Danny Hall Column: Celebration time? Not always. Can we bring back the joy of scoring a goal, please?

Hands off: Subdued goal celebration from Michail Antonio after scoring against his old club, Reading
Hands off: Subdued goal celebration from Michail Antonio after scoring against his old club, Reading
  • Michail Antonio refused to celebrate for Wednesday against Reading, despite them not having won all season and sitting bottom of the league
  • All footballers begin playing for the love of the game, and the joy of scoring a goal. So when did that stop mattering to them?
  • There are exceptions, of course, but the issue is becoming such a big deal now that players who had fleeting affairs with clubs are refusing to celebrate. Where will it end?
  • Newcastle’s John Carver receives ridiculous abuse from Toon fans. His crime? Playing golf six whole days before their vital game against West Ham
0
Have your say

As the clock ticked towards the 25th-minute mark, Michail Antonio picked up the ball and ran at the retreating Reading defence, towards the Leppings Lane End.

Sheffield Wednesday, leading 1-0, were edgy and it’s easy to see why. The day was Saturday, November 2, 2013 and still the Owls, bottom of the Championship, were looking for their first win of the season; 13 games, 13 chances, had already gone.

Over 1,170 minutes, or around 20 hours of football; however you looked at it, the situation made grim reading for Wednesday and their boss, Dave Jones.

But Antonio changed that. He brought down a long ball from Seyi Olofinjana - remember him Owls fans? - and executed a vicious, perfectly-placed, measured effort, on the angle, which found the bottom corner and left Royals ‘keeper Alex McCarthy stranded.

Just over 20,000 were at Hillsborough that day but the noise was deafening. Wednesday went on to win 5-2, against a side who were in the Premier League six months earlier.

And Antonio’s reaction?

Well, there wasn’t one. Out of respect to Reading, where he spent four years, he refused to celebrate.

His time with the Royals consisted of more loan spells than league starts (five to four) but they did pluck him from relative obscurity at Tooting & Mitcham United, so maybe he felt he owed them. But how did his muted reaction sit with Wednesday fans?

They, rightly, were probably too overcome with their own emotions to see, realise or even care. But in an age when supporters feel more removed from players than ever before, we surely want them to at least show similar emotions when they hit the net for our club? Like Joy. Elation. Euphoria.

By not, are players not basically that the respect for their former clubs is paramount, over a sense of ecstasy after netting for your current employers? Some may argue not but the trend is growing and, for me, it just doesn’t sit right.

Newcastle United's Emmanuel Riviere does a backflip as he celebrates scoring his side's first goal against QPR

Newcastle United's Emmanuel Riviere does a backflip as he celebrates scoring his side's first goal against QPR

Every player, regardless of their status or wealth, began playing football for the love of the game, and the joy of scoring is hard to quantify in words. So let actions do the talking instead; sometimes, they do speak louder.

==========

After moving to Nottingham Forest, Antonio gave an interview to this columnist’s colleague, Dom Howson, in The Star and vowed not to celebrate if he found the net again at Hillsborough.

“I would never do that to my Wednesday family,” he said.

The absence of a celebration has somehow become a big deal. You see it almost every week when a high-profile player returns to a club he played for, or the team he supported as a boy. With the way it’s going, we’ll soon see it when footballers return to a city they once visited for a particularly-boisterous stag weekend.

“Wednesday gave me a base to work from, and I didn’t celebrate when I scored for Wednesday against Reading last season. I thank them both for where I am right now.”

Quite how Antonio managed to resist the urge to celebrate such a decisive goal for his “Wednesday family” is unknown but Antonio is by no means the only guilty party for this modern-day football crime.

Wilfried Bony became the latest at the weekend, arms outstretched and palms pointed downward after netting form Manchester City against former club, Swansea. Given that it was only the Ivorian’s second goal in City colours since his £30m move from Wales, you’d have maybe forgiven him a little exuberance. But there was none to be seen here.

Goal celebrations, of course, have long been a much-loved sideshow to the football; I’m not quite old enough to remember Gazza’s ‘dentist chair’ after scoring against Scotland, but there can be few people in the country not aware of it now. Jürgen’s Klinsmann dive became an overnight sensation; kids - the brave ones, at least - in my primary school used to do it on the gravel after scoring at breaktime. Stuart Pearce’s display of passion and relief after his penalty in Euro ‘96 was the reaction of a man who exorcised some real demons.

But now, the absence of a celebration has almost become as big a deal. You see it almost every week when a high-profile player returns to a club he played for, or the team he supported as a boy. With the way it’s going, we’ll soon see it when footballers return to a city they once visited for a particularly-boisterous stag night.

These are, seemingly, the important questions.

That's more like it, Paul Gascoigne...

That's more like it, Paul Gascoigne...

Will he celebrate? Does he have no respect? Why do we care so much?

==========

No-one, least of all this columnist, is demanding an Emmanuel Adebayor-style full-pitch sprint to celebrate provocatively in front of your old supporters. And sometimes an understated reaction is understandable [think Denis Law’s backheel goal for City in the 1970s, which helped doom his beloved Manchester United, or Juventus star Alvaro Morata after knocking Real Madrid out of the Champions League. Real have a buy-back clause in place for his services, after all].

But there are shades of grey in an issue which is far from black-and-white and [now for a sentence I never thought I’d write] David Luiz is a shining example of hyperbole and overreaction.

The Brazilian, bombed out of Chelsea after the World Cup, rocked up back at the Bridge with his PSG side and promptly helped knock Jose Mourinho’s men out of the Champions League.

Playing with ten men after their star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been sent off, PSG triumphed in extra-time on away goals and Luiz, after scoring in the 86th minute to take it that far, had the sheer audacity to be happy.

He was later forced to issue a grovelling apology. Maybe some sort of self-sacrifice will do next time, David? Show some respect.

==========

‘Outrage of the week’ comes from those football-mad types in the North East, aimed at Newcastle coach John Carver. If you believe the Daily Star, at least.

The story in question surrounded a ‘social media storm’ - a wonderfully under-used phrase these days - aimed at Carver, with Newcastle in relegation strife and facing the real possibility of slipping out of the Premier League.

His crime? Playing golf.

A whole six days before their ‘biggest match in decades’, against West Ham at the weekend, Carver honoured a long-standing agreement to take part in the ‘Have a Heart Celebrity Trophy’ alongside coaches and midfielder Ryan Taylor.

Understandably, Geordies aren’t happy at their club’s plight but a line must be drawn somewhere, surely? If they are relegated, just wait for the same fans to really tee off.

Newcastle United manager John Carver came in for flak after playing golf SIX days before his side's crucial game against West Ham

Newcastle United manager John Carver came in for flak after playing golf SIX days before his side's crucial game against West Ham