There’s a strange mentality amongst Aston Villa supporters. We did, after all, get bigger crowds in the third division than when winning the league and the European Cup a decade later, and celebrated relegation a few years after that with a 20% rise in our average gate.
So it’s only fair that the greatest goal I ever saw wasn’t one of those that won Goal of the Season (no, I don’t know what happened to Dalian Atkinson, either). Neither was it by one of our leading lights, or in a high-profile game. It was scored by archetypal journeyman defender Brendan Ormsby, in front of 14,845 during a mid-table league game at West Ham.
Ormsby had been a part of the Aston Villa youth set-up which has produced, amongst others, Gary Shaw and Gordon Cowans. Getting into the Villa first team as it set about conquering Europe was difficult, although he was still around as the side broke up and made a few appearances as standards continued to drop. 1984-85 had been a disappointment after what had gone before, and the season was all but over when Villa arrived at Upton Park together with a few hundred diehard supporters on 23rd February 1985.
We were a goal down at half-time and not expecting to do much about it in the second half. Enter our little ginger hero. Midway through the second half Villa equalised through Dennis Mortimer. No sooner had this surprise been digested than we get a corner. Usual thing; a couple of defenders stop back to keep an eye on whoever West Ham had left up front – I can’t remember who it was, probably Tony Cottee.
The corner comes over, gets knocked out, and the ball bounces towards the halfway line. Ormsby, and I know time exaggerates things but believe me, couldn’t have been far from the centre circle when he picked it up. He should have carried it forward and aimed another aimless punt high into the box. Instead, for some unknown reason, he decided to have a dig.
The away end, or rather corner, at West Ham used to be on the left-hand side of the South Bank. That’s where the ball flew. The first reaction from us supporters was “What the hell you done that for?” But rather than screwing high, wide and not at all handsome, the ball rocketed towards us. It wasn’t deflected. It wasn’t wide. It just kept coming, unerringly in our direction. I know it’s a cliché but if the net hadn’t got in the way that ball wouldn’t have stopped until it reached France. Power and precision from 45 yards. Never have I seen a shot hit so perfectly.
If Roberto Carlos or David Beckham had scored that goal, it would have been replayed forever. Then again, if they’d scored it the reaction of their team-mates might have been different. Rather than jubilation, there was a stunned silence. Right-back Gary Williams actually started laughing.
And the most bizarre thing about the whole incident, particularly for anyone who thinks football is a game show invented in 1992, is that no-one else ever saw it.
There were no TV cameras at Upton Park, or if there were, LWT wouldn’t have been too interested in showing some northern team scoring against the ‘Appy ‘Ammers. West Ham supporters have probably forgotten it ever happened. The only people who will remember the greatest goal I ever saw were about 400 Villa fans, at least one of whom (who ran onto the pitch and was ejected for his trouble) has since died, and the team. But none of us will ever forget that moment.
Aston Villa finished the season in tenth place. Brendan was sold to Leeds a year later.
A hero just for one day.
Dave edits Heroes & Villains, click here for more information.
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