The first, and best, Fash had it all, and I'll never forget the day he scored his wonder goal for Norwich City against Liverpool and I watched him take a slash.
“Go and say hello to Fash!” urged Kevin Bond, as I made my way through the Deep Heat fug of the Norwich City dressing room. “He’s in there!” he laughed, pointing round the corner. A little intimidated by the loud banter of the pre-match dressing room, the nine-year-old me – enjoying a ‘meet-and–greet the players’ morning sorted by my dad – followed Bond’s instructions.
I turned the corner, into what was clearly the shower area, and there he was, shorts down by his ankles, peeing into a trough. “Alright?” Fash asked extending the hand that had just been touching his… Tongue-tied and a little shocked I just stood there; his outstretched hand remaining ‘unshook’. ‘Hello,’ I mumbled.
That afternoon’s match was a lively encounter regardless of Fashanu’s contribution. A fair old ding dong that at one point was 3-3, the score sheet included the names of Martin Peters, Kevin Reeves, Kenny Dalglish, Jimmy Case and a hat-trick from David Fairclough, the man who resembled a moving Roman statue hued from honeycomb. The air was hinted with suede from the manager coats, mixed with aftershave and pipe smoke. Older men greased their hair and there were still punks, mods, rude boys and skins standing behind the goal in donkey jackets and MA1s.
Looking back I remember how pathetically slow I was to react to the action, as we sat in the seats of the South Stand. Often, before I knew what was happening, the seats would clatter against the backs and I would end up staring at the back of some bloke’s car coat as the crowd went mad. There was no piped-in music to accompany the goals either. It was a proper roar.
The presence of TV cameras always added a little spice to proceedings. Tabloid newspapers would often joke that players would get their hair done for the cameras, which by their very presence, made any old game, ‘a special one’. But this was not any old game.
3-2 down in the second half, the ball came to Fashanu via right back John Ryan. With his back to the goal, just outside the penalty area, Fashanu flicked the ball to the right, away from the defender, with his right foot, and followed the ball around, to volley it with his left. The Stuart Sturridge ball, with the red diagonal band, that some seemed to think made the ball do weird things mid air, sailed across the goal, over Ray Clemence’s outstretched body, and into the top left. The in-swinging ball followed a glorious arch before suddenly dropping, as it approached the net, as if it was somehow remote controlled. “A magnificent goal!” Barry Davies would scream later that night.
In an age of Premiership and Champions League wonder goals, virtually every other match, it’s hard to remember that time when you got maybe one or two a season. Even the Goal Of The Season award, that this notch eventually won, would have been backed up by a few ‘OK-ish’ stragglers that wouldn’t have made the cut now. But this was a classic. It was one fluid, two-footed movement that afforded Fashanu but a split second to pick his spot, as he turned.
The goal was celebrated a single outstretched finger with not a flicker of emotion from the man, as a beaming Kevin Reeves and Martin Peters came over to celebrate. These days it would have warranted some baby-rocking nonsense or an Elvis pose with a flagpole, but Fash’s acknowledgment let the goal do the talking. Magic.
I can still recall Liverpool fans clapping afterwards, and the surge in the terraces of the Barclay Stand behind the goal, as thousands of heads moved down and back like a raging sea of baked beans. The goal didn’t win anything – no trophies, not even any points – but it just doesn’t seem to matter now.
Apparently, City manager John Bond berated Fashanu for being out of position after the game, but I don’t think Fash would have cared. It turned out to be the greatest moment in a career – and possibly even a life – that would end so disastrously. A pity I couldn’t have shaken his hand before kick off.
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