Top Ten Former Club Shaftings

After Robin van Persie popped up with the winner for Manchester United against Arsenal, Nick Miller picks his top ten shaftings handed out to former clubs...

Last Updated: 12/11/13 at 09:59 Post Comment

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10) Emmanuel Adebayor - for Manchester City v Arsenal, 2009
What people forget in the hand-wringing about what a disgraceful thing Adebayor did by running the length of the pitch to celebrate in his first game for City against his former club Arsenal, is that it was really funny. Or at least, the reaction from the Arsenal fans present was really funny. Even in the heightened atmosphere of a football match, surely a grown-up would think 'what an arse', call him your swear word of choice, then go back to wondering why your defence had allowed him a free header. Rather than doing this.

9) Kevin Phillips - for Crystal Palace v Watford, 2013
A slow-burner, this one. Watford sold Phillips to Sunderland for what seems today to be a relatively paltry £325,000 in 1997, but at the time was a perfectly reasonable sum for a decent second-tier striker. After Sunderland, Phillips' career would take in Southampton, Aston Villa, West Brom, Birmingham, Blackpool and then last season Crystal Palace. He didn't play very often, but tended to pop up when it mattered, and it could hardly have mattered more than in the play-off final. Palace won a penalty, Phillips stepped up, and his old team were condemned to another year in the Championship.

8) Mo Johnston - for Rangers v Celtic, 1989
You all know the story of how Mo Johnston became the first Catholic to sign for Rangers (even though he actually wasn't). Johnston had scored 52 goals for Celtic before going to Ibrox (via Nantes) and upsetting the Pope (probably) in 1989. Johnston of course was treated with some suspicion by Rangers fans throughout his first season, but went some way to winning the doubters over in the first Ibrox Old Firm game of the season, popping up in the 89th minute to score the only goal in a 1-0 win. John Paul II's thoughts on the game are sadly unrecorded.

7) Dean Saunders - for Aston Villa v Liverpool, 1992
September 19, 1992 is of course Ronnie Rosenthal Day. The glorious occasion when Ronnie took aim, lined up the goal and hammered the ball against the crossbar from 12 yards out, goalkeeper Nigel Spink engaged elsewhere. History forgets that Rosenthal did actually score that day, but his efforts were rendered rather pointless by Saunders, purchased by Villa days before from Liverpool, who scored the first two Villa goals as they scampered back from behind to win 4-2. These days, there would have been some sort of 'gentleman's agreement' or similar tish and fipsy preventing him from playing. Down with that sort of thing.

6) Luis Figo - for Real Madrid v Barcelona, 2002
"A pig's head! How the hell did someone bring a pig's head in? What was going through his mind?" Michel Salgado was as alarmed as any normal person would be after some curiously vengeful Barcelona fans chose an interesting way of expressing their displeasure at Luis Figo, recently departed from Catalunya to the great enemy. "By the second or third corner I turned to Luís Figo and said: 'Forget it, mate. You're on your own'" said Salgado, as lighters, bottles and pretty much anything that could conceivably be used as a missile rained down on Figo. "I must be one of the very few sportsmen to have had to perform with 120,000 people against me - and focused on me, not the team," said Figo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Figo was dreadful in a match that finished 0-0, but he and Real had the last laugh, winning the title at the end of the season.

5) Zlatan Ibrahimovic - for AC Milan v Internazionale, 2010
If you were going to write a goal, you'd probably include it being scored early in a game, for a player appearing for the first time against a team with which he won several league titles, for their local rivals. Oh, and you'd include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, because any script worth its salt should include Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After leaving Inter for his ill-advised spell at Barcelona, Zlatan returned to Italy to play for AC Milan, and four minutes into his first game back against Inter, he was chopped to the ground by Marco Materazzi, who was sporting a Travis Bickel-esque mohawk that you wonder, given his reputation, he hadn't had for years before. Zlatan scored, of course, and celebrated by standing still with his arms outstretched, like a Swedish Christ the Redeemer, only with a higher opinion of himself.

4) Andrea Pirlo - for Juventus v AC Milan, 2011/12
This isn't one game, but instead a whole season. At the end of the 2010/11 season, Milan had won Serie A and decided they no longer needed Pirlo, the old boy's old bones having finally reached their breaking point. To be fair, he had only played 17 times that season, suggesting they at least had some logic to their decision, and most assumed that Pirlo would play out the rest of his days at a minor Italian side. It was something of a surprise therefore that Juve snapped him up on a free, but they clearly saw something that everyone else had missed. Pirlo grew a beard and was at the heart of Juve's two league titles in the intervening years, as Milan cut costs and floundered.

3) Fernando Morientes - for Monaco v Real Madrid, 2004
Does this count, given that Real Madrid weren't technically Morientes' former club when he scored against them in the quarter-final of the 2004 Champions League? One hopes the Real Madrid suit who, for reasons passing understanding, omitted a 'you can't play against us' clause in Morientes' loan deal to Monaco was fired, or at least given a big hat with an H (for hubris) on it to wear for the remainder of his days. Morientes scored in the first leg at the Bernabeu, but at the time it looked like a consolation, given that Real won the game 4-2, but he would make an even greater contribution in the return, setting up one for Ludovic Giuly and scoring another as Monaco won 3-1 and went through on away goals.

2) Robin van Persie - for Manchester United v Arsenal, 2012
It was inevitable that Van Persie was going to score against Arsenal in his first game against them. For years, Arsenal fans kept themselves going on the notion that, if they could get Van Persie fit, he'd be brilliant, and thus they'd be brilliant. Well, eventually he did get fit, but only half of their wish came true, and he decided to take his fitness and his goals elsewhere. Van Persie's goal against Arsenal in United's 2-1 win at Old Trafford was doubly heart-breaking for the attendant Gooners, especially because it came in such a limp defeat. Their shining light was now shining against them, and it looked very, very dark for them.

1) Denis Law - for Manchester City v United, 1974
Hey, here's something you've never ever heard before. Something absolutely no pub know-it-all has ever guffawingly told you. Something that is bound to be a brand-new knowledge hand-grenade, launched right into your brain. Ready? Brace yourself. Here it comes: Denis Law's backheeled goal at the end of the 1973/74 season against Manchester United didn't actually relegate his old team. We know. There you were, labouring under this misapprehension for so long and nobody thought to correct you.

That sarcasm overload not withstanding, the goal - which Law actually did think had sent United into the second division - hit him hard. "I was inconsolable," he said in 2010. "I didn't want it to happen. How long did the feeling last? How long ago was the game? Thirty-odd years. There is your answer." Law was immediately substituted and never played league football again, and the game was actually abandoned before the 90 minutes was up after some enterprising wannabe hoolies invaded the pitch in the hope of having the result annulled. Unfortunately for them, the FA decided it would stand, and United were down, thanks to results elsewhere.

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