Pieces of Hate: Non-Celebrations

Something has wound David Preece up: Footballers who don’t celebrate goals. 

What’s the point of football? It’s to win games. And you win games by scoring goals. That’s it. And scoring goals is not easy. In fact scoring goals is quite hard. Just ask Jozy Altidore, currently level in Sunderland’s all time league goalscoring charts with a beach ball. So why are so many people so reluctant to celebrate them?

Nothing I have ever experienced, and I mean nothing, has ever come close to the sensation of one of my teammates scoring a last minute winner. As a goalkeeper I’d stand there, fists clenched, screaming at a frequency only dogs can hear, my vision blurred by those dancing stars that come when you tensed your body so hard that you think you might explode into a million pieces.

The emotions you experience after your team has scored are intense. It’s pure ecstasy. As such, the players who score goals are the most coveted and cost the most to buy.  All of this we know to be true. So please, pretty please, please with a cherry on top, can you tell me why would you not celebrate scoring for your team?

I find it incomprehensible. Yes, I know that you used to play for them, but if you loved them that much, why did you leave? Scoring against your old club was always going to be a possibility. If it was going to cause this much heartache, why didn’t you save yourself the trouble and stay? What’s that? You didn’t want to leave? They didn’t want you so you had to leave? Mate: THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU.

Unless you’ve been a club legend and your goal is going to relegate your old flame, Denis Law-style, celebrate for Christ’s sake. Celebrate with the fans who pay hundreds and thousands of pounds every season to watch you. Celebrate with your teammates who have worked so hard to help you score that goal. Celebrate with your manager who believed in you when your old one didn’t. Celebrate for your family who are overjoyed at the sight of you living your dream.

Even worse than not celebrating in fear of causing offence is the apologetic hand held in the air to say sorry. When I see someone do it, it makes me feel so uncomfortable it’s as if that arm has been inserted inside me and is using me as a puppet. On its own, I could probably let the non-celebration slide, but the sad, remorseful look at the ground they give as they trudge away makes me want to launch myself head first at the television screen.

Look, I’m not a heartless man, I have my own emotional ties with the clubs I’ve played for, but football moves on quicker than two episodes of Quantum Leap. Just look at some of the missiles of criticism launched towards Frank Lampard from Stamford Bridge. You’d think he’d be immune from it after his achievements for them, but nobody is immune. Nobody. Most fans don’t care what you do once you leave their club and to think otherwise is pure narcissism. It’s attention seeking of the highest order. “Look at me. Look how sad I feel. I’m not really an arrogant, overpaid footballer. I have emotions. I’m a real boy now.” And just like Pinocchio, he’s lying.

To me, refusing to celebrate shows the utmost disrespect for your own fans. Just because you’ve scored against a former club, you’re not disrespecting them, you’re doing what you are paid to do. This doesn’t mean you have to run the length of the pitch and stick two proverbial fingers up at them like Emmanuel Adebeyor. Go to your own fans and share in their joy. Celebrate your glory with them. Revel in their appreciation of you because as soon as your form dips, you’ll lie awake at night praying for moments like these.

If it bothers you that much, tell the manager you’d rather not play. Tell him that your preciousness has got the better of you. Tell him that you wouldn’t be able to look yourself in the mirror if you scored against that club you once had a trial for when you were thirteen.

I’ve heard both sides of the arguments from fans whenever I’ve voiced an opinion about this on Twitter and I think I’ve toyed with you long enough to let you in on a trade secret. Are you ready? Here it comes…

99.9% (Not an official figure but an educated estimate) of your ex-players desperately want to score against your club. They’d hand over their Granny to aliens for medical research if E.T. promised them a hat-trick at their old stomping ground. No matter what they profess in the press in the run-up to the game, your old striker has been waiting for this day since he walked out that door, boot laces tied together and hung over his shoulder in disappointment. He wants to either show you that he shouldn’t have been sold or released, or that he was right to move on despite the shouts of “Judas” as he left. It was always the way. It will always be the way.

As a young Sunderland fan, I quickly learned that any player who had previously played for us would score against us when he returned. It was a given and you accepted this as one of the certainties in football, just like you accepted the gamble of buying a pie and not knowing for sure whether it was still frozen in the middle or not. You’d say ‘Fair play to you, mate,” call him names your mother would make you wash your mouth out for and that’s it. And if you are a fan that is offended in any way by an ex-player scoring against you, I suggest you smother yourself in E45 before each game because you are far too sensitive for this world.

Honestly, if or when I am a manager in the future, I will fine anyone who doesn’t celebrate after scoring. I’ll make them stop behind after the game and force them to shake the hand of every single fan in the stadium before they’d left the ground. After meeting every one of them personally, perhaps they’ll realise what their goal meant to those fans. I’d make them realise that scoring that goal isn’t about their craving to be seen as holier than thou. It’s about the 99 set piece routines you practiced that culminated in this glorious opportunity for you. It’s about all of the work your coaching staff carried out, staying up until the middle of the night to research the oppositions weaknesses for you to exploit. It’s for Norman Rimmington and Teddy Scott and all the other real loyalists of this world who have worked from player to kitman over the course of fifty years for one club, their hearts pulsating with adrenaline after every goal is scored.

Think of Marco Tardelli’s celebration against West Germany in the 1982 World Cup. Why are we robbing ourselves of such majestic moments like this? If he scored that goal today, he’d have probably just stood there solemnly, rejecting every congratulatory pat because back home in Turin, his German Shepherd, Rex would be crying into his water bowl thinking “Master, how could you do this to me? Why, Master? WHYYYYYYYY?”

You can follow David Preece on Twitter (@davidpreece12)

A professional goalkeeper for 23 years, David also has some advice for outfield players forced to play in goal

Pieces of Hate: Non-Celebrations
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