Anatomy of an own goal: Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne turned bad luck into an art form during nearly two decades in the Premier League, hitting that sweet spot of being good enough to play regular football but hapless enough to invariably find himself in close-up clips with his head in his hands.

The Irish centre-back didn’t just set the record for the most own goals in the competition – he obliterated it: Dunne’s 10 puts him three ahead of his closest competitor, and four clear of the closest active player.

When you hit those heights, it’s fair to assume you’ve covered a few bases in terms of goal variety, and Dunne certainly fits the bill there. His 10 – just shy of the 13 he scored in 600 games at the right end, we might add – were a rich tapestry which would make Mr Bean proud.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy comes from the fact that the first own goal, the one which set this all in motion, almost didn’t go his way at all. Yes, it was funny, and yes, it had all the comedy hallmarks we want from an own goal, but there was more to it.

Dunne wandered into trouble like a child failing to spot a nearby seesaw, seemingly powerless as the ball rebounded off his shins like a hockey puck and dribbled goalward beyond David James – although Robert Earnshaw, sprinting as if his life depended on it, nearly caught up to claim the goal himself.

There was no doubt about number two, though, scored in the Manchester derby. Dunne approached the ball like an artist preparing to stroke his paintbrush across the page, only to find out post-execution that his act is closer to the amateur ‘restoration’ of a priceless painting of Jesus in Spain.

He was hardly going to wait too much longer to demonstrate a classic of the genre, the famed “I got this, I got this… I don’t got this”. It arrived against Wigan Athletic. Few have been able to show such calm and such grace while putting the ball into one’s own net, but Dunne always was a special talent.

When the time came to bring up number five, the Irishman knew another boring stretch or mistimed header wouldn’t suffice – he needed to go big or go home. Or, to be more precise, he needed to go big and go home.

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Generally speaking, drilling a volley towards your own goal is unlikely to ever pan out well. At best, you’re conceding a corner. At worst, well…

December is a time for clip shows, running through the highlights – or lowlights – of a memorable year, decade or lifetime. With that in mind, it felt apt at this time to focus on a one-man own goal highlight reel, football’s own Gil Gunderson: Mr Richard Dunne.

Dunne turned bad luck into an art form during nearly two decades in the Premier League, hitting that sweet spot of being good enough to play regular football but hapless enough to invariably find himself in close-up clips with his head in his hands.

The Irish centre-back didn’t just set the record for the most own goals in the competition – he obliterated it: Dunne’s 10 puts him three ahead of his closest competitor, and four clear of the closest active player.

When you hit those heights, it’s fair to assume you’ve covered a few bases in terms of goal variety, and Dunne certainly fits the bill there. His 10 – just shy of the 13 he scored in 600 games at the right end, we might add – were a rich tapestry which would make Mr Bean proud.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy comes from the fact that the first own goal, the one which set this all in motion, almost didn’t go his way at all. Yes, it was funny, and yes, it had all the comedy hallmarks we want from an own goal, but there was more to it.

Embed from Getty Images

Dunne wandered into trouble like a child failing to spot a nearby seesaw, seemingly powerless as the ball rebounded off his shins like a hockey puck and dribbled goalward beyond David James – although Robert Earnshaw, sprinting as if his life depended on it, very nearly caught up to claim the goal himself.

There was no doubt about number two, though, scored in the Manchester derby. Dunne approaches the ball like an artist preparing to stroke his paintbrush across the page, only to find out post-execution that his act is closer to the amateur ‘restoration’ of a priceless painting of Jesus in Spain. The best thing about it? He doesn’t seem to realise he has done anything wrong until a couple of seconds after the ball lands in the net.

He was hardly going to wait too much longer to demonstrate a classic of the genre, the famed “I got this, I got this… I don’t got this”. It arrived against Wigan Athletic. Few have been able to show such calm and such grace while putting the ball into one’s own net, but Dunne always was a special talent.

When the time came to bring up number five, the Irishman knew another boring stretch or mistimed header wouldn’t suffice – he needed to go big or go home. Or, to be more precise, he needed to go big and go home. Generally speaking, drilling a volley towards your own goal is unlikely to ever pan out well. At best, you’re conceding a corner. At worst, well…

When Dunne agreed to join Championship side Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 2013, there was concern that his career as a prolific own goal scorer in the top flight was over. We need not have worried. The veteran defender helped Harry Redknapp’s side win promotion through the play-offs, then kept his place in the squad as Rangers attempted to extend their stay in the Premier League beyond a single season.

With another full campaign at the top table, Dunne was bound to add to his own goal tally; the only surprise was that it took him until October and QPR’s eighth game of the season to do so. Liverpool were the opponents at Loftus Road that afternoon in what must go down as one of the most stupid matches in the history of the Premier League.

As late as the 87th minute, the score was 1-0 to Liverpool – thanks to Dunne’s own goal, of course. Perhaps the Irishman felt he needed to pass on the baton to another player on the pitch, because after Eduardo Vargas and Philippe Coutinho both found the net at the right end, Steven Gerrard proceeded to turn the ball into his own net. With the game now into stoppage time, QPR were on the verge of picking up an excellent and unlikely point.

Except the drama was not over. There was still time for Steven Caulker to pop up at the other end – yes, his own end – with the winner for the opposition. As the centre-back recognised the gravity of his contribution, you could almost sense him wanting to turn to his centre-back partner and ask, in hushed tones, “Did I do well, Richard?”

Anatomy of an own goal: Richard Dunne
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