What A Goal!

Ask a bunch of fans for their best Forest goals ever and they’ll be recollecting out-loud before you’ve finished the question. The same reaction would follow with any group of supporters, whatever their team. Reading this opening, your mind is probably already sorting a personal top goals sequence!

There need be no time limit on your choice. I’m not thinking a Match Of The Day ‘Goal of the Month’, more a ‘Goal of the Memory’. Cast a month back, a season, five seasons, a decade or decades. Replays of favourite goals through the lens of remembering allow for readjustments. Each re-living of the moment intensifies the drama as you accessorise your account. Like fishing folk tales of a catch that has a fish grow larger with each retelling, recollecting a goal scored can elevate it – when embellished – to legendary status.

Memory is mutable and goals can play out better in the head than on the screen, especially if they were scored before the days of mass TV coverage. Memorable goals for me include times when I was in the Trent End and felt the scored goal rather than saw it. A  sudden eruption, thousands of voices rejoicing, ripples of excitement, and then the evaporation of the moment mixed with anticipation of more to come. A photo perhaps caught the instant but, without cameras rolling and recording, what was left was in your head. ‘You had to be there,’ we might say.

Any goal scored is a sliver of gold, however it’s come by. Aged ten, my first one for our school team came by way of a toe-poke but the elation left me weak-kneed. A ball can be scrambled into the net from a yard, fired in from a thirty yard volley, cheekily chipped over a keeper’s head, powered over the line by a mighty header: all goals count.

Style, though, does add kudos to a goal scored. And does it come any better than a perfect execution of the overhead kick? After I’d seen Joe Baker score the only one I think I’ve ever witnessed live (Bridgford kop, 1967), I had one thing in mind. Over the next few weeks, I repeatedly chucked my ball in the air in our bare-grass garden, flipped backwards and tried to kick it. Some clean contacts but, after one broken window and complaints from a neighbour at the number of times I was climbing over his fence, parents intervened and that was that. It’s a memory that came to mind this week as the BBC website showed a compilation of best Premiership bicycle-kick goals from their archive. Wayne Rooney’s spectacular effort for United against Manchester City in the 2010-11 season possibly tops some outstanding scoring by players demonstrating that most tricky of techniques.

YouTube, of course, is always available to invite us into clips and compilations of goals for teams, players and occasions, scored in all manner of styles, locations and times. Most memorable for me – as goals watched on TV – were those scored by Maradona against England in the 1986 World Cup. His first became ‘The Hand of God’ goal as he flicked the ball over goalkeeper Shilton’s head courtesy of his palm.

Maradona’s second goal, though, is the one that had commentators momentarily lost for words. The diminutive player wove his way, from his own half, through an English defence looking as if they’d been put on ‘pause’, before sliding the ball over the line to the adulation of his team and fans. ‘Mercurial’, ‘magic’, ‘miraculous’, were just some of the epithets that finally came tumbling out of the mouths of observers at the time, including amongst our family at home. The best ever World Cup goal? Perhaps, but it’s a highly subjective endeavour. Judging the merits of a goal in isolation is one thing; considering all of the circumstances is another.

We can all recall City Ground times when, for a nano-second, the air has felt to be sucked out of the stadium as there’s been that collective intake of breath before the release of the roar. A Forest goal! It’s a feeling as elemental and electric to me now, aged seventy, as it was when I was seven. To steal the title from a Bob Dylan song (written for one of his sons), celebrating a goal makes you feel ‘Forever Young’. For a moment! It connects us with, and adds to, our back-catalogue of remembered joy shared on the terraces.

So, best Forest goal? Video clips remind us that Stuart Pearce’s repertoire ranged from thunderous shots outside the penalty area to some remarkable solo efforts as he surged through the opposition from his own half. His free-kick goal in the 1991 FA Cup final against Spurs demonstrated his ability to place a ball to perfection. If Pearce’s tally of goals for the Reds is astonishing for a defender, Stan Collymore’s record (45 goals in 78 appearances) is impressive, too, but might be considered less surprising for a striker. Between 1993-95, though, it was the manner in which he took his chances that endeared us to him. Ever audacious, it’s only by watching replays that we can really appreciate his turn of speed, his balance, his instinct for goal.

Yet, very recently, another striker, of a completely different order, left us open-mouthed at his scoring achievements and all in one game! Chris Wood thoroughly enjoyed his return to Tyneside last month and gave his old employers, Newcastle, a hat-trick for a leaving present. If his first goal was a tap-in, the next two raised eyebrows of surprise at his poise in receiving the ball to delightfully round defenders and the keeper and finish off in clinical fashion.

With plenty of Premiership games left to play, the hope is for more – winning! – goals from Forest and we’ve had tasters, of late, of the scoring skills of Hudson-Odoi and Gibbs-White. The latter’s winner against Manchester United last month was simply sublime. Goal Of The Month? Viewed again, his curling of the ball to nurse it through the tiniest of gaps has me logging it up as one to remember for as long as we talk about best ever Reds’ goals.

*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Morgan Gibbs-White celebrating his classic curling effort v Man Utd.

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