Monday, 28 September 2009

The Goal Kick

I was reminded of the goal kick when I saw a video of a penalty kick on YouTube yesterday.

Way back when Kenny Bainbridge took his goal kick there was no video, of course, to record it. And the goal kick was not a goal kick in the normal sense of the word.

It was Saturday afternoon; Kirk Merrington Home Guards v East Howle Village in the Ferryhill and District League. Two boys were standing on the line beside the goal. In fact Kenny was leaning on a goal post, and Harry Blackberry was right next to him. Kenny was eleven, a year older than Harry. The match was on the school field at Kirk Merrington.  There were a few adults near them and a few more on the touchline. Not a bad crowd, maybe 30 people, relatives of the players and school kids like the two mentioned.

They chatted a bit with our goalie, George Howe. A tall twenty year old, who worked at Dean Bank colliery in Ferryhill. A good darts player and he looked great in his green goalkeeper's jersey. Just like Frank Swift, the England goalie.

East Howle were attacking: shouts and the thunk of a solid kick at the ball. It was a good ground shot about to cross the line out of George's diving reach near the post. The same post against which Kenny was leaning. It looked like a goal to East Howle when something happened. Two things are important in order to understand the next split second. One: there were no goal nets, not that it would have made much difference. Two: Kenny was wearing a pair of new boots, workman's boots with steel toe caps, that he was very proud of.

Suddenly, Kenny's booted right foot appeared with its toe on the goal line at the other side of the post from where he was standing. The football hit his boot and bounced outward back into play. What had been a great shot by the opposition's centre forward didn't cross the line because of Kenny's steel toe cap. What happened next around Kenny and me is just a blur. The angry howls of the East Howle players, the cross face of the referee certainly, but what I remember most was the praise of the home supporters. Kenny was a hero, and Harry too, by association, standing next to him.

Now for the penalty kick that I saw on YouTube:

Follow this link.


I regret to say that the video has been removed
because of 'terms of use violation'. It showed players waiting around with the ball on the spot for a penalty kick to be taken in a match in Russia. On to the screen comes a spectator, takes the kick, and puts the ball cleanly past the surprised goalie. 

This spectator intervention in a football match reminded me of Kenny and his new boots.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Elsie, the brave

Today, Saturday 26th September, at Ipswich many emotional associations with football came together in a moving moment before the kick-off. The match was Ipswich Town v Newcastle United. Newcastle were lying second in the Championship and Ipswich second from the bottom without a win this season thus far. Sir Bobby Robson had managed both teams in his long enthusiasm for football.

Earlier in the week a thanksgiving service in Durham Cathedral for the late Sir Bobby took place. Testimonials to this great man who put his life on the line and in the news for so long for the game that he loved were made while millions watched on television. The occasion and what it represented was movingly described by Paul Hayward in The Guardian.

A powerful picture from today will always be in my mind: one of the spectators at the match was Elsie, Bobby's widow, Lady Robson, , remaining composed while 'Abide with Me' was sung with the television cameras on her. Her pride in the admiration that had been shown for her late husband must have given her that extra strength she needed.

'Abide with Me', sung before every F.A. Cup final, provides one of those goose-pimple moments in football every year. This was an extra and a special one for this year. How hard it must have been for her to stand up bravely through it; but she did it. What a grand performance! Very well played, Lady Robson! May I call you 'Elsie'?

Ipswich then lost 0-4 to Newcastle. This is the result he would have preferred, I think. He won the old First Division as manager of Ipswich but came from the north-east. A coal-miner's son, and a Newcastle supporter from a boy. He managed Newcastle for 5 years from 1999 to 2004 bringing two years of Champions' League football to Tyneside. The associations are too strong to doubt where his heart was.