Football: The journalist's fear of the penalty

The Independent's Glenn Moore is used to reporting on penalty shoot-outs. On Saturday the boot was on the other foot

I BLAME Glenn Hoddle. Not because it is fashionable to do so but it was he who told me, the morning after England's World Cup defeat to Argentina, that there was no point in practicing penalties, it was how you felt on that long walk from the half-way line.

So I did not practice. And I missed. Thanks, Glenn.

A word of explanation. For the last year Dr Martens has been running a national competition to find the schoolboy and schoolgirl penalty kings.

After 12 months and thousands of penalties this culminated in a shoot- out on the pitch during half-time in Saturday's West Ham-Aston Villa match. To maximise publicity, Dr Martens rang a few newspapers and asked if they would like to add their football correspondent to the young tiros seeking glory at Upton Park.

Unfortunately, my guv'nor was first to offer a sacrificial hack. However, by the time I found out there was not much time for practice. And, despite the England coach's advice, I did intend to practice. Having not kicked a ball for a week or taken a penalty for years, there was every chance of missing if I did not.

But it rained, heavily, and, despite offering to unpack the dishwasher for a month and finish painting the spare room, I could not persuade my wife to come down the park and go in goal. Not very supportive.

Even worse the late notice meant I was unable to fix up a boot deal. Cameras, I was told, would be present, and it would have been the ideal opportunity to try to pick up a nice new pair of Predators, Sidewinders or Exocets. Instead, the old Mitres were given a rare clean.

The rest of the kit was provided, so it was a West Ham shirt I pulled on in a small dressing-room shortly before half-time. Alongside me was Bruce Grobbelaar, celebrity goalkeeper and a man who had saved a few penalties, notably for Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup final shoot-out in Rome.

Would he give me the wobbly knees treatment? I decided the best course was a bit of friendly banter. So I casually reminded him of an interview we had done about four years ago, his last before being falsely accusing of throwing matches, and that I had received a lot of mickey-taking for not asking if he was in the habit of chucking games.

Bruce's cheerful demeanour briefly dimmed - and I decided to forget about offering a side-bet on my penalty.

Courtney Rayfield was in even bigger trouble. On the day of the Merseyside derby, Rayfield, the winner of the boys' under-16 competition, admitted to Bruce that, though hailing from Gravesend, he was an Everton fan. Encouragingly, for those who fear every schoolboy and girl follows Manchester United, the boys' under-13 winner, Hampshire's James Wood, was a Newcastle supporter while the girls' champions, Caroline Jones and Nikki Corbett, followed their local teams Bristol Rovers and Walsall.

Then the half-time whistle blew and we all fell quiet. A silent fear gripped us. Nerves gnawed at our insides and our faces went pale. This was the moment I had dreaded. We were trapped in the tunnel with John Hartson and Eyal Berkovic, Ian Wright, Julian Dicks, Neil Ruddock and Stan Collymore. At any moment a fight could break out and a rogue elbow could come my way. But not this time. No bruises but no "tunnel-dust-up" exclusives either. Nor had I taken the chance to ask Gareth Southgate for a few tips.

On to the pitch, and another worry. The man from Dr Martens warned me that time was tight and there was every chance that, when the official penalties had been taken, West Ham would pull the plug. Never mind missing, this was a new worst-case scenario. At least David Batty did not have to worry about some fluorescent jacket interrupting his run-up with the words: "Sorry mate, more than my job's worth to let you take this kick".

The kids, who would all receive a golden Dr Martens boot if they scored, all hit the target but Bruce saved one. The Evertonian's was the best: Bruce had watched him beforehand and expected him to stick to his routine of putting it to the keeper's right. He rolled it low to his left.

Now it was my big moment. I was going to put it just inside the post to the keeper's left. The crowd bayed.

Well, most of them read their programmes, but quite a few were watching - Grobbelaar's presence had seen to that.

Representing the media meant a few cat-calls, but it is surprising how easily you can shut out extraneous noise. But Bruce took ages to get ready, and a fluorescent jobsworth started moving in.

From being desperate to score I was now just desperate to shoot, so I did. And the goalpost suddenly appeared to bend inwards as my shot sailed past it into the seats. Now I could hear the comments. But I can't repeat them, not in a family newspaper.

Back to the press box to be greeted with a chant of: "You're not very good". So I blame Hoddle, or Eileen Drewery, who must have erected one of those force-fields around the goal. Or the windy conditions, the balls, the dodgy boots, the juxtaposition of Venus.

But then a voice said: "Have you ever thought it might be you?"

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
people
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

SCO Supervisor Electrical

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...

Ecommerce Executive

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices