3 January ~ When Liverpool played Newcastle last week, the television commentary team cultivated the continuous headline story that Andy Carroll was playing against his old club. All through the game, they anticipated him scoring against his old club. When he hit the crossbar, he almost scored against his old club. And as soon as the final whistle blew, the first thing we heard in summary was that Andy Carroll had failed to score against his old club. When the wished-for story fails to materialise, we can just make its absence the main story instead.

They were at it again the next day when Manchester United played Blackburn. With the score at 2-2, Phil Jones fired a shot badly wide of the goal. “Is it in the script for him to get one against his old club?” wondered ESPN’s rhetorical sewage pipe Ian Darke. It may not have been in the script, but you can be sure it was in Darke’s. A few minutes later, when Antonio Valencia also missed the target, Darke couldn’t help reminding us: “He scored against his old club Wigan the other day…”

It is odd that commentators are so fascinated with this micro-aspect of the game. They’ve been talking about it for as long as I can remember following football. If a player scores against his old club, it absolutely has to be mentioned. Never mind that, with so many players moving clubs, it happens on a weekly basis. Somehow, they think it is an interesting, even absolutely amazing, fact that is going to interest the viewer.

Yet I can not think of a single time when I’ve seen or heard a fan in the crowd witness this happening and then turn around to the people next to him or her and say: “Blimey, he just scored against his old club!” Because it is about as pertinent as saying: “Blimey, he just scored using a part of his body!”

I blame Denis Law, who did once score against his old club in a way that was worthy of both analysis and commemoration. His reluctant back heel for Manchester City in 1974 that could have relegated his old club Manchester United was a goal that deserved to be called a huge story. His stony expression while being mobbed by City team-mates said more about football than almost every player autobiography published since. But this was such a great story – Law’s goal was his final touch in club football – that every repetition since has paled by comparison.

Now when it happens, you sense that the gulping commentator wants to have his own Denis Law moment, to provide the voice at the very moment of an iconic occurrence. But all he can manage to blurt out is the fact that a player has scored against his old club. It is either a pre-set compulsion or a contractual obligation, and the words are delivered in a desperate way that begs them to have more meaning. But they don’t, because nobody cares.

If I didn’t think that inanity-addicted commentators were eagerly leaping on the obvious story, I might credit them with fondly harking back to an era when club loyalty meant a damn. But with the odd exception, and despite the phony badge-grabbing, we’ve all long since known that players are driven by the figures their agents text to them in big bold numerals.

Very few players are crying in the showers after notching against an erstwhile paymaster. I doubt many of them pop their heads around the opposition’s dressing room door and crow at putting one over on their former team-mates. It is just not that big a deal.

So, esteemed pundits and match reporters, from now on when a player scores against his old club, set yourself the goal of shutting up about it. It is neither remarkable nor ironic. Defeats for Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City last weekend showed that football can still delight and surprise us once in a while. See if you can do the same. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (15)
Comment by t.j.vickerman 2012-01-03 11:15:59

But don't you see the irony when a player scores against his former club? Eh? Eh? In the most Alanis Morisette of senses.

Comment by geobra 2012-01-03 11:46:22

Good piece. Here in Italy we regularly hear players say that they won't celebrate if they score against their former club 'out of respect' for their fans. This implies that they have more respect for the fans of the club that used to pay their wages but doesn't any more than for the fans of the club that now employs them, who would like to see a tangible sign that they care for the colours they now wear. The way players move around these days, some wouldn't be able to celebrate any goals! It's just another of modern football's nonsenses and the sooner it's consigned to the rubbish bin the better.

Comment by macjackb 2012-01-03 12:43:18

Sky want nothing more than a passive, gullible brand loyalty of fans to their clubs, and peddling the illusion that players are in it with us would be less easy if they were simply observed to be forwarding their careers irrespective of who pays.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-01-03 12:57:14

Funnily enough, Imp, I watched that game on the TV and completely missed the reference to Andy Carroll nearly scoring against his former club. In fact I can't remember a single thing that any of the commentators said at all, throughout the whole programme. Yes, it appears that I have finally arrived at the nirvana state that many football fans aspire to but few ever achieve.

And what, I hear you ask, is this nirvana state? Well, it's like a highly advanced form of selective hearing. When I'm watching MotD, I hear the roar of the crowd and I sometimes hear the thud of boot on ball - but that's about it. Nothing else registers. I am now totally oblivious to the banal ramblings of Lineker Hansen Lawro Motty and the rest of 'em. All that expert punditry and analysis? In one ear, and straight out the other. Bliss, Imp, that's what it is.

Absolute, utter bliss.

Comment by sbloxham 2012-01-03 13:08:54

"...wondered ESPN’s rhetorical sewage pipe Ian Darke..."

The imp's still got his mojo!

Comment by Spadams96 2012-01-03 13:24:01

My word, that young man has just scored against his old club.

Comment by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 2012-01-03 13:43:07

Whereas, Craig Bellamy did score against his old club. Mind you, when you've been at as many clubs as he has I imagine it would be the exception if he scored against anyone else?

Comment by wittoner 2012-01-03 13:44:56

Apart from Denis Law, I can only think of one other really memorable example of a player scoring against his old team. That also involved Mamchester City, this time on the receiving end as Francis Lee scored a cracker against them for Derby County. That prompted the memorable commentary from Barry Davies : "Interesting.....Very Interesting! Oh Just look at his face! Just look at his face!" and thankfully he didn't spoil it by adding "He's just scored against his old club".

Comment by Coral 2012-01-03 14:07:06

I too have found that place Paul Rowland. I first experimented with the sound off but the lack of crowd noise made it hard to fully focus on what was going on and felt odd. So gradually over the years I developed an inner noise cancelling style of listening. Because I know exactly what the commentator is going to say at almost any given moment in a game I am able to think the exact opposite, similar to active noise cancelling headphones. This means I hear relative silence but for the roar of fans who, although entirely predicatable especially when a free kick is given against them, I actually want to hear.

Sky could have saved me time by giving me the option of having just stadium audio but that would just be ridiculous.

Comment by jameswba 2012-01-03 15:12:21

I don't have a channel that shows Premiership games so I too enjoy the 'Nirvana' state referred to by Paul and Coral.

But, for those that could hear the commentry, it did occur to me that the Carroll references might at least be an alternative to the equally tiresome 'Steven Gerrard comeback' ones(?)

Comment by Spadams96 2012-01-03 16:13:24

If the player crosses a particular divide and scores against the old enemy - especially not long after the move - like Kenny Miller, Mo Johnston, Nick Barmby, Carlos Tevez, Luis Enrique etc it probably is noteworthy.

Comment by JimDavis 2012-01-03 16:39:44

Paul “he always scores against the Albion” Peschisolido help me get over the - he scored against his former club malarkey at a very early age. Mind you there was that penalty scored by Steven Claridge …against (one of) his former club(s) … which I savour above all others.

Comment by multipleman78 2012-01-04 00:36:52

the only notable one i can think of in recent times would be Adebayor for Man City v Arsenal and that was because of the absolutely tremendous celebration he put on. Fuck respecting his previous followers, he stuck it right up them. Brilliant.

Comment by Jongudmund 2012-01-04 12:13:13

The Adebayor celebration was epic. Of course the pundits then had a field day about how he shouldn't have done it, especially as he had just scored against his old club!

Comment by johntheface 2012-01-04 14:00:28

My favourite Ian Darke comment came when Man City played Man United in the League Cup semi 2 years ago. With the score level and game approaching extra time United brought Mame Biram Diouf off the bench who was wearing the number 32 shirt. Darke says "Here comes Diouf wearing Carlos Tevez's previous squad number at United. Wouldn't that be a story if he got the winner." No. No it wouldn't

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