THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Only two nets should be on display

icon newnets30 September ~ August 2013; Newport County's league season kicks off. Near the corner flag, a few yards behind the touchline, a third set of goals. Stood upright, facing up the pitch, almost parallel with the permanent, "in play" nets. Are County nefariously doubling their chances of scoring? No. It's the ubiquitous set of full-size portable goals, languishing incongruously close to a pitch near you and spoiling life for armchair fans. How can we savour the first League game in Newport for a quarter of a century when it looks like they can't be bothered clearing stuff away?

By Morecambe's visit in September Rodney Parade's portable goals are, as elsewhere, chucked behind advertising hoardings. But we can still see them. They're possibly why Newport's Tom Naylor scored two own goals. They're absolutely why I can no longer concentrate while watching The Football League Show.

I know football's a full-time industry. Goalkeepers warming-up separately, pre-match and at half-time, is a welcome touch of professionalism. But while watching a game I want to feel it's the only game ever. And that game will have just two visible sets of the posts-bar-net combo. On September 21 there was a sending-off and a goal in Chesterfield's top-of-the table trip to Oxford. All I saw that night was one full-sized, netted set of goals at each side of the Kassam's North Stand.

Bakary Sako's controversial late penalty for Wolves at Shrewsbury? Wasted on me. A record crowd at the New Meadow couldn't conceal the spare goals, sat in line with the very 18-yard box where the ref was getting stuff wrong. I'm 44. Life's beginning to outpace me. That portable set of goals told me this game wasn't worth my emotional investment.

Peterborough beat MK Dons with nine men and only the "permanent" goalposts were visible during the game footage. But at the beginning of the programme even Mark "Clem" Clemmit's camera-swallowing introduction couldn't hide the moveable goals under London Road's TV gantry. I knew they were there, just as surely the two sets against a wall on an access road into the Memorial Stadium, Bristol. Rovers and Hartlepool enjoyed a cracking 2-2 draw. I didn't.

I'm delighted technology has produced sets of goals which can be carried on and off the pitch at a moment's notice. But why can't they be carried right out of the stadium? If you can't get them out of the ground at least cover them up. And if you think it's only a lower-league problem just have a look at the stanchion peeking over the side wall of Selhurst Park's massive Holmesdale Road Stand as Swansea knock the ball into its big brother and sister.

A bit Freudian? Well, of course. The game's basest attraction to us – before holding midfielders and banks of four – is that there are two sets of goalposts; one who's purity you'd protect with your life, one you would die trying to, well, penetrate. I don't want to be reminded I can just nip along to a sports manufacturer, buy a set of goals and kick a ball into them all day long. I'm trying to maintain the fourth wall – so can everyone please hide their third, fourth and fifth sets of goals.

Maybe it's the highlights package format – my concentration diffused by so many goals rendered so quickly. But I watched the full 90 minutes of Queen of the South v Rangers on BBC Alba last week. A delayed transmission with Gaelic commentary was less distracting than knowing any player could hammer the ball out both for a throw-in and into one of two pristine unguarded nets.

A Rangers fan bitter that my club now plays in venues too small to hide its spare goals? Absolutely. But Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock exchanged top-tier goals last Saturday, with spare sets slung behind a hoarding on a grassed-over old terrace and parked next to the Firhill turnstiles.  

Premiership Aberdeen and Dundee United have disassembled goals in plain view. Lower league Stenhousemuir and Hamilton have five-a-side pitches adjacent to the main playing surface. But this is all okay. No, it's the fully-stanchioned, netted-up, regulation size goals which concern me. Whether upside-down behind the pitch or right-way-round in the emergency exit – I've been raised to believe in just two. Alex Anderson

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