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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
ESPNsoccernet: November 14, 12:36 PM UK
Super-subs

Robin Hackett

After a weekend in which Javier Hernandez and Edin Dzeko both proved match-winners from the bench, we pick out a selection of some of the game's greatest super-subs.

Dieter Muller (West Germany)

The 1976 European Championship had promised a rerun of the 1974 World Cup final between Netherlands and West Germany, yet things did not go according to plan. Netherlands were defeated 3-1 by Czechoslovakia in their semi-final, and the following day West Germany found themselves 2-1 down to Yugoslavia with 11 minutes to play. It was at that stage that coach Helmut Schon, relenting to assistant Jupp Derwall's persistent requests, decided to give Cologne striker Muller his first taste of international football. The gamble paid off instantly: with his first touch for his country, Muller headed home a corner to force extra-time, and he then netted twice more to complete his hat-trick and force a 4-2 win. "That day changed my life," Muller told DFB.de ahead of Euro 2012. "I became an overnight superstar, someone who had to sign autographs." He was handed his first start in the final against Czechoslovakia and scored in a 2-2 draw, but the Germans were ultimately defeated on penalties, succumbing to Antonin Panenka's famous chipped spot-kick. Muller then had to readjust to life as a substitute when West Germany travelled to Wales for a friendly later that year. "When, the first game after the tournament, I found myself back on the bench, I complained publicly about Helmut Schon," he recalled. "I was always at war with Schon to some extent, even though he was a very fine man."

David Fairclough (Liverpool)

Playing for one of the greatest club sides in history, with a strikeforce of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack, Fairclough often found himself restricted to cameo appearances but he was, nonetheless, happy with his lot. "Substitutes are just as important and can be used with devastating effect," Fairclough wrote in the Daily Express in 1990. "Bob Paisley was a master of this tactic. The boss used me in a shrewd fashion, recognising my style and abilities ... anything with the word 'super' attached can't be all that bad." His greatest moment came en route to the 1977 European Cup success. Liverpool had been beaten 1-0 away in the first leg of their quarter-final clash with St Etienne and in the second leg, with the Reds winning 2-1 at Anfield but trailing on away goals, Paisley sent on his 20-year-old striker for the final 20 minutes. With six minutes to play, Fairclough scored the decisive goal. Even before that point, though, he had become known as the team's super-sub. As The Times observed that year: "It has become almost a matter of disbelief if Liverpool's fortunes do not take a turn for the better when Fairclough steps on as substitute, or if he does not inscribe his name on the scoresheet before his studs are moist." Fairclough netted 18 goals in 62 substitute appearances for the Reds between 1974 and 1983, while he scored 37 goals in 92 starts.

Perry Groves (Arsenal)

Groves remains a cult figure at Arsenal. A player who was always happy to do as the manager asked, he regularly made an impact from the bench, not least in the 1987 League Cup final when he came on to set up Charlie Nicholas for the winner against Liverpool. He often found himself condemned to the bench, but never lost his sense of pride at belonging to the club his uncle, Vic, had captained in the 1960s. However, in the 1987-88 season, as Arsenal sought to defend their League Cup crown, Groves' support from the bench caused him a problem when he celebrated a rare Nigel Winterburn goal in a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wendesday. "I unfortunately jumped up," he told Norway's Golden Goal TV show. "It was only a small dugout, so as I jumped up, I smacked my head on the top of the dugout roof and knocked myself out." He was largely used as a substitute as the Gunners claimed league titles in 1988-89 and 1990-91, and left the club for Southampton in 1992.

Roger Milla (Cameroon)

Though he had been named Africa's Player of the Year in 1975 and 1976 and spent several years in France, it was at the 1990 World Cup that Milla became a true star beyond his home continent. He was 38 years of age at that point, and had been spending his time on the island of Reunion, effectively retired. "The population was asking for a comeback," Milla said. "The voices were growing and growing. Then the newspapers gave the feelings of the people, especially after we had lost in the African [Nations] Cup ... so, finally, I agreed to return and play." Given his lack of fitness, Milla was relied upon to deliver from the bench, and he appeared as a substitute in each of Cameroon's five games as they marched to the quarter-finals. Milla's contributions were decisive: he scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over Romania in the group stage and both goals in the 2-1 victory over Colombia in the second round. At the 1994 World Cup, he made a further two appearances from the bench, and became the oldest scorer in the tournament's history when netting in a 6-1 defeat to Russia.

Lars Ricken (Borussia Dortmund)

After making his debut as a 17-year-old in March 1994, Ricken soon established himself as a player of true quality, and one of his most significant early contributions came as a substitute in the UEFA Cup third-round tie against Deportivo in December that year. Deportivo had won the first leg 1-0 and, after the return match went to extra-time, had scored a potentially decisive away goal to go 2-1 up on aggregate. In the 115th minute, Karl-Heinz Riedle made it 2-2 and then Ricken, who had come on as a 72nd-minute substitute, turned the tie in the hosts' favour in the dying moments as he smashed the ball past the goalkeeper. Dortmund would exit the UEFA Cup to Juventus at the semi-final stage, but in 1997 they gained vengeance in the Champions League final, with Ricken producing the defining moment of his career. Riedle had put the Germans 2-0 ahead before the break, but Juve threatened a comeback on 64 minutes as one of their substitutes, Alessandro Del Piero, scored with a backheel. Ottmar Hitzfeld brought on Ricken six minutes later, and after only 16 seconds the 20-year-old launched a stunning first-touch lob over goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi and into the goal. "I had been sitting on the bench,," he told Bild in 2009. "All the time, I'd been noticing that Peruzzi was constantly too far out of his goal. Once, just before the break, he was so far out that I said to someone on the bench: 'When I get onto the field, I'm going to have to take a potshot with the first ball I get'. That's what I did." He added: "If my career is reduced to that one moment in the years to come, that is something I had wanted to achieve when I started out."

Oliver Bierhoff (Germany)

Having made his international debut in February 1996, Bierhoff had yet to establish himself in the first team by the time of that summer's European Championship, and boss Berti Vogts later revealed that he had only included the striker in his squad after his wife advised him to during a gondola trip in Venice. The striker had failed to appear in the semi-final victory over England despite both Jurgen Klinsmann and Fredi Bobic being ruled out through injury but, when the Germans found themselves trailing Czech Republic 1-0 in the final, Vogts decided to give the Udinese striker his chance in the 69th minute. He swiftly justified his introduction, netting an equaliser in the 73rd minute to force extra-time, and in the 95th minute scored a 'Golden Goal' to give Germany the trophy. Vogts, speaking to Der Spiegel later in the year, was less than effusive about the manner of the victory. "The so-called 'Golden Goal', which brings an abrupt end to the game, is a terrible invention - it's a blow to the game of football," he said. "I'm still sorry for the Czech goalkeeper." The coach may have felt more grateful to Bierhoff by August 1997. The striker was brought off the bench in the 63rd minute of a World Cup qualifier in Northern Ireland, with the visitors trailing 1-0, and scored a six-minute hat-trick to seal a 3-1 win as Vogts' men eventually finished two points clear at the top of Group 9. "This 'super-sub' tag clings to me," Bierhoff said afterwards.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)

"I don't want to be remembered as a super-sub," Solskjaer said in January 1999 after netting the injury-time goal that saw Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup. In the months that followed, he did little to help his cause. In February, he came off the bench with 19 minutes remaining to score four goals as United completed an 8-1 victory at Nottingham Forest. In May, having come onto the field in the 81st minute of the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, he scored the 93rd-minute winner to complete the most remarkable of comebacks. He was a substitute when he scored his 100th goal for the club, on the opening day of the 2002-03 season, to seal a 1-0 win over West Brom, and he had come off the bench when he scored his final Manchester United goal in a 4-1 win over Blackburn in March 2007. "Coming on for ten minutes is not easy," he once said. "You never really catch up with the pace or tempo of the game, so it's just a question of trying to be in the right place at the right time. Then it's down to instinct, and the thing is I've practised that move so many times I don't even have to think about it. I just do it. I'm a striker."

Alvaro Recoba (Inter Milan and Nacional) One of the most talented players the game has seen in recent decades, Recoba has nonetheless often found himself restricted to appearances from the bench. Fitness issues brought on by a succession of injuries hampered his cause, but his phenomenal ability - not least when taking free-kicks - has allowed him to constantly steal the headlines. His finest performance came on his first appearance for Inter in August 1997. Making his debut on the same day as Ronaldo, Recoba came off the bench and scored two stunning goals in the last ten minutes to secure a 2-1 win over Brescia. Sir Bobby Robson, Ronaldo's manager at Barcelona, had been in the crowd, and he recalled: "It was 0-0, a tough game, and Recoba came on as a substitute. I thought: 'Jesus, who is this boy?' He hit two absolute snorters that day with his left foot, both from 25 yards." Recoba was barely used that season, though, making only one start, and during a decade with the club he struggled to produce when trusted to start and came to be relied upon as the super-sub. He returned to his native Uruguay with Nacional in July 2011 and has made a devastating impact from the bench since then. After coming on as a late substitute in the Clasico against title rivals Penarol in November, he scored a penalty to secure a 2-1 win. Against Liverpool the following month, he again came off the bench to put in a virtuoso performance and score a sublime goal in a 1-0 win that gave Nacional the title.

Jermain Defoe (Tottenham and England)

Although the super-sub tag has not stuck, and he has made it clear that he is not happy unless he is playing regular first-team football, Defoe has made a phenomenal contribution as a substitute. The striker is the Premier League's all-time leading scorer from the bench with 20 goals, and he is also the English national team's all-time top-scoring sub with seven goals.

Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia and Tottenham)

Pavlyuchenko established himself as a hero in Russia when he came onto the field in the 58th minute of the Euro 2008 qualifier against Group E rivals England. With the hosts trailing to a Wayne Rooney goal, he netted a 69th-minute equaliser from the penalty spot and then fired home the winner four minutes later. The following year, he moved to England with Tottenham Hotspur, but the super-sub ended up becoming a little too accustomed to the role. "You cannot even imagine how tired I am of sitting on the bench," he said in December 2009. "Do you want to hear a joke in London? It goes: 'Harry Redknapp put Roman Pavlyuchenko into the starting line-up'. For me it would be funny if it was not so painful. I have a feeling that our manager is mocking me."

Mohamed "Gedo" Nagy (Egypt)

Gedo opened his international account in January 2010 after coming off the bench in a 1-0 win over Mali, but it was at the 2010 African Nations Cup that the attacking midfielder truly cemented his super-sub status. Without making a start in the tournament, he netted in the first two group games - a 3-1 win over Nigeria and a 2-0 win over Mozambique - plus the 3-1 quarter-final victory over Cameroon and the 4-0 semi-final victory over Algeria. To crown his astonishing run, he scored the only goal of the final in the 85th minute as Egypt beat Ghana. "He became a star overnight and his life was turned upside down," Egypt's triumphant coach Hassan Shehata later remarked.


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