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?"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions