Wide of the mark

6 Feb

The Ministry of Defence recently announced that £5,800 of Viagra has gone missing from their supplies.  Quite why the army is using Viagra remains a mystery.  Suffice to say, if I was an Afghan insurgent, I’d be nervous.  There’s fighting dirty, and then there’s a passionate brand of “chemical warfare” that goes way beyond the pale.

Potency is critical, though; in all walks of life.  Whether you’re bearing down on goal or staring into the eyes of a terrified farmer with a hand rifle, you can’t be afraid to be the one that pulls the trigger first.  He who isn’t decisive risks his own mortality or, worse still, three points dropped.

Understanding this truism makes one type of footballer all the more curious.  For one genus of player is the very definition self-mollifying impotence.  The sort of unfortunate creation that, like the atomic bomb or Sally Bercow, we wish we could un-invent.  I speak, of course, of the Non-Scoring Striker.

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The closest equivalent to the Non-Scoring Striker in zoological terms might be the mule.  An evolutionary dead-end.  Or, for those of faith, one of God’s mistakes.  Either way, one thing is certain: while content to live out its own existence, the Non-Scoring Striker will not spawn any progeny.  No child in the land tells his father he’s going to be the next Cameron Jerome.

For clarity, I have nothing but love for this unexpected creature.  Sport, famously, is about the taking part.  The Non-Scoring Striker has just as much right to be out there as any other type of footballer.  But it is nevertheless the case that, like candy floss and women called Gretchen, there’s just no explaining their existence.  What is the point of the Non-Scoring Striker?  If Jamie Mackie falls in the woods, would it affect the scoreline?  One suspects not.  Does David N’Gog matter?  I couldn’t swear to you, hand on heart, that any result in the history of football would be any different if Mr and Mrs Altidore hadn’t engaged in one particular knee-trembler during the Spring of ’89.

Yet the game is awash with them.  Kevin Davies.  Carlton Cole.  Jon Walters. Victor Anichebe.  Alan Smith.  Luke Moore.  Anyone with the surname Ameobi.  These are players who couldn’t sort out their feet in front of goal any sooner than they could sort out the Middle East.  Each one of them a millionaire.

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There’s no doubting who was the doyenne of the floundering front-men.  That would be Emile Ivanhoe Heskey.  Truly, Heskey was the magnum opus of misaligned marksmen.  A man who reached exalted status among the Non-Scoring Striker fraternity by amassing 62 full international caps.  Just the one cap less than Alan Shearer.  Nobody couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net quite like Heskey couldn’t.

Heskey was a curate’s egg of hold-up play, knock-downs and fifty-fifty challenges.  Crucially, though, never any end product.  Ever.  It was like playing an enthusiastic Catholic girl up top.  An “everything but” scenario that was lively but, ultimately, gave rise to frustration and a nagging feeling that everyone was wasting their time.

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The barn-door is always open for new members at the Non-Scoring Strikers’ Convention.  Danny Welbeck recently had a narrow escape from this most regrettable of clubs.  A measly two goals in forty games last year playing up front for the runaway champions was ominous stuff.  Welbz was about to be branded with the cruellest of hot pokers.  One can only imagine the sheer terror the poor lad must have felt; mentally tethered to a “cow’s arse” while the death laser slowly moved up towards his misfiring “banjo”.  The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when young Danny rediscovered what the French would call his raison d’être.  Nine priceless goals this season have saved his soul and with it, undoubtedly, his sanity.

The strange thing in Welbeck’s instance is he only needs to peer across the training ground for a perfect case study on how the job is supposed to be done.  Javier Hernandez has the instincts of a born killer.  A man who, the very moment his team gains possession of the football, charges unthinkingly into the opponent’s penalty area.  No “ifs”.  No “buts”.  Like Ryan Giggs when he pays a visit to his brother’s house, there’s only one thing on his mind.  Get in there and do the bloody business.  Welbeck really ought to have been taking notes.

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So what happened to these godforsaken souls?  Did something get wrongly emphasised at a critical stage of their development?  Too much of a weighting placed on the team, perhaps, rather than the score-sheet? And is there a cure for NSS?

If I had my way, I would sit all of these Non-Scoring Strikers down and show them a tape of every single one of Filippo Inzaghi’s 219 senior goals.  Alex Ferguson once described Inzaghi as being “born offside”.  I find it strange that, of all people, Ferguson – a man who hand-picked some of the best strikers of the last 25 years – could so badly misunderstand Inzaghi.  Did he not grasp that, after getting caught offside for the sixth time, on the seventh time around Inzaghi would spring the trap with such precision and beauty that he would find himself in absolutely acres of space and a one-on-one with the keeper (something of not inconsiderable assistance for a gentleman with no discernible pace)?  Could he not see that Inzaghi had a level of conviction in front of goal that would see him gladly locked up for the sins of scoring a brace away at Livorno?

A few years ago now, Super Pippo scored perhaps the most beautiful goal I have ever seen.  He had received the ball deep into the penalty area and was immediately confronted by two defenders in close proximity.  With little time to react and no momentum in his favour, Inzaghi flicked the ball against the thigh of one of the defenders, and then jumped between the two of them (there was about a yard gap) into an area he roughly predicted the ball may ricochet into.  Having gotten suitably close to the ball with his two-footed leap, he was just about able to then attach his shin to the ball coming up on the half volley in order to propel it goal-wards.  As you might imagine, such an attempt on goal did not carry a great deal of force.  However, the effort was just about sufficient to beat a thoroughly foxed goalkeeper and, magnificently, crossed the goal-line without even having enough pace to go on to touch the net.

There are a number of ways one could try to describe the single-minded brilliance and the level of desire required to score a goal like that.  However, it might just be simpler to conclude that it was not one you would anticipate Jeremie Aliadiere scoring any time soon.

You can follow Sonny (@_SonnyPike) on Twitter or subscribe to Too Good for the English Game by clicking the “Follow” button at the bottom-right corner of this page (this button is mysteriously unavailable on the mobile version of the website).

A challenging proposition.

A challenging proposition.


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2 Responses to “Wide of the mark”

  1. Ed March 6, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    any chance of a link to that pippo goal?

    • Sonny Pike March 7, 2014 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Ed!

      Sure thing – here you go mate:



      Sonny

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