The last 17 days has been one of the more remarkable periods of European football. Whether it be an Argentinian striker winning the Premier League title in stoppage time, to the dismay of local rivals, or Montpellier fans having to endure opposition fans pelting anything that moved on the pitch with bizarre objects such as eggs, tennis balls and toilet paper as they looked to secure their first domestic trophy in over 20 years, it has been an entertaining time for football fans.
This article isn’t to exhibit what everybody already knows; well maybe apart from the recently discovered indigenous Korubo tribe in Brazil though I am sure you can get their home games on Sky Sports 3. Yes Sergio Aguero won the title for Manchester City in stoppage time as they came from 2-1 down to win 3-2 denying Manchester United another Premier League title, Yes Didier Drogba’s last kick enabled Chelsea to win that elusive Champions League trophy. And yes Juventus is once again embroiled in match fixing allegations after winning their first Serie A title since the last scandal. Football is indeed a funny old game.
Instead it has been written to showcase the more bizarre side of football… the one that keeps fans uttering, “what will happen next?” and “did that just happen?” Or in the immortal words of Chris Kamara, “Unbelievable Jeff”. I have trawled through my memory bank and the Internet to bring some gems for your delectation, as we ask the question “Is football fact stranger than fiction?”
Here are five true stories that are stranger than fiction:
1. One of my more unique memories was watching Leeds United’s goalkeeper Paul Robinson score the equalising goal against Swindon Town in a League Cup game, but keepers scoring are no longer the stuff of comic books or fantasies. But try telling that to Jimmy Glass and Carlisle Utd fans. The setting was a simple unimposing stadium in northern England in 1999. Carlisle was on the brink of relegation out of the Football League when the game went into stoppage time. Carlisle, drawing 1-1 but needing those precious three points, won a last minute corner. As the ball sailed into the box, an almighty melee ensued, resulting in the ball finding it’s way to the feet of on-loan Carlisle Goalkeeper Jimmy Glass. His side-foot strike into the back of the net sent the capacity crowd into raptures and relegated Scarborough instead of Carlisle. And despite Jimmy drifting into football obscurity, and is now a taxi driver in Poole, that monumental goal has cemented his place in football folklore.
2. Ten years previous to this occurrence, the English top flight saw a certain Michael Thomas making himself a household name, but I am sure most readers know all about his feat, so I wont dwell on it too much. His stoppage time winner at Anfield on the final day of the season on a gloomy May evening resulted in his team, Arsenal, winning the title at the home of their title rivals Liverpool. Not quite Sergio Aguero. but worth the trip over to Youtube.com to hear iconic commentary from Brian Moore and the look of horror on Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. To add further fuel to the bizarre fire, Michael Thomas went on to sign for Liverpool and score in their successful 1992 FA Cup final against Sunderland.
3. I introduce you to Stan Van Den Buys. For breaking goal scoring records, the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Lineker and Dixie Dean should be accompanied by Van Den Buys. Why? Belgian ‘professional’ footballer Van Den Buys managed to complete the incredible accomplishment of scoring three own goals in one game back in 1995-1996 during Germinal Ekerken’s 3-2 defeat against Anderlecht. Though Frank Sinclair and Michael Duberry have attempted to repeat this, Staf still holds the ‘hat-trick of own goals’ trophy in his cabinet. Hapless is one word that can be used to describe him…. the likes of which you normally only see on school playgrounds.
4. So from kamikaze defending to musical footballers getting into trouble with the law during a game a football. Enter the stranger than fiction story of former Irish international Liam Daish. During Birmingham’s regulation win over Chester City in 1994, captain Daish popped up with his team’s 4th goal and was thrown a toy trumpet by one of the elated Birmingham fans. Musical Liam decided to perform with the aforementioned trumpet as he showboated to the crowd. This lead to him being booked which resulted in a three-match ban from the FA as his disciplinary points tally hit 41. This surely amused fans up and down the country as his Louis Armstrong impersonation kept him out for crucial games over Birmingham’s Christmas period. Note to David Beckham, if LA Galaxy fans give you a banjo to play, stay well clear.
5. And the final word should go to legendary northern journeyman Ashley Ward for an impressive accolade that even Pele would be proud of. In the space of five minutes at Sunderland in November 1998, Barnsley striker Ashley Ward scored, missed a penalty and was sent off. The classic striker’s hat-trick.
These are just a few of the many examples that showcase ‘football fact being stranger than fiction’. Fox Mulder suggested “The truth is out there” and though it might not be at Area 51, it could be at Underhill Barnet or at the KC Stadium Hull.
So what are your stranger than football stories? Do you remember anything or have witnessed something which left you asking “Is football fact stranger than fiction?”