First XI

Goal celebrations

November 1, 2012
By Robin Hackett
(Archive)

Recent days have seen Nottingham Forest striker Billy Sharp eat a fan's hot dog in celebration and Liverpool's Luis Suarez perform an elaborate bellyflop in front of Everton boss David Moyes, so this week's First XI picks out a selection of memorable celebrations from the English game (many of the game's most famous international efforts having already been covered in a previous World Cup selection).

Eddy Brown (1948-64)

Eddy Brown
PA PhotosEddy Brown also took on work as a model

Brown is the man credited with revolutionising the goal celebration. During a career spent with clubs including Preston, Southampton, Coventry and Birmingham, the centre-forward became a well-known personality - a "clown with artistry in his feet", as the Daily Express put it in 1959.

"I'd shake hands with the corner flag when I scored, or the opposing goalkeeper, and I'd have a chat with the policeman behind the goal or give him a comic cuddle," he told the Lancashire Evening Post in 2003. "It might seem a bit mundane now but it caused a sensation when I first started doing my crazy celebrations."

Brown, who liked to quote Shakespeare at every opportunity, is also said to have thrown a press photographer's hat into the crowd and headed to the stands to take a swig from a fan's drink. "Yes, I was eccentric," he said. "Not crackers. Just eccentric."

Charlie George (Liverpool 1-2 ARSENAL, 1971 FA Cup final)

When Arsenal legend George scored the winning goal in the 1971 FA Cup final against Liverpool, firing a shot past Ray Clemence, he collapsed onto his back, arms outstretched, waiting for his team-mates to pick him up.

In 2007, FA Cup sponsors E.ON voted it the most energy-efficient FA Cup celebration of all time, and George - who had been violently sick due to nerves ahead of the game - confirmed that exhaustion had indeed been the cause of his iconic fall.

"I fell down because I didn't have another drop of energy left in me," he told Sabotage Times in 2011. "I wasn't thinking that I ought to do something that people will remember. I was just f***ing knackered. As for that rumour about me having an erection while I was laying there, that's bollocks."

Robin Friday (READING 2-1 Rochdale, Division Four, 1974-75)

Robin Friday
Other / Reading FCRobin Friday kisses a policeman after netting a late winner

Though he never played top-flight football, Friday became a legendary figure for his jaw-dropping feats on and off the field, and one of his most famous moments came after he scored a last-minute winner against Rochdale in April 1975 that kept alive Reading's promotion hopes.

After scoring, Friday - who had trouble with the law throughout his life - went to a policeman behind the goal, removed his helmet and kissed his forehead. "The policeman looked so cold and fed up standing there that I decided to cheer him up a bit," Friday said.

Denis Law (Manchester United 0-1 MANCHESTER CITY, First Division, 1973-74)

Throughout his prolific Old Trafford career, Law became famous for his celebration - one arm raised, finger pointed to the sky - and his manager, Sir Matt Busby, credits him with its popularity. "Before Denis," he said, "such salutes to the crowd were rare."

However, his single most famous celebration was, in fact, not a celebration at all. After he was released by Manchester United boss Tommy Docherty in 1973, he returned to Manchester City on a free transfer, and the following April scored the only goal of a derby his former employers had needed to win to have any hope of beating the drop.

"He turned away without the arm up and, for probably the first time, his head down," his former team-mate George Best wrote in Hard Tackles and Dirty Baths. It proved to be the last contribution of Law's club career, and the striker would later recall that he had "seldom felt so depressed" as he had after that goal.

Jurgen Klinsmann (Sheffield Wednesday 3-4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, Premier League, 1994-95)

Jurgen Klinsmann makes his point after scoring against Sheffield Wednesday
GettyImagesJurgen Klinsmann makes his point after scoring against Sheffield Wednesday

When Germany star Jurgen Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham in the summer of 1994, he was met with a sense of revulsion in England at his perceived gamesmanship, with the Mirror tagging him a "Dive Bomber" and even The Times writing that he is "regarded first and foremost as football's supreme conman".

Klinsmann began a swift and efficient charm offensive. At his first press conference, he introduced himself by asking the assembled journalists: "To begin with, I have a question for you... Is there a diving school in London?"

On his Premiership debut, he scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 82nd minute at Hillsborough before throwing himself to the floor. "We thought, 'Everybody's going to give him stick for diving'," team-mate Teddy Sheringham, who suggested the celebration, said. "This was like giving two fingers to them all before they could taunt him."

It worked superbly, as illustrated by one Guardian writer who had penned a piece in June 1994 entitled "Why I hate Jurgen Klinsmann". Two months later, he penned a second piece: "Why I love Jurgen Klinsmann."

Paul Tait (BIRMINGHAM 1-0 Carlisle United, 1995 Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy final)

While not football's grandest occasion, Birmingham's 1995 Football League Trophy success was witnessed by over 75,000 fans - the biggest Wembley crowd since the 1991 FA Cup final - but it came to be overshadowed by its hero's ill-advised celebration.

Tait secured the cup with a 103rd-minute golden goal before lifting his shirt to reveal an undergarment bearing the phrase "Birmingham City shit on the Villa". He was swiftly fined two weeks' wages by his club, with David Sullivan, Birmingham owner and soft porn magnate, expressing outrage at his actions. "We are trying to promote a family image at Birmingham City and this doesn't go down well with that philosophy," he said.

Roberto Di Matteo (CHELSEA 1-0 Middlesbrough, Premier League, 1996-97)

Chelsea celebrate Roberto Di Matteo's first Chelsea goal
PA PhotosChelsea celebrate Roberto Di Matteo's first Chelsea goal

A tepid encounter at Stamford Bridge in August 1996 was lit up when Di Matteo, making his home debut, fired in a 25-yard strike to secure the three points.

Yet, if that goal has been forgotten, the celebration has not: Di Matteo, along with the likes of Frank Le Boeuf, Dennis Wise and Dan Petrescu, formed a chorus line to produce one of the Premier League's iconic images.

Temuri Ketsbaia (NEWCASTLE UNITED 2-1 Bolton Wanderers, Premier League, 1997-98)

In January 1998, in his debut season with Newcastle, Ketsbaia made a name for himself when coming off the bench to score an injury-time winner against Bolton. By way of celebration, he removed his shirt, attempted to remove his boot and then began wildly kicking the advertising boards with such ferocity that he later discovered he'd broken his toe. He attempted to explain himself in the aftermath: "I know it was unusual, but I wasn't angry. I was happy."

However, in a 2001 interview with Sky Sports, he offered a more logical explanation. "I was just disappointed because for no reason I was left out for three months or for four months," he said. "I was always sitting on the bench. It's the goal that I just want to forget. For me, this goal was a bad memory."

Robbie Fowler (LIVERPOOL 3-2 Everton, Premier League, 1998-99)

Having faced taunts from the Everton fans over alleged drug use, Fowler opted to hit back after netting a penalty to level the scores at 1-1 by getting down to his knees, holding one finger to his nostril and 'inhaling' the line.

His manager, Gerard Houllier, made a desperate attempt to claim the striker was pretending to eat grass following a suggestion from team-mate Rigobert Song - "It was nothing to do with the taunts," Houllier insisted - but Fowler came clean and received a four-match ban in addition to fines from both his club and the FA.

"I was the one who dragged Robbie off the ground when I saw what he was doing," team-mate Steve McManaman told The Guardian in 2009. "If he had thought about it, he probably would have decided it was not the right thing to do."

Jimmy Bullard (Manchester City 1-1 HULL CITY, Premier League, 2009-10)

Jimmy Bullard sits his team-mates down for a telling off at Manchester City
PA PhotosJimmy Bullard sits his team-mates down for a telling off at Manchester City

On Boxing Day in the 2008-09 season, with Hull's superb start to life in the top-flight having gone awry, manager Phil Brown famously conducted his half-time team talk on the pitch at Manchester City as he sought to inspire a fightback from 4-0 down. Hull ultimately lost the match 5-1 and midfielder George Boateng later cited it as the point "when all the problems started".

Relegation was averted, though, and at the same ground the following season, Bullard rescued a point for the Tigers with an 82nd-minute penalty and proceeded to re-enact the scene, sitting his team-mates down and wagging his finger in their direction. Brown saw the funny side. "Great comedy is about timing," he said. "I couldn't deliver my post-match speech as I was laughing so much."

Mario Balotelli (Manchester United 1-6 MANCHESTER CITY, Premier League, 2011-12)

Throughout his early career, it had always been Mario. The Italian's successes had been forever clouded by a string of often farcical off-field distractions - on the weekend of the derby, there had been reports that he had released fireworks in his bathroom - but his brace to set Manchester City on their way to a famous victory shifted the focus.

After his opener, though, Balotelli had done his bit to keep the sideshow going by unveiling an undershirt bearing the question "Why always me?". Interpreted as a statement about his persistent presence in the tabloids, the striker afterwards alluded to an alternative explanation for the message: "I did it for many reasons, but I'll leave it for other people to figure out what it means. I'm sure people can work it out." They have not.