Sometimes even the very best penalty-takers in football just miss

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ON THE SPOT

If The Fiver had to nominate a current Premier League footballer to score a penalty in order to save our miserable life, Mark Noble would be top of the list. Before his late, late introduction at the London Stadium on Sunday, West Ham’s very own Pearly King had taken 42 throughout his long career and missed just four. His conversion rate of 90.48% is one that dwarfs the combined 00.00% equivalent of assorted other West Ham players who had taken the last three penalties their team had been awarded before Martin Atkinson gave them a chance to make it four red Xs in a row against Manchester United. As Atkinson trotted pitchside to consult his monitor, fans in the stand saw a cartoon lightbulb illuminate over the head of David Moyes, who had clearly had a Good Idea.

Given time to think, or over-think depending on your point of view, the West Ham boss decided to bring on one of the world’s best penalty-takers to convert any spot-kick that might be imminent. And so it came to pass that Noble faced down one of the world’s worst penalty-savers in a bid to rescue his side a point. The Fiver’s awarding no prizes for guessing what happened next. “That’s what happens in management,” groaned a rueful Moyes, in the wake of De Gea’s first penalty save since the discovery of penicillin. “Sometimes they go for you, sometimes they don’t. I just thought, we have a really good penalty taker on the bench. If one of the other players had taken it and missed, I’d have thought: ‘Why didn’t I bring Mark Noble on?’”

Meanwhile on The Internet, assorted Prophets of the Past – who would no doubt have been hailing Moyes’s pluck and gumption had De Gea not got a slightly fortuitous fist to the on-target effort – were busily ridiculing the manager for his gamble, on the rather spurious grounds that Noble had not performed the necessary stretches, shuttle runs and lunges required for an elite footballer to kick a stationary football 12 yards in the direction of a very large rectangle. Their concerns were echoed by assorted pundits who also pointed out that Noble shouldn’t have taken the penalty because he wasn’t “in tune with the pace” of a game in which 20 of the 22 players on the pitch were standing almost completely still for the duration of his solitary intervention. The general consensus of the punditocracy was that Declan Rice should have stepped up, because apparently galloping yourself to the point of exhaustion over 90 minutes is clearly the ideal kind of preparation for such a stressful endeavour.

If Noble had twanged a hammy in his run-up or tripped over his own feet, these hindsight merchants might have had a point, but as it turned out he was sufficiently warmed up and in tune with the pace of the game to fire his fairly decent effort on target. And while it may not suit the subsequent media narrative to suggest as much, it is not inconceivable that the only reason he didn’t score is that sometimes even the very best penalty-takers just miss.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Jimmy was a wonderful, wonderful footballer, the best goalscorer to ever play. He scored goals for fun, you’d be irritated he’d not touched the ball and then, bang, it was in the back of the net. He was the best I’ve ever seen” – Alan Mullery is just one voice among many to lavish praise on Jimmy Greaves, the English top-flight’s record scorer with 357 goals, who died on Sunday aged 81. Here’s Barney Ronay on a peerless player, Kevin Mitchell on how he stole the heart of a nation, Richard Williams on the purest finisher, Jonathan Wilson on how he redefined the striker’s role and John Brewin on his broadcasting brilliance. And there’s a lovely gallery of his life too. RIP.

A tribute to Jimmy Greaves before Tottenham’s game with Chelsea.
A tribute to Jimmy Greaves before Tottenham’s game with Chelsea. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

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FIVER LETTERS

“An interesting repeat occurrence happened on Saturday at Prenton Park. During the warm-up, one of the officials was knacked and had to be replaced. Fortunately, in the crowd was Mike Dean (fresh from being in action at Newcastle the previous evening) and ardent fan of his beloved Tranmere Rovers. Dean was able to stand in as the fourth official. The same thing happened during the home game with Walsall on 7 August: Dean had to give up his comfy spot in the stands to act as fourth official. I assume that no one (including The Fiver) will have uncharitable thoughts about the outcome of both games which Tranmere won on the basis of superior footballing skills. What would have happened if the ref or another linesman had been knacked?” – Joy Clancy.

“Phil Brown took his motivational speaking tour to Torquay on Saturday where, after bringing on young loanees Matt Dennis (in the 67th minute) and Hamzad Kargbo (in the 82nd), expecting them to turn around another turgid display, he delivered another inspirational homily after a last-minute loss: ‘They didn’t really understand what this division is all about and what this game is all about. It’s men and boys.’ Not sure this is what Norwich and QPR had in mind when they sent them out to gain some experience under a seasoned manager” – Bryan Matthews.

“Pep Guardiola is upset that Manchester City’s attendance was below maximum capacity for their Big Cup game (Friday’s Quote of the Day), but surely the solution is obvious. They announced the scorer of their fourth goal against Lawn Ball Energy Drink Leipzig as ‘Super Jackie Grealish’; why not take the retro vibe of that nickname and give their ticket pricing a 1960s feel as well?” – Ed Taylor.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Joy Clancy.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

England Women’s manager Sarina Wiegman is the latest person to stick the boot into Fifa’s plans to have World Cups coming along as regularly as London buses. “Where are the players going to get some rest?” she sighed. “Players are not robots.”

Po’ James/Hames/Hamez Rodríguez has flown to Qatar in a bid to find a club, any club, that will sign him from Everton.

Nuno Espírito Santo has emerged from the wreckage of Spurs’ 3-0 defeat by Chelsea to blab: “We have a lot of problems to solve.” The Fiver concurs.

“If [owner] Wael [Al-Qadi] does decide Joey Barton is not the man to take the football club forward then I’ll be devastated, because I will deem my time here, if I leave tomorrow, as a failure. I haven’t kept the club in the division in League One and we haven’t got off to a great start in League Two” – Joey Barton gets his third person on after a heavy home defeat to Leyton Orient left Bristol Rovers 22nd in the fourth tier.

And Romeo Beckham has made his professional debut for Fort Lauderdale FC, the feeder team for Beckham Sr’s Inter Miami MLS franchise. Feel old yet?

STILL WANT MORE?

“Gambling is a horrible addiction”: Paul Merson opens up to Donald McRae.

Paul Merson.
Paul Merson. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

Ten talking points from the Premier League.

James Milner? Still got it, says Richard Jolly.

Come for the Judith Kerr-inspired headline, stay for Sid Lowe on Radamel Falcao. And here’s Nicky Bandini on Simone Inzaghi’s Hurricane Inter.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

VIA OUR WILLOW-WIELDING COUSIN, THE SPIN …

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