If You Could Erase Just One Goal...

Paul Little has been talking to Doctor Who. Well, he hasn't, but his subconscious brings an interesting question: which goal would you wipe from the history books...?

Last Updated: 02/07/13 at 11:35 Post Comment

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Right, so I'm deep in conversation about football with Doctor Who. Not the current incarnation - the bloody lightweight - no, the spooky daddy of 'em all, Tom Baker, who used to have me cowering behind the sofa as a kid. And in the course of our discussion, he offers me a once in a lifetime opportunity. The discussion centres round football and heartbreak. We've all been shattered by the cruelty of an ill-timed opposition goal. Glory ripped from our grasp, the certainty of defeat and failure shoved in our faces as the net ripples.

The Doctor has an intriguing proposition. What if he could transport me back to any game, and with a cloak of invisibility (don't remember that from the telly) allow me to direct a critical touch, deflection, shot away from goal and to safety and wash one moment of football heart ache from history. I mull over the options...but a jarring dig to the ribs from the War Office, the words "Your turn" and the wail of a forlorn child in the night snap me out of my slumber and a rare doozey of a football dream dissipates. (Strange how football dreams are so few and far between for someone eats and drinks the game.)

Anyway, by way of consolation in the barren football days of summer, I'm left with the question. Just what goal would I intervene to stop?

Putting on my Liverpool hat (it's rarely off some will argue), a few come to mind all too easily. But the decision is not up for grabs here and there are no prizes for guessing what comes top of the pile: Michael Thomas's injury time gut wrencher for Arsenal at Anfield in 1989. I recall the tension forcing me out into the garden for some tense pacing. I came back in hoping it'd all be over, but Alan Smith's opener had given me an unshakeable sense of forboding, which was realised as I walked in just in time to witness Brian Moore's legendary commentary, so beloved of Arsenal fans, so wretched for Reds. If only the Doctor could drop me onto the pitch where I could lie in wait for Thomas. Oh, to just poke it away just as he pulls the trigger.

As an Irishman, three goals jockey for position in my thoughts. Protasov and Kieft in Euro 88, and Gallas in 2009. The unjustness of the Frenchman's goal in Paris certainly deserves redressing. Rubbing it out of history would leave us all feeling cleaner - maybe even the French. Kieft's ridiculous, off target header in Euro 88 for the Netherlands also stung me very deeply. In fact, thinking back on that goal, the bizarre spin on the ball as it bounced around Bonner makes me wonder whether the good Doctor had offered a similar opportunity to a Dutch fan already, as that ball defied physics.

But strangely perhaps, it was the crack Ukrainian Protasov's unwarranted equaliser for the USSR in the preceding game that still hurts most. Ireland, at their first major tournament in a desperately tough group, had taken the Soviets to the cleaners in what is for me still our greatest ever performance. We were so on top that Protasov's strike came like a bolt from the blue. A hopeful punt from midfield, Belanov hangs a leg out and suddenly Protasov is bearing down on Bonner. As the ball hit the net, I felt deflated - no, winded. The physical memory makes me chose that one to erase - arriving just in time to nudge the great striker as he prepares to drive his rapier into my solar plexus.

Now it's your turn. With the help of the Galiffreyan, what goal would you wipe from history? Answers in a Tweet, a comment - even on a postcard, please.

Paul Little - follow him on Twitter

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