5 April ~ In Germany, you receive no recognition for scoring a hat-trick merely by virtue of notching three goals in a game. As though wishing to preserve the rarity value of a term that originates from cricket – where three consecutive wickets are seldom, but celebrated – the Germans only talk of hat-tricks using the adjective lupenrein, meaning “flawless”. All the goals must be scored consecutively, and in the same half. Even with such a qualification, however, this past weekend saw an unusual proliferation of flawless scoring feats.
Although Wayne Rooney arguably besmirched his flawless hat-trick by cursing into a TV camera immediately after scoring three uninterrupted second-half goals in 14 minutes at West Ham, his achievement was pure by the German definition. Likewise St Mirren’s English striker Michael Higdon, who also scored a German-approved second half hat trick in a 3 -1 comeback win over Hamilton.
Norwich’s Simeon Jackson was clearly disgusted by his team-mate Grant Holt’s failure to score a pure hat-trick against Scunthorpe. Holt’s three consecutive goals were distastefully spread either side of half-time, so Jackson stepped up to show him the virtues of clean scoring by whacking in three straight over the final 15 minutes of the 6-0 hammering at Carrow Road. Any arguments over possession of the match ball will be settled by a stern Teutonic judge.
Up in Crewe, things were messier still. The two hat-tricks scored by the home team’s Clayton Donaldson and Joel Grant in the 8-1 win over Cheltenham were all over the place, and way too poorly co-ordinated to be garlanded with the label “pure”. One might even be moved to describe their hat-tricks as offensive to the very ideal of netting three goals. What were they thinking?
Over in Italy, Napoli’s free-scoring Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani (with 30 goals in all competitions this season, including three hat-tricks) had a pure hat-trick for Napoli in the 4-3 win over Lazio denied thanks to an own goal from his team-mate Salvatore Aronica. Thanks, mate. But the real scoring heroes of the weekend were the players who scored four unanswered goals in a single half, and away from home too. Step forward Valencia’s Roberto Soldado (four goals in 23 second-half minutes in a 4-2 win at Getafe) and Barnet’s Steven Kabba (likewise four second-half strikes in his side’s 4-1 win at Burton Albion). Yet they have no name for their feats.
OK, they scored hat-tricks, but when you’ve scored four, no one actually calls it a hat-trick. Arguably, they scored two hat-tricks, if you take goals one to three, and goals two to four, as separate sequences. But only if you score six goals are you credited with a double hat-trick.
It seems very strange that in almost a century and a half of football, no one has come up with a term to celebrate the scoring of four goals (or five) in a game. It’s as though there’s a lingering amateur ethos that says scoring three is jolly good, but four or more is rather unsporting because it humiliates the opposition.
A “double brace” sounds unwieldy. A “foursome” sounds kinky, a “four-flush” too scatological, and a “fourscore” would mean, strictly interpreted, that a striker would have scored 80 times in a game. A “tetralogy” sounds a mite pretentious. Sadly, it’s probably too late now for a term to evolve that will encompass “four goals scored in a game of football by one player”.
The Germans, of course, do have a name for it, a “four pack”, but to British ears that sounds like what you buy at the offie after closing time on your way to a party. Scoring more than three seems barely worth the effort, as nothing can top the romanticised mythology of the hat-trick, either pure or tainted. Still, for the sake of Kabba and Soldado, who both did better than Wayne Rooney on Saturday, let’s hear a round of applause for the quadrantal point accumulators. Ian Plenderleith