PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 September, 1997, 12:00am

BRUCE Grobbelaar is back in the big time. The controversial 'keeper, who is facing charges of breaking betting rules, has joined Premier League Sheffield Wednesday on a three-month loan after less than a week at First Division Oxford United.

The 39-year-old Zimbabwean was preparing to travel with Oxford to York for Tuesday night's League Cup game when he was released to join Wednesday.

Grobbelaar, a former Premier League goalkeeper at Liverpool and Southampton, was signed by Wednesday manager David Pleat after Kevin Pressman suffered a groin injury in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Coventry.

Oxford received 'a nominal fee' from Wed-nesday for agreeing to release Grobbelaar.

'We had a gentlemen's agreement that if a club came in and offered him better terms we would let him go, and obviously Sheffield Wednesday have offered him better money than we can,' Oxford United secretary Mick Brown said of the move.

Grobbelaar was charged by the Football Association last week with breaking betting rules, a month after he and two other players were acquitted by a court of match-fixing charges. During the trial, Grobbelaar admitted being paid to forecast match results.

He is still bitter about the whole affair and said: 'I would never throw a game. It was too important for me. Football, in some ways, has always been everything,' he said.

'Sometimes I was very low. Sometimes I thought there were forces at work that might indeed destroy me.

'But even on the worst days - and nights - I never lost my passion for the game. 'When the second trial was over my phone stayed quiet for a while and then the odd caller said such-and-such was interested - Motherwell, Kilmarnock, maybe even Celtic.

'But no managers came on the line until Denis Smith did from Oxford. He said his first-team goalkeeper was injured and he needed cover for his teenage number two. I thanked him and said 'I'll be there'.' Smith said: 'I don't know about all that other stuff, it's all a bit of a mystery to me, but I know what Bruce Grobbelaar means as a footballer. Believe me, for any football manager Bruce Grobbelaar is good news.'