Are Goalkeepers getting taller?

This post began with a question posed by Andrew of the excellent Hopping Around Hampshire blog: Are football players getting taller? I promised to look into this. 

For a while pondered my approach. First, I’d need a data source. I tried some old league directories, but these didn’t have player height information. I then searched my old football box for my copy of the Official PFA Footballer’s Factfile 1998-99, but was hit by a niggling thought that It had been the one book I’d got rid of. I then tried the internet, buy though I managed to find data on current players at http://www.premierleague.com it only had heights going back a few years so back to the old football box. This time I managed to find a Merlin Premier League 97 album (minus stickers) which had what I was looking for, although not for every single player – just the ones deemed worthy of a sticker.

To begin with I decided to compare goalkeepers as height is regarded as a key attribute for Goalkeepers, providing them with an added advantage. I’ve also heard it said that at some point there was a decided shift away from shorter ‘keepers – like Leicester City’s former ‘keeper Kevin Poole 1.78m. As the Merlin Premier League 97 data was incomplete I decided to compare only the preferred ‘keepers in each team with their Premier League counterparts today.

The headline finding is that, on average, Goalkeepers today are 2cm taller than their 1997 counterparts at 1.91m compared to 1.89m. Today’s tallest Premier League Goalkeeper Southampton’s recent signing Fraser Forster also breaks the 2m barrier, standing at 2.01m. In 1997 the tallest was West Ham’s veteran ‘keeper Ludek Miklosko who stood at 1.96m along with Coventry’s Steve Ogrizovic.In total there are three goalkeepers today taller than Miklosko and Ogrizovic, as well as Forster these are Asmir Begovic at 1.98m and Thibaut Courtois at 1.99m. When it comes to the shortest goalkeepers in 1997 Mark Crossley and Neil Sullivan both stood at 1.83m, the same as today’s shortest goalkeepers Hull’s Alan McGregor and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel.

Goalkeeper Infographic

The list:

1997

Ludek Miklosko 1.96
Steve Ogrizovic  1.96
David Seaman 1.93
Russel Hoult 1.93
David James 1.93
Peter Schmeichel 1.93
Dave Beasant 1.93
Tim Flowers 1.88
Dmitri Kharine 1.88
Nigel Martyn 1.88
Shaka Hislop 1.88
Tony Coton 1.88
Mark Bosnich 1.86
Neville Southall 1.86
Kasey Keller 1.86
Kevin Pressman 1.86
Ian Walker 1.86
Gary Walsh 1.85
Mark Crossley 1.83
Neil Sullivan 1.83

2014

Fraser Forster 2.01
Thibaut Courtois 1.99
Asmir Begovic 1.98
Joe Hart 1.96
Wojctech Szczesny 1.96
Ben Foster 1.93
Brad Guzan 1.93
Simon Mingolet 1.93
David de Gea 1.92
Adrian 1.90
Lukasz Fabianski 1.90
Tom Heaton 1.88
Hugo Lloris 1.88
Tim Krul 1.88
Vito Mannone 1.88
Robert Green 1.87
Tim Howard 1.87
Julian Speroni 1.86
Alan McGregor 1.83
Kasper Schmichel 1.83

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