Tom English: 'The self-pitying Goram still sees himself as the victim'
ANDY GORAM is a hard man to ignore, but it's really worth the effort. There is no getting away from him these days.
He's on the telly and he's on the radio, he's in the papers waxing about Walter Smith and Sir David Murray and the Lloyds Banking Group and at every turn he has a captive audience of journalists and photographers and people who are more than happy to tell him that his views are worth listening to.
Soon he's going to be guest of honour at a benefit dinner in Glasgow. No doubt, a legion of past Ibrox heroes will be there to celebrate his life and times. Unquestionably, there will be hordes of supporters on hand to chant his name and listen to his patter.
Goram's book is coming out this week. You may have read some of it already in the Sun. The drinking, the shagging, the betrayal of one wife and then another and then another – it's all there. The truth according to Goram. The self-pitying tone of the published extracts tells us that the former Rangers goalkeeper still sees himself as something of a victim.
The walkout before the World Cup in 1998 is depicted, not for the first time, as all Craig Brown's fault. Goram's bitterness towards his former manager is acute. he will never forgive him for what he did back then. He was outraged and disgusted at losing his place to Jim Leighton. The angst he will take with him to the grave. And so on.
Of course, at the time Goram said little of this. In 1998, the story went that he'd left the squad because of constant tabloid interference in his private life. That was what he said in an official statement upon leaving the team base. One tabloid in particular seemed to be the chief source of his anger – ironically, it was the Sun. Only a few days before his disappearing act, the tabloid ran a wounding story about an alleged affair Goram had had with a woman who worked for Celtic. "It is plain to see," said the goalkeeper by way of a press release, "that stories are being fabricated to upset me or our World Cup preparations. Myself, Craig Brown and the players don't need this. The last thing the squad needs is controversy off the park."
History seems to have been rewritten in this instance. His story, though. And his truth.
Quite honestly, the bonk-fests and the blubbering about all the mistakes he made when polluted by drink are tedious. We've heard them all from him before. What is interesting is the stench of sectarianism that still hangs over him and the fact that, despite some controversial incidents in his past, his benefit dinner still seems to have the imprimatur of his old employers at Ibrox. Remember, it is barely a year since Goram, when opening a pub, spoke of an altercation with Pierre van Hooijdonk in an Old Firm match in 1996. He told a cheering group of Rangers fans that when he saved the Dutchman's penalty in that game he went up to him and called him – and he was paraphrasing here – "a non-white, unclean, non-Protestant with no father". And Goram is going to be lauded at a benefit dinner?
But back to the book. There is one aspect of his life that has a grisly fascination and that is his supposed links with loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland. He recounts a story about him drinking in the Rex bar on the Shankill Road in west Belfast. The Rex was not a political pub but still it was a favourite haunt of Ulster Volunteer Force supporters. This is where Goram fetched-up.
He says he was reading a book about the Shankill Butchers at the time, the notorious gang of loyalists who specialised in torture and murder by throat-slashing in the 1970s.
"I was told someone wanted to meet me," writes Goram. "When I got up there, the man in question was a huge lad, and he said 'Pleased to meet you, Goalie. I'm Big Sam (McAllister], the Shankill Butcher'. My mind a blank, despite what I had just heard, I said, 'All the best. How is your shop going?'"Goram tells us that he had a creeping realisation that maybe Big Sam wasn't going to be giving him free sausages and that, in fact, he was one of the most vicious killers The Troubles had ever known. "The sweat formed on my top lip, and we chatted amiably enough until I sidled back downstairs. So, yes, I've met men deeply involved with the UVF and been in their company on fleeting occasions. But terrorist sympathiser? No."
No? What about Billy Wright, then? We all remember Goram and Wright, aka King Rat, aka leader of the extremist Loyalist Volunteer Force until the Irish National Liberation Army murdered him in the Maze prison in 1997. Goram and Wright met on a flight to Belfast. Goram claimed he hadn't a clue who he was until somebody told him. Police pulled Goram in for questioning about his contact with Wright.
As he says in his book: "Rumours and innuendo started to paint a picture of me: Andy Goram, hard-drinking, hell-raising bigot, friend of the UVF. I'd unwittingly add to that perception by wearing a black armband in a match against Celtic soon after Billy Wright was shot three times and killed by an Irish National Liberation Army assassination squad inside the Maze prison."
Ah yes, the armband. Worn at an Old Firm match five days after Wright was killed. Goram claimed he was wearing it for his aunt Lilly, who died four months earlier. Goram says he loved Lilly dearly, which begs the question: Why did he wait four months to pay tribute to her?
His explanation for his association with terrorists in the past are weak. The armband defence remains risible. The account of his meetings with Wright and Big Sam should trouble those who are about to pay tribute to Goram at the benefit night. The abuse of Van Hooijdonk, I'm guessing, doesn't get a mention anywhere in the book.
His supporters will say that they are going to celebrate the goalkeeper but in this case you cannot separate the goalie from the man. And the man has left many, many unanswered questions about aspects of his life.