Let’s make no mistake about Crouch’s goal goal of the season candidate, it was the perfect Stoke City goal: Begovich punts on first down, Crouch heads the ball (anywhere will do), Pennant happens to be near it to head it back to Crouch, who plays keepy uppy, and then hits the ball goalward. It’s a Hail Mary pass, the ball never touches the ground, and he flukes it into the goal. Does that take anything away from the goal or does it add to the goal? I suspect that your answer to that question depends largely on your geographic location.
That said, there is a delicious irony to the fact that the supporters of the team who play throwball, whose team has the most breaks in play, who stand on the sidelines wiping their balls, who rely almost exclusively on goal-mouth-scrambles to stay in the Premier League, and who see the Hail Mary pass like the one that Crouch scored as the highest form of football invaded my blog two days ago to tell me that I should stick to Gridiron football because as an Arsenal supporter I know nothing about football.
Oh… And because I’m American.
Speaking of which… did you know that in 1967 Stoke City FC played in the United Soccer Association here in the United States of America under the highly comical name Cleveland Stokers? Yep.
Players you might have seen in the Cleveland Stokers first season as a USA team included, Gordon Banks, George Eastham, and Eric Skeels as Stoke City essentially transplanted their entire first team to the USA. They probably all thought it would be a great skive and they would take the USA by storm but in their two seasons in the USA they never won a trophy and eventually bogged off back to England.
It was a great team too. In 1967, Banks was fresh off England’s World Cup win and in the prime of his career as a keeper for Stoke City. He would still be playing at the top of his game for several years as evidenced by this save against Pele in the World Cup 1970. George Eastham was a former Arsenal player who was famous for reforming the transfer system and earning players the right to move between clubs. Eastham would win the League Cup with Stoke in 1971/1972 — scoring the winning goal against Chelsea at age 35. And Eric Skeels was Stoke’s iron man who made a whopping 592 appearances for the club.
Clearly, I know nothing about football because I’m an American. What have I been writing about for the last four years? Let’s see… Tacoma Tide v. Port Vale? Liverpool v. Arsenal? The League Cup final?
For someone who so knows so little about sport because of my passport, it struck me as odd that I was listening to the Guardian Football Weekly podcast last night and to a man these well respected sports reporters (do Irishmen and Frenchmen have a right to criticize the goal? Just checking.) made all of the same criticisms of the Crouch goal that I made. Of course, they started out saying that they “didn’t want to take anything away from the Crouch goal” but that quickly devolved into taking the piss out of the style of “football” that Stoke play with japes about how the ball never touched the ground.
In the end though, I suppose I should have approached the article differently in order to make sure people knew it was intended to be a joke. Though I doubt that would have changed much of the commentary because they seemed fixated on my passport rather than the content of the article. Still, maybe I should have done a “Top 5 Goals of All Time” article? The theme would be goals that most typified a team’s playing style. In that article, Crouch’s goal would come in second behind Diego Maradonna’s Hand of God goal.
Because Argentinians are dirty cheaters, am I right?