Football: The goalscorer's art: why the elaborate choreograpy is not always a cause for celebration

Olivia Blair finds little to applaud after a goal is scored
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The Independent Online
Highbury witnessed five great goals last Sunday, but the manner in which they were celebrated has rather taken the gloss off at least three of them.

First, Patrick Vieira injured himself celebrating Arsenal's second; then Teddy Sheringham kissed his badge after netting his brace and was reported to the police by an irate Arsenal fan who deemed the gesture to be "provocative".

Vieira was unfortunate, Sheringham just unwise, since Highbury is a ground where he will always be persona non grata. He had been incessantly goaded by the Arsenal fans for being a Spurs old boy, although his gesture - aimed at showing where his loyalties now lie - was hardly likely to placate the boo-boys.

In fact, Spurs fans have more right to feel aggrieved at the ease with which Sheringham appears to have forgotten his roots. At any rate, the objection was rich coming from a fan of the club which pays Ian Wright's wages.

Arsenal's striker honed his shooting skills at Selhurst Park but became the most unpopular man in SE25 when he kissed his Arsenal badge on his return to his old stamping ground. Talk about biting the hand that fed you.

That, however, is just one of the celebrations in Wright's repertoire, so much so that there was (almost) as much intrigue over how he would celebrate breaking Cliff Bastin's record as when he would break it. In the event, even the FA - who issued a circular asking players to keep their shirts on after Duncan Ferguson went topless to celebrate scoring in his first Merseyside derby - turned a blind eye to Wright baring his chest to reveal a T-shirt with the inscription: "179 - Just Done It".

There have been endless variations on this theme - Fowler went back-to- front, Ravanelli went headless - and on goal celebrations as a whole.

And while the previous two decades had given us Mick Channon's windmill and Hugo Sanchez's backflip (later to be championed by Peter Beagrie), it was Roger Milla's wiggle of the hips at the corner flag after Cameroon's victory over Argentina in Italia 90 that really started the rot.

Some might argue that extravagant celebrations are all part of the show formerly known as football - OK if you like that sort of thing. I can live with Asprilla's cartwheel, and even Collymore's gun-toting (since it's rarely seen these days) but I can't take any more of Chelsea's stage productions or Aylesbury's ducks or variations on the Bebeto/Romario cradling scene (as witnessed at Darlington last weekend).

You'd have thought Chelsea might have toned it down a little. After all, they were already missing their Nigerian defender Celestine Babayaro ( injured celebrating a pre-season goal) when Frank Sinclair was fined for doing a Sammy Nelson on scoring earlier this season. On the contrary, their latest showpiece involves kissing the scorer's boots, although to be fair if you're Frank Leboeuf and hardly ever score then you're going to make a song and dance out of doing so.

If you're Marco Negri, however, and you score (at least once) almost every week, then it's nothing to write home about. Which might explain why Rangers' Italian striker is expressionless when he scores, in stark contrast to the man whose goalscoring mantle he's inherited at Ibrox.

Ally McCoist's goal celebrations usually involve nothing more elaborate than a wide smile and open arms in the manner of most classic strikers - Dalglish, Shearer, Lineker, Rush and Gerd Muller spring immediately to mind - whose celebrations are as instinctive as the strike itself. That was certainly true of Denis Law's characteristic one-armed, pointed salute. (The only goal Law didn't celebrate in this way was the back-heel that relegated his old club Manchester United in 1974.)

But in mitigation of over-the-top celebrations you could compare goals to full moons in that they make people do strange things. Andy Goram recalls jumping into the arms of a nearby policeman when Rangers scored against Celtic once (luckily the policeman was wearing blue and white ribbons); while the former Dundee United keeper Alan Main slid towards his fans so flamboyantly after a goal in a Dundee derby that he was fined for causing a breach of the peace.

The celebration bandwagon has gathered such pace of late (Barnet's prolific striker Sean Devine apparently has a different celebration for every goal he scores, so his imagination must be fertile) that it's easy to forget referees are meant to book over-zealous players. In theory the FA claim celebrations are OK "as long as they're kept on the pitch", and in practice referees aren't keen on the directive. The Scottish ref Jim McGilvray even resigned last season, saying: "Having to book Gazza for celebrating a goal [against Partick Thistle] was the last straw. We're becoming like robots with a list of instructions."

It was, of course, Gazza who enraged one half of Glasgow with his flute- playing mime after his first Old Firm goal, and Gazza, too, who stage- managed the infamous dentist's chair celebration after scoring against Scotland in Euro 96. Personally, however, Stuart Pearce's celebration after his penalty against Spain will linger longer in my mind. Like Marco Tardelli's unforgettable celebration of his strike in the 1982 World Cup final, it was spontaneous rather than scripted.

In fact, the only scripted celebration I rate was the dive with which Jurgen Klinsmann announced his arrival in English football. Ironically, he was asked to perform it by Charlie Sheringham. Perhaps son should have given dad some better advice last Sunday.