All the great players have had a signature, a technical flourish that marks them apart from the journeyman. Stanley Matthews perfected the body swerve, Ferenc Puskas patented the drag-back, Johan Cruyff could swivel on a gilder.
In the modern era, Mark Hughes has been described as the finest volleyer of his generation, while it is beyond dispute that the boy Beckham can put in a half-decent cross.
At Oxygen FC, our signatures are a little shaky, and it is hard to read our writing. Probably old age. Last Saturday, Daymo took me aside for his customary pre-match pep talk. "Keep winning those headers, Pete," intoned the Hinkley assassin. "It's the best part of your game."
As back-handed compliments go, this was world class. The ball does issue from my fore-head with a certain thud, but there's more to my game than jumping into the air and landing in the mud with a headache. Like Matthews, like Puskas, like Cruyff, I too have a unique aspect to my game, and it's one I demonstrated to good effect against Sporting Brixton.
Own goals, that's my thing. But not ordinary own goals. These are the sort of own goals that make the opposition laugh out loud, change the shape of the game and explore the outer limits of geometry. Earlier in the season the ball ricocheted into the Oxygen net off the side of my face, and my latest was no less spectacular.
As I attempted to block a cross, the ball took a glancing blow off my midriff and beat our keeper at the near post. To prolong my discomfort, the ball spun gently along the goal-line and only decided to hop into the net after hitting the far post.
The own goal followed a penalty which, it is hardly worth stating, I conceded. After the match I spent a good 20 minutes on a propaganda offensive, explaining patiently to anyone still talking to me why the spot-kick wasn't my fault. In my mind's eye I had timed the tackle perfectly. After pursuing the forward from half-way line to six-yard box, like a store detective in pursuit of a shoplifter, I was on his right shoulder prepared to pounce. The applause would be resounding as players on both sides acclaimed a clean, decisive, goal-saving intervention.
The forward took a last touch and, as he shaped to shoot, I swung my right leg across to take the ball off his toe. With that the ball hit a divot, dinked into the air and I took both legs from under him. "Do that again and you're off," the referee glowered, pointing to the spot.
In the event the penalty flew high towards the Thames, the taker inhibited by a puddle in front of the penalty spot. Cold comfort, alas – the same player scored a minute later. (Clean through with a run on goal – I thought it best to let him go.)
At the other end of the pitch, Chris has carved his own unsatisfying niche. In the last two games the poor bloke has scored five times – all of Oxygen's goals – without being on the winning side.
No league match next week, according to the captain. I suspect a conspiracy. Am I being dropped, marginalised, edged out? Will the match take place without me? I'll keep you posted.Reuse content