How Puskas made a patsy out of Wright

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Once a week, when the late Billy Wright was the Arsenal manager, his players were required to sit through films that raised points of tactical and strategic importance. But, whatever was shown on the screen at Highbury, the Arsenal players clamoured to see one goal above all others.

Once a week, when the late Billy Wright was the Arsenal manager, his players were required to sit through films that raised points of tactical and strategic importance. But, whatever was shown on the screen at Highbury, the Arsenal players clamoured to see one goal above all others.

The requests for the goal scored by Ferenc Puskas in Hungary's seminal 6-3 rout of England at Wembley in November 1953 were an "in joke" because the film showed the great inside-forward utterly deceiving Wright before he fired the ball past Gil Merrick.

Wright, who later left football to take up an executive position in television, recalled: "The boys loved to see that one. Seeing me so embarrassed by Puskas was all part of the scene. But even though I cringed every time I saw myself sent yards in the wrong direction it didn't lessen my admiration for the skill that enabled Puskas to score one of the best goals ever seen at Wembley."

Hungary's captain scored twice but it was the first that thrillingly emphasised the extent of his team's virtuosity and confidence. Hungary were ahead 2-1 when Zoltan Czibor swept past Bill Eckersley and sent in a low diagonal pass that found Puskas moving wide of Merrick's left-hand post with no apparent angle for a shot.

Calculating that Puskas, who rarely employed his right foot, could not possibly alter direction, Wright pounced. Puskas was no longer there. In one marvellously fluid movement, he had checked, dragged the ball back from Wright's lunge with the sole of his left boot and fired it over Merrick's shoulder. It happened so quickly that Wright still had his back to Puskas when the ball hit the back of England's net.

Understandably, perhaps, that goal did not figure in yesterday's results of a poll to determine Wembley's all-time top 10. After all, each generation comes along with its preferences, with memories of things seen personally rather than filmed information or evidence from the history books. So even the goal that brought Geoff Hurst the only hat-trick in a World Cup final and secured England's sole triumph in a major football tournament rates less that Paul Gascoigne's spectacular strike against Scotland in Euro 96.

Looking back on the Wembley goals they have seen, most observers of my vintage would, I think, agree that there isn't much to be gained from putting the past up against the present when many of our images date from a time before football was widely shown on television. Repeatedly, we are confronted by the contemptuous assumption that the scoring of great goals at the old stadium is confined to fairly recent history.

One past hero of the game who would surely have something to say about this quite ridiculous notion is Jim Baxter of Rangers, Sunderland and Nottingham Forest, who scored Scotland's goals in a 2-1 victory over England at Wembley in 1963.

One was a penalty, the other was testimony to Baxter's skill and imagination: a cleverly struck shot after he had intercepted an attempted clearance just outside England's penalty area. The Scottish player closest to Baxter was John White, of Tottenham Hotspur, who lost his life soon afterwards when struck by lightning. "As I ran up to Jim he was standing perfectly still, arms raised above his head, eyes closed," White recalled. "I heard him say: 'That's the greatest goal in Wembley's history'."

Denis Law's goal for Manchester United to cap an outstanding individual perform- ance in the 1963 FA Cup final against Leicester City was a typical example of his clinicalefficiency in the penalty area.

No argument is held out here against the opinion that nobody has lit up Wembley with a better goal than Gascoigne scored against Scotland, but memory suggests otherwise.

Turn back time and what do we see? Perhaps Bill Perry meeting a perfectly laid-back pass from Stan Matthews to complete a remarkable victory over Bolton Wanderers in the 1953 FA Cup final. Maybe George Best racing through Benfica's startled defenders to score a critical goal in the 1968 European Cup final.

Those who voted for Bobby Charlton's goal against Mexico in the 1966 World Cup finals might be interested in what was going on in his mind as he prepared to shoot. "I could hear Jimmy Murphy [Manchester United's assistant manager and Charlton's mentor] saying 'just hit the target'."

I'll settle for Puskas. "My football wasn't full of fancy tricks," he once said. "I liked simple things on the pitch, simple solutions, quick easy movements. That goal at Wembley is the one I am best remembered for but I don't really know where it came from - truth is that I had to get out of the way quick, otherwise Billy Wright would have clobbered me."

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