an attacking player on the brink of a call-up to the Scottish national team.
But on this fateful day in the Football League against Tottenham, King had a rather different role – incredibly, he kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.
Back in those pre-substitute years, if a goalkeeper injured their finger/hand/arm, it wasn’t uncommon that they would play out on pitch and be replaced in the sticks by an outfield player.
So what a thrill for fans at Manchester United’s game against Tottenham during the 1960/61 season, who got to see a remarkable performance by stand-in goalkeeper and striker alike.
Harry Gregg, United’s goalkeeper, suffered an injured and was replaced in the green jersey by Alex Dawson, with Gregg deputising for Dawson in attack.
Incredibly, Dawson kept a second-half clean sheet – only one of two occasions that season that champions Spurs had failed to find the net, while at the other end of the pitch Gregg would provide an assist for Mark Pearson’s winning goal!
It’s quite staggering how many world-class outfield players have been stuck in goal.
Pele, yes that one, took over the gloves for Santos against Gremio back in 1963 in a cup game – he’s already scored a hat-trick by the time he was put in goal.
Martin Peters, a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad, and Gerd Muller – one of the greatest goalscorers in the sport’s history – have also undertaken a goalkeeping stint for West Ham and Bayern Munich respectively.
And another English World Cup winner, Bobby Moore, saved a penalty for West Ham against Stoke City in the 1972 League Cup semi-final.
If you’re ever faced with a pub quiz question about the team with three goalkeepers, the answer may well be 1985/86 era Newcastle United.
In a game against West Ham, regular goalkeeper Martin Thomas suffered an injury that saw him replaced by outfield player Chris Hedworth.
But then he got injured, so Peter Beardsley had to have a go in goal as well – all three keepers conceded at least once as the Hammers romped to an 8-1 victory.
Best known for sticking the ball in the back of the net himself, Harry Kane was briefly tasked with keeping it out of Tottenham’s during a Europa League tie against Asteras Tripoli.
Would Kane, one of the best English goalscorers of all time, be as adept with the gloves on? Erm….