An amateur footballer was almost paralysed when he broke his neck doing a “Klinsmann” celebration after scoring a last-minute winning wonder goal.
Sunday league captain Dennis Swales, 27, had beaten four players and cracked a shot from 20 yards on to the underside of the bar and in to the back of the net to secure a vital win for the Catholic Club in Hartlepool.
In ecstasy, the 6ft 1in centre forward dived into a puddle and slid in triumph but he immediately knew his celebration had gone drastically wrong, even before team-mates piled on top of him.
Mr Swales, a head chef, said: "In elation I ran towards the manager and out of the corner of my eye I saw a puddle.
"I did my Jurgen Klinsmann celebration but instead of flying through the mud, I got my face stuck in the grass and my full body weight went through my neck.
"I cracked two vertebrae and had four damaged discs which have had to be replaced with plastic ones."
It was feared he might never walk again when he went in for surgery following the accident six weeks ago.
But the six-hour operation at the University Hospital of North Tees went well enough for Mr Swales to avoid needing to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
He takes nine tablets a day, will need two years of physio and most devastatingly for the player who was topping the league goalscoring charts, he will never play competitively again.
He said: "I'm devastated. At 27 years old I am just hitting my prime.
"I was having the season of my life and that celebration took it all away from me.
"I have done it so many times before, when it's raining everyone loves a slide in the mud.
"It was a freak accident."
Mr Swales realised he could have been paralysed and thanked everyone for their help.
For six minutes he lay motionless on the pitch, unable to move, and he thought about not being able to play with his children, aged 12 to four, again.
"I have a second chance in life," he said. "I have to make the most of it."
Team manager Derek Brown said: "His enthusiasm for the game is second to none.
"It's a tragedy what has happened to this young man. He is a really nice kid."
Klinsmann, who had a reputation for diving before he joined the Premier League, turned the table on opposing fans by performing an elaborate slide across the pitch after scoring when he played for Spurs in the mid-1990s.
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