Ben Shires: My Favourite Goal
If ever there were a footballer I dreamt of emulating, it was Tony Yeboah. Not only because he played up front for my team, and was powerful and skilful and fearsome in the way you knew the best strikers should be, but because, for all too brief a time, everything he touched turned to goals. And not just any goals; shimmering, white hot bolts of bravado, that scorched through the footballing ether to forever lodge themselves in bewildered onlookers’ mental catalogues of best-ever strikes.
He made worldies look like a walk in the park; and in my local park during after-school kickabouts, ‘Yeboooooaaahhh’ is what I’d shriek as ball made contact with boot, however unspectacular the resultant strike turned out to be.
And yet, my favourite goal isn’t plucked from his go-to two: the rocketed volley against Liverpool or the knee juggling, crossbar rattling effort versus Wimbledon. Instead, it came on a Christmas Eve against Leeds’ bitter rival Manchester United, a memorable gift in a season that was otherwise trundling towards mid-table disappointment.
It began on the halfway line from the unlikeliest of sources: a deft flick off the head of mercurial underachiever Tomas Brolin that so unnerved defender Paul Parker he swung a wild leg at it, missed and never quite recovered. Yeboah gleefully accepted the invitation and was away; conjuring touch after touch that sent him barrelling down on Peter Schmeichel’s goal whilst never appearing to be fully in control. It was enough to bamboozle the usually unflappable Denis Irwin, whose head seemed stuck at a 90 degree angle to his body, as he craned unsuccessfuly to see which way the ball might move next. Perhaps the secret to it was that even Yeboah didn’t know himself, right up until the moment it mattered the most; with the imposing mass of Schmeichel bearing down on him, all extended limbs and asymmetric shirt design, the striker dug a right boot under the errant ball and lifted it majestically over the big Dane, nestling it perfectly into an otherwise empty net. The crowd erupted, the battle of the Roses all but won for that day at least. And a ten year old in the crowd went home knowing that Santa had heard what he’d asked him for.