Around a quarter to seven Saturday evening, Peter Crouch lit up what had been an attritional game at the Britannia Stadium with the kind of goal that should provoke nothing but fulsome praise and exaltation at its execution and skill.
But this is England, so that never happens of course. Shame on us.
Within seconds of Crouch’s extraordinary volley, my timelines were full of comments ranging from the woefully inaccurate (‘he didn’t mean that/that was a cross’) to the unbelievably stupid (‘So what? He doesn’t do that sort of thing often enough…’)
So there you have it folks – Peter Crouch will only be accepted as a striker of rare repute if he larrups one in Van-Basten-style every week…although you never know, they might allow him to do it once every other week, eh?
This is why we fail. Time and again. English football is all about accentuating the negative rather than praising the positive. We wax lyrical if a player with an unpronounceable surname scores a goal that gets you out of your seat. If it’s an Englishman - and especially an Englishman who happens to play for a so-called ‘unfashionable’ or ‘parochial’ team – the knives are out before the game has even re-started.
Crouch is an easy target, and not just because he’s taller than your average. Because of his somewhat nomadic existence since his Spurs youth days, it’s a tap in do the ‘more clubs than Tiger Woods’ line and suggest therefore that if he was a good enough player, he’d have hung around at Villa, Liverpool or Spurs for a longer period of time. So what? How many one-club men are there these days? The exceptions prove the rule.
Then there’s this argument that he doesn’t do it often enough, and then Messi or Ronaldo is inevitably brought up – these guys are freaks of human nature! Ronaldo scores 100 goals in what – 92 games? Messi the first to score 4 in a single Champions League game? Ok let’s compare them to everybody else shall we? That’s more than fair isn’t it? Good grief…
That is not to say that goals of that quality are not to be debated ever. Ray Houghton has told me enough times on talkSPORT “Show me a goal and I’ll show you a mistake”. But to pick holes in a strike of that quality within seconds of Stoke fans doing the Poznan? It’s utterly pointless and smacks of either being disingenuous or just plain jealous. Get over yourselves. That, for me, is not being a football fan. Enjoy the game and the good stuff that goes with it that makes your heart soar. Or remain miserable and curmudgeonly. It’s up to you.
Heaven help the moaning minnies if England ever achieve anything at International level, or if an Englishman fires 40 goals a season to help secure a title – they’ll have to look that much harder for a scapegoat. Trouble is they’ll find one. They always do, because that what they concentrate all their energies on – not on the good, the great or even the mesmeric as we saw at The Brit. Rather be a grouch about Crouch than be a happy tweeter about Peter.
David Lee Roth once said of his long-estranged bandmate Eddie Van Halen “He’s not happy unless he’s unhappy”. I cannot think of a better phrase to sum up those who seek to denigrate, dissect and undermine a superb goal before the net has stopped rippling. I despair…We deserve the world we get sometimes.
I’m getting nervous. Very nervous. And it’s an all too familiar feeling.
I’m starting to lose count of how many times Blues have been in the Div 2/Div 1/Championship promotion or play off shake-up and it doesn’t get any less sickly in the pit of your stomach. I think back to Andy Kennedy scoring at St Andrew’s on final day whilst Oxford dropped points so we went back up the First Division in the 80’s – Keith Fahey’s terrific strike at Reading a couple of years back that set us on our way – even those dramatic nights against Brentford & Bradford in 94/95 where we beat the Bees but couldn’t quite bat away the Bantams (Claridge should’ve had a penalty late on though) just conjures up the tension and the knotted stomachs that go hand in hand with the uncertainties of being a Bluenose.
I’ve said before now that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see us battle to stay up this time around, never mind go up. I know that our defence looked one of the strongest in the league before the season began, but with so many new faces and such a dark financial cloud hanging over the club, you’d have forgiven the new incumbents of our Royal Blue shirt for feeling a little sorry for what they’d walked into and blindly thrash their way through the campaign as best they could without the necessary focus to do much more than struggle.
But we all know now (if we didn’t already) that Chris Hughton’s hand has been steadier than someone trying to get all the body parts out of the Operation game inside 30 seconds without touching the sides once and lighting up the bloke’s nose. Chris has galvanized the squad and gone on 2 spectacular unbeaten runs this term, and as I type we’re just outside the play-offs with a game in hand on most above us.
However, now we’re kind of ‘there or thereabouts’ I have to confess that, whilst I stated back in August that promotion wasn’t in my mind at all, being so tantalisingly close has revised my opinion to a point where I’ll feel rather empty if we’re not in the play-offs come May.
And I hate the play-offs. Let’s face it-we’ve fannied about with this end of season torture enough as fans to know how it can go – agony (Preston) and ecstasy (Millwall/Norwich) and all that. I’m typing this in the press room at St Andrew’s with an hour until we kick off against Cardiff, who’ve been wobbling like us since their Carling Cup heartache – and us Bluenoses know as well as the Bluebirds all about that particular emotion.
One things for sure – this Championship race for automatic and play-offs will go down to the last kick in May. It always does, and I love it and hate it in equal measure because of it.