Mating peacocks, battered advertising boards, chest-beating: some goal celebrations are no fun. But Thomas Markham-Uden says Norwich’s joyous celebrations against Newcastle remind us why we fell in love with football
The great football journalist Gianni Brera once said that a 0-0 result was the perfect game. That way, he suggested, it meant neither side had made mistakes. While the dour pragmatist in me can see where he’s coming from, this also misses one key aspect of football: scoring a goal is bloody great fun.
The manner in which people – fans and players alike – celebrate the scoring of a goal has always interested me. From orchestrated routines that give the final set piece of a West End musical a run for its money, to the stoic handclap and nod of approval, the way those watching and playing football respond to what is, ostensibly, the key aspect of the game can say a lot about their character. And the way this Norwich team celebrated their goals – and victory – against Newcastle on Saturday has endeared them to me to an even greater extent than they were before.
I’ve never really been one for the ‘angry’ celebration (I’m not talking Temuri Ketsbaia going all UFC on an advertising hoarding – that’s in a league all of its own that genuinely bordered on troubling when I first watched it). No, I mean the aggressive stare at the crowd, accompanied by a scream and maybe a chest slap and a demeanour that says “I’m the best and you better not doubt that, or else. You bastard.” Cristiano Ronaldo has it absolutely perfected.
It’s one thing to be confident in one’s abilities, but this display of posturing comes across as a barely concealed attempt at exerting their hyper-masculinity. Like a particularly irritable peacock doing their best mating dance, it’s self-congratulatory and, frankly, a bit weird.
I’ve also never been a fan of the understated celebration, including the tiresome phenomenon of not celebrating against a former club.
When I was a kid – and, actually, now that I’m an adult – I was pretty rubbish at football. Scoring a goal came along at roughly the same rate as major Christian religious holidays, so when I did find myself in the hitherto unexpected position of putting the ball in to the net, the celebration that followed was invariably ungainly, unplanned and unrestrained in its sheer joy.
That’s why I can relate to Martin Olsson following his last-ditch winner at the weekend. As he himself admitted afterwards, he’s not exactly a regular on the scoresheet, so he didn’t really know what to do. To paraphrase the Swede, “just running about madly” is probably the reaction most of us would have if we found ourselves in the role of goalscorer for our team. Actually, from the scenes in the lower Barclay when Olsson’s drive hit the back of the net, a fair few people in the crowd attempted to run around madly, too. That this resulted in them going head-over-heals of the seat in front is merely an unfortunate by-product of this action.
Similarly, the expression on Timm Klose’s face – the parts that aren’t taken up by his nose, anyway – following his first goal in Norwich colours was that of a man oscillating between exultation and surprise at getting his name on the scoresheet. For a player who has brought a valuable sense of calm to the heart of our defence since his arrival in January, it was a moment of excitable behaviour to warm the heart.
However, as is often the case, the celebration that rose the temperature of the cockles of even the most miserable of supporters was that of Alex Tettey. If the sight of him bounding on to the field, resplendent in a medical walking boot and sporting possibly the biggest smile in the history of football didn’t bring a tear of joy to your eye, then I fear that you may be dead inside.
Tettey and his team-mates join a fine array of former Norwich players who have exemplified the unbridled thrill of scoring a goal for their team. Who can forget Grant Holt’s mischievous antics with the pitch-side microphone following one of his goals against Ipswich? Or Simeon Jackson hurtling towards the Snake Pit after that goal against Derby? Likewise, Brian McGovern being mobbed by away fans and the rest of the Norwich team after scoring a rare goal away at Tranmere; still one of my fondest memories from an away game.
He might have done so because he thought he’d won the match, but Iwan Roberts’ knee slide in the playoff final against Birmingham was joyous to behold, too. In fact, when one thinks of players for whom scoring brought a genuine smile to their face, Iwan tops the list. Thank goodness for both him and Norwich that his prolific scoring record meant that he got to show off that big toothless grin on plenty of occasions.
Even my first Norwich game featured a celebration of pure euphoria; Lee Marshall leaping in to the Barclay to be embraced by supporters after a late equaliser against West Brom.
Those goal celebrations against Newcastle were up there with any of those. And what they meant to me – not in a literal sense with regards to our league position or chances of survival, but in a more personal regard – is that this is a squad of players to whom scoring and winning is not only important, but something which they actively enjoy doing.
It’s so easy to be cynical about football in 2016 and heaven knows that on plenty of occasions I’ve been one of the first to criticise aspects of both the wider sport and Norwich as a club. However, when I think back to why I fell in love with football, of those joyous snapshots of celebration throughout the last 20 or so years of watching and playing the game, I remember that football is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be enjoyable.
I’m glad that we have players in this Norwich side who seem to share that same memory.
Thomas Uden tweets at @_thomasej