The Greatest Goal I Ever Scored: South Park Colts 'B' Vs New Ash Green, 1996/97

Take one awful player and one terrible team. Add a season of hurt and you have a recipe for the best afternoon of a mercifully short football career...
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Take one awful player and one terrible team. Add a season of hurt and you have a recipe for the best afternoon of a mercifully short football career...

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I love football but I’m terrible at it.  The glory days were under 9’s and under 10’s, when I was the de facto super-sub in the South Park Colts team that made local history winning back to back league and cup doubles in the Maidstone Invicta League.  In the under 9’s final I came on and set up the winner.  The year after I didn’t get off the bench even though the match went to extra time. I got put back in the B team playing in the Kent league.

For a couple of years I flourished, doing a sterling job of waving my arms about in the penalty area and banging in a fair amount of goals (“Goal-Hanger Hilly” went the nickname). At the time my hero was Teddy Sheringham, and with my floppy curtains and undercut I was pretty sure I looked a bit like him too.

After that, I don’t know what happened.  My muscles didn’t keep up with my bones and I became the proverbial piss streak. My goal tally went down. I was shunted out from forward to right midfield where I just didn’t have the speed.  Eventually, puzzlingly- though it may just have been for wont of nowhere else to put me- I alighted at centre-midfield where I got pushed around by bigger lads called Gav who took their sovereigns off last thing before they walked onto the pitch, and spent most of the game making insinuations about my sexuality.  I tried, I had an eye for a pass, I just wasn’t very good. Fortunately the rest of my team weren’t much better, and come the end of 1998 season we were bottom of Division 2 without a win and going into our last game at New Ash Green, who were a couple of places above us and had won 5-2 at our place a couple of months before.

Remarkably, given the fact I’d only scored four all season, I banged two in quick succession.  The first swept (read: prodded) in with my favourite right foot from a corner and the second a sliding lob after a glorious hoof from Micky Howse at the back.  Howser had been a speedster striker in his younger youth, but ate a few too many Pop Tarts so went to centre back where he did a pretty good job. The pass did its best Route One impression and sailed over their last man. I strained and slid onto its second bounce; it lopped off my outstep, over their keeper and into the bottom corner. I turned round with both arms in the air and bathed in the applause of the watching fans (our subs, the manager-Howser’s dad- and my own long suffering father). I don’t know who was more surprised.

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The game lurched back and forth.  I secured my hat-trick with a penalty. We found ourselves 7-5 up with five minutes to go and you could taste the tension as we found ourselves on unfamiliar ground.  People snapped at each other, passes went astray, poor old Howser at the back almost had an aneurysm when he accidentally headed into his own net from a corner.

“How long left ref?” Puffed I, at the first and last official I’ve ever seen with a tiger tattooed on his neck.
“Three minutes.”
“Can’t you blow the whistle now?”
“Just get on with the game you little cunt.”

Time ticked and the ball bounced around like a poet’s sensitivities.  The sidelined sagged under the weight of frantic men leaping up, down and shouting “hoof it! Hoof. HOOOOOOF!”

They got a free-kick 20 yards out.  I wasn’t concerned, people never scored free-kicks at that level; they could barely get it over the wall.  Of course every rule has its exception and the sweetest strike sailed into the top corner.  Their touchline (subs, manager, three dads and an Alsatian apparently called Clive) went berserk.  The team all got involved in a mass bundle which was only broken up when the scorer screamed that he’d broken a rib.  We couldn’t bear to look at each other.  Out of the corner of my eye Howser was screaming and stamping around the penalty area like Kuffour in ’99.

“How long’s left ref?”
“Thirty seconds.”
“Give us a bit longer could you?”
“I’ll give you the length of my fist if you don’t shut it.”

I took the kick-off with Carl Manston.  Manston was a liability, bit of a headless chicken, but when he wanted he would embark on long, winding runs a la Dalian Atkinson and that goal way back.  He’s in prison last thing I heard (Manston, not Atkinson), smashed up a cabbie who took exception to him smoking in his car.  I always got on alright with him, though I did make sure I laughed at all his jokes.

Anyway, I passed it to him and rather than knock it straight back as our one and only tactic from the kick-off dictated, he looked at me with the glint of Agincourt and said “I’m going for it”. He took it past one player, two player, three.  One of theirs charged shoulder first into him, but thankfully Manston had haunches of his own and shook him off.  He was on the edge of the area with me lurking somewhere a few metres to the left.  He dipped to the left and jinked to the right of their centre-back, a genuinely sublime bit of skill that saw himself one on one with the keeper.  The air was rich with Howser’s screams. Unfortunately the headless chicken in Manston clucked and shanked the shot down to the keeper’s right. He got a hand to the ball and it bounced back up right in front of me. I tripped over the ball, caught it with my laces and followed it into the net

Screams, shouts, jeers and thunder in the ears.  Manston was so pleased he lamped me in the chest.

“What the fuck?” Howser screamed, jumping up and down and pointing frantically to the side.

The linesman had put his flag up with a smug grin the size of the Rochester.  Offside went the shout.  To be fair I probably was, but in that moment it seemed like all England’s World Cup woes rolled into one. The referee walked past me on the way to the offending official.

“Please r-“
“How many times, you stupid insubordinate shitstick?”

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They chatted, seconds became longer than seconds, the ref scratched his tattoo richly. Manston was fronting up to their keeper; Howser was on his knees in the centre-circle, gripping his face like him out of The Scream.  I looked over at my dad who stood grimacing with his hands on his head. Howser’s old man had turned and was looking in the opposite direction.  The whistle blew, I turned and the referee was pointing at the centre-spot.

“What does that mean ref?” I asked,
“It’s a goal, you stupid bastard,” he said with a snarl before letting rip with the sweet undulating tones of the final whistle.

Screams, shouts, jeers and thunders in the ears.  Howser started doing cartwheels while Manston roundhouse kicked the keeper.  I found myself in amongst a bundle of arms and mud and tinny shouts as a dozen voices broke at once.  My dad pulled me out of it beaming and screamed “four goal Hilly” in my face.  I don’t think they put me on my shoulders, but for the sake of romantic whimsy let’s say they did.  The worst football team you knew suddenly felt like the greatest and, as we all reminisced at a million miles an hour in the Mcdonald’s Howser’s dad took us to on the way home, we felt like the weak truly had become heroes, if just for one match.

I retired the next day.


Follow David on Twitter- @Gobshout