Wednesday, January 21st 1981
On a dull, dreary, drizzly day in winter, the author stood with the football team coach, Tony Slack, watching the First XI play a well contested match against High Pavement 2nd XI. We were on the Forest, at the side of a pitch which has now been partially covered by the all-weather facilities. Look for that orange arrow:
Suddenly, eighteen year old Norman Garden, his sleeves rolled up in determined fashion, won the ball with a strong, vigorous tackle at the edge of his own penalty area:
He came forward with the ball at his feet and set off thoughtfully towards the opposition goal. Looking up, he sent a long, curving, arcing pass out to young Bert Crisp on the left wing. Bert trapped the ball, then ran forward ten yards or so, and looked across at the attacking possibilities:
Five yards outside the penalty area stood Chris Ingle, the team’s centre forward. He was in his usual pose, apparently disinterested, lacking commitment, without any apparent desire for hard physical involvement, a young man who only came alive when he saw the whites of an opposing goalkeeper’s eyes:
Chris began to move. He accelerated slowly but purposefully from his standing start as he crossed the white line of the penalty area. Bert Crisp instinctively knew what to do. He clipped in a wickedly curving centre, about four or five feet above the ground. It was timed to arrive at the penalty spot at exactly the same time as the deadly centre forward. Chris Ingle, as the ball flew in front of him, launched himself full length over the cloying mud.
He met the ball hard with his forehead, catching it a blow which rocketed it towards the top corner of the net. “Goal!!” we teachers both yelled in our minds. But it was not quite over. The opposing goalkeeper soared backwards and with a despairing left hand just managed to flick out at the ball. He diverted it upwards, and it flew onto the crossbar and behind the goal for a corner.
Chris Ingle got up and wiped the mud from his hands down the front of his white shirt. Tony Slack turned to me and said, “You wouldn’t see anything better than that in the First Division.” And he was right.
And, in case you missed it, here’s that fabulous save again…
19 responses to “High School Football Team achieves Perfection on the Forest”
Was that really the best save ever?
Easily. When Pelé shouts ‘Gol’ and you save it that’s the measure. It’s not quite the same level of excellence when it’s Accrington Stanley v Stevenage. Having said that, Shilton saving from Bobby Ferguson against Coventry runs it a close second.
Gordon Banks was in the first Leicester City team that I went to see play in 1964. I was stunned when he left.
That was some save. Worthy of Tomasz Kuszczak.
It certainly was. I’m sure Tomasz lies in bed and dreams of all the saves like that that he has made over the years. I think modern goalies have a much more difficult job nowadays because the ball is so much lighter, but a lot of them could do more. I actually saw a goalkeeper flinch away from the ball in a League 2 highlights programme on Sunday. That was a first !
He obviously had never taken a wet leather football to the face John!
I’d lay odds that no one ever did a better play than that.
And you’d be right! It doesn’t have to be the final of a national competition to do great things. We all have perfection within us and just occasionally it can make itself known.
Some of these goalkeepers produce the most amazing acrobatic saves.
They certainly do…but don’t forget all your local league footballers too. Just occasionally, they manage something quite outstanding, like these young men did. They’ll all be in their early 50s now.
Absolutely John. There’s some real talent hiding away amongst lower and local leagues that just never get seen.
Gripping description, John
Sounds like you was a commentator at the game itself
No, my colleague and friend, Tony, was the coach and I was the spectator. Yes, you read it right. The spectator.
Sorry John poor choice of wording on my part. Meant to state the way you wrote this article made you sound as the commentator at the game itself as if i was watching it today. Sorry about the confusion.
Technically, given the Banks comparison, and the status of “that save” from Pele as purportedly the greatest ever (typical that, in England’s case, greatness should be found defensively), was this not High Pavement 1st XI, or their goalkeeper at least, achieving footballing perfection rather than the NHS? Yours sincerely. Arthur Pedant.
Well, for me, it was “everybody from Norman Garden to the High Pavement goalkeeper, including Bert Crisp and Chris Ingle achieve perfection”, but I thought this would be a rather clumsy title so I trimmed it down. But technically, Arthur, you are correct!.
And surely, Gary, there can be no finer accolade for the true pedant than the words “Technically, you are correct”. Have a good Easter, John. Great blog.
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