The blunder boys – Football's top ten mistakes.

We all remember some of football’s fantastic moments, brilliant pieces of skill that stay in our minds forever. Take Thierry Henry’s flick and volley against Manchester United. Dennis Bergkamp’s wonder goal in the 1998 World Cup quarter-final. Or Rene Higuita’s incredible scorpion kick. As much as we appreciate these efforts, it is far funnier to see football’s greatest blunders, and I’m not talking about Wayne Rooney’s new hair transplant. Here are ten of the best mistakes on a football field:

  1. Fernando Torres – Last weekend Manchester United met Chelsea in the biggest clash of the season so far and Andre Villas-Boas stuck with his much maligned £50 million man. And in the 46th minute, you could hear a large crash all around the country. As everybody’s jaws fell open and hit the floor. Unbelievably it seemed, Torres had scored. Journalists scrambled around the stadium, checking to see if Chelsea had played an imposter instead, the supporters themselves were too stunned to even cheer. Torres himself couldn’t remember what a celebration was. However in the 83rd minute, normality was resumed. With one of the worst footballing blunders seen on a pitch for a long time. We get plenty of dreadful misses throughout a season, but nothing quite like this. Given the context of the situation, with Torres’ dreadful form and desperation to win back public sympathy, this was some miss. After being played through, he skilfully rounded De Gea, only to somehow fire wide with an open goal at his mercy. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Back to the drawing board Fernando.
  1. Peter Enckelman – Backtrack to 2002, and Villa were taking on bitter rivals Birmingham in a passionate local derby. Villa were already 1-0 down thanks to a strike from Clinton Morrison and the game was approaching the last ten minutes. Olof Mellberg, deep in his own half, took a throw-in from the right hand touch-line, looking to give it back to his keeper to clear the lines. He propelled it innocuously back to Enckelman who went to control it. And missed completely. The ball rolled into the net, and Villa lost 3-0. Graham Taylor, the Villa manager,  fumed afterwards about the fact Enckelman claimed he never touched the ball, in which case, the goal shouldn’t have stood, as you cannot score directly from a throw-in. Well you would claim that if you’d just dropped one of the worst clangers seen in the Premiership. To make matters worse, Birmingham fans got on the pitch after the goal, goading Enckelman with rude gestures. Peter was praising for not reacting and not fighting back. Only because he was too busy fighting back something else. His own tears.
  1. Fabian Barthez – United signed Barthez in 2000 for £7.8million after some astonishing performances for France in winning the World Cup and the European Championships. He didn’t exactly set the world alight. Some would call Fabian eccentric, passing off his antics with the old motto, ‘all goalies are crazy.’ Others would just call him plain rubbish. Barthez qualifies for this column not once but twice. First up was a game against Arsenal in 2001, where firstly, he picked out Thierry Henry with a goal kick allowing him to put Arsenal in front, before later on, spilling the ball from a simple cross, straight into Henry’s lap, who again converted the mistake. Shocker. His worst error came against West Ham in the fourth round of the FA Cup in the same year. Paulo Di Canio was played through, and advanced on Barthez who stood still in an arrogant manner only a Frenchman could pull off, with his arm up believing the Hammers’ front man to be offside. Ignoring him, Di Canio slotted the ball home, and claimed a famous victory for West Ham. Whether Barthez genuinely thought it was offside or he was just trying to psyche his opponent out, it was a dreadful mistake, as it looked rather like he was trying to hail down a cab than keep goal. Taxi for Barthez.
  1. Ben Thatcher – August the 23rd 2006. Manchester City vs.Portsmouth. The day we saw something missing from our game since Duncan Ferguson’s retirement. Common assault on a football field. Chasing a loose ball into the corner with Pedro Mendes, Thatcher decided a conventional slide tackle wasn’t exciting enough, clattering his opponent with an elbow smash. Mendes required oxygen at pitch side and suffered a seizure, something that earned Ben a fifteen game suspended ban and an investigation from the Greater Manchester Police. Slightly beyond the realms of your average ‘nasty challenge,’ Ben must have thought his footballing career was over, after all he was a less-than average left back. Hence why he decided to advertise his potential skills as a cage-fighter.
  1. Stuart Attwell/Nigel Bannister – According to Sir Alex, referees are barely human anyway, but during this 2008 Championship clash between Reading and Watford, there was something rather more supernatural than usual about the officiating. After a corner was whipped in, the ball was headed wide of the goal, where it was hooked back into play by Noel Hunt from the by-line. At which point linesman Nigel Bannister informed the ref the ball had crossed the line to the bemusement of everyone in the stadium. Stuart Attwell awarded the ‘ghost goal’ and the strangest goal of all time had just been witnessed. If only the same linesman had been on duty when Frank Lampard thundered his effort against the bar in last summer’s World Cup clash with Germany.
  1. Rob Green – The whole England team could be classified as a mistake after their World Cup showing, but one stands out slightly more than others. England were looking fairly comfortable leading the USA 1-0 in their opening game, before Clint Dempsey struck from range in the 40th minute. Although keeper Rob Green had his critics before the tournament started, no-one expected Dempsey’s tame shot to find the net. Which it did. Green somehow let the ball slip through his grasp, thus following the path so many England keepers have trodden in the past, blundering on the biggest stage. It set the tone for England’s tournament, and left the fans with many questions for manager Fabio Capello. The question that remained most important however, was who was the worst World Cup selection, Rob Green or Emile Heskey?
  1. Peter Crouch – A slightly tongue-in-cheek entry, but when Crouchy bagged against Hungary in 2006, he pulled out one of the funnier celebrations we’ve seen in recent years. Funny, but horrendous to watch, I’d say Peter’s robot dance is sorer on the eyes than a Kerry Katona sex tape. To see a man that ungainly pull out moves that bad, it can only go down as one of football’s worst mistakes. It’s no wonder when Crouchy was asked ‘What would you be if you weren’t a footballer?’ he replied, ‘A virgin.’ Because I hardly think the robot dance is notoriously successful in attempted nightclub pursuits of females. Crouch no longer performs this celebration, apparently saving it for a big occasion, although he may have to rethink this decision, partly due to him losing his number one robot dancing spot to Neil from the Inbetweeners but mainly because of him signing for Stoke, a club rather short on the ‘big occasions’ front.
  1. Andres Escobar – During the 1994 World Cup, the highly rated Colombian side was fancied to progress further in the tournament. Unfortunately for them, they lost 2-1 to the hosts USA, thanks to an own goal by defender Andres Escobar, eliminating them in the first round. Tragically, Escobar was murdered on his return to his home country, with the murderer apparently connected to gambling syndicates who lost large amounts of money because of Colombia’s early tournament exit. The gunman shouted “Gracias por el gol en propia puerta,” Spanish for ‘Thanks for the own goal,’ with Escobar paying the highest price for his on-field mistake. The world was shocked that such incident could happen over football. No-one told Alan Hansen, who when commentating in a different match later in the tournament stated “the Argentine defender warrants shooting for a mistake like that.” After thousands of complaints, Hansen had to apologise to the general public. No wonder he’s so reserved on Match of the Day.
  1. David Beckham – Old Goldenballs’ career was almost so different. Picked in the 1998 World Cup along with Michael Owen as the rising stars of English football, Beckham scored a terrific free kick against Colombia to get England out of their pool. It all came crashing down in the 2nd round. With England locked at 2-2 with Argentina, Beckham was fouled by Diego Simone. Whilst on the floor, he kicked out, causing Simone to produce a piece of acting worse than even the Eastenders cast manage, a feat many thought impossible. Despite the dive, Beckham was sent off and England were knocked out on penalties. Beckham became the traditional post-tournament scapegoat thanks to the media, with the Mirror’s headline reading ’10 HEROIC LIONS, 1 STUPID BOY,’ as the public lashed out fiercely, with 61% of listeners in a Manchester radio poll stating he should never play for his country again. The Daily Mirror printed a dartboard with his face on, whilst an effigy of Beckham was hung up in the centre of London. The most eye-catching display of public emotion (or lack of it) belonged to a church in Nottingham, who displayed a sign outside, saying ‘God even forgives David Beckham.’ Although Becks free kicked himself back into the public’s favour and became the most popular man on the planet, the message is clear. Don’t make a mistake in an England shirt.
  2. John Terry – John Terry, Captain Fantastic, had a brilliant game in the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow as Chelsea drew 1-1 with Manchester United, sending the game to penalties. Like any good skipper should, Terry shouldered responsibility to take the decisive kick to win the game at 4-4. However he slipped, and ballooned the ball higher than even Roberto Baggio managed in that World Cup Final. It cost Chelsea the Champions League, Avram Grant his job and has thus left Roman Abramovitch still hunting for the European trophy he so badly desires. You could therefore blame Chelsea’s string of managers on Terry himself. John was inconsolable after the game, sobbing his eyes out unashamedly on the pitch. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, indeed this is karma at its most fantastic. Best regards, Wayne Bridge.

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