Goals are always a release, no matter how they go in. Everyone knows the satisfaction of a ball fizzing into the back of the net, or the excitement of the thud of a ball going in off the crossbar.
But the finality of a ball crossing a line is enough by itself to create that moment: it doesn’t always need to career into the netting at full speed.
But however the goal goes in, there’s an even more heightened sense of satisfaction when the goal is scored by a goalkeeper. Whether it’s a last-minute equaliser bundled home by a towering beast who’s come up for a corner, or whether it’s a clearance caught by the wind, there’s something so ungainly and rare about the sight of a keeper, looking gangly with massive gloved hands dangling by his sides, burst into celebration at a goal that’s been created under his own auspices. The rarest birds aren’t always the prettiest, but their appearance is always special.
Not many goalkeepers have the distinction of having scored a goal. They are like albatrosses. But of all the keepers lucky enough to have scored one in a competitive game, Paul Robinson is among a very special elite: goalkeepers who have scored twice.
Hans-Jorg Butt and Jose Luis Chilavert scored plenty of goals, but they took penalties and free kicks, and we’re very much the exceptions to the rule.
Normally, there are two kinds of keeper goals. They can be long lobs, swirling in the air and bouncing unexpectedly. Or they can be set-piece finishes: towering headers or goalmouth scrambles, usually late in games from do or die set-plays with the goalkeeper playing spoiler and there to disrupt.
The latter always the most satisfying: a last minute release, it’s always dramatic. But more importantly, it’s always meaningful. Goalkeeper’s don’t come up for corners for no reason.
The former, however, is imbued with a meaning of it’s own, but a different one altogether: it’s not usually the scoring goalkeeper who gets the praise, but the beaten one who gets the blame. It is almost always a humiliation, not a celebration. Often, the humiliation is so strong as to make you wonder whether or not the scoring keeper would rather not have put his opposite number through the agony of having been beaten – usually by a bounce – from the guts of 100 yards; call it professional sympathy.
But seeing your name on the scoresheet is a strange sight for a keeper. In the end, probably worth it. And since we’re talking about Paul Robinson on the basis that he has the honour of a Premier League goal to his name, that might suggest he’ll take it.
Ben Foster was the unlucky man on the receiving end. And indeed, the time, when the ball endednup in the net, Robinson did not get the immediate credit. Instead, the camera focused on Foster’s rye smile and his attempts to make his outward appearance contrast completely with the utter devastation he felt on the inside. That is almost impossible to achieve.
Eventually, the camera pans to the goalscorer, disbelieving and completely unsure how to act in the moment, but helpfully mobbed by his teammates to compensate.
It was an odd moment, but perhaps the context was even stranger. Unlike the other category of keeper strikes which usually come in injury time, Robinson’s goal came just after the hour mark, well into the second half but a long time before things could have seemed desperate,. And yet, it was still a meaningful goal in the context of the game.
This was a crucial goal at a crucial time. Martin Jol’s side were drawing 1-1 against a struggling Watford who would be relegated at the end of the season. They had dominated the game, but the second goal had eluded them thus far. The longer such games go on without a goal from the dominant, home team, the more nervous the stadium starts to become, especially when one mistake can cost you all the points.
It would take Robinson’s strike – and possibly one mistake at the other end – for Spurs to impose their dominance on the game, one they ended up winning 3-1 in the end.
It wasn’t Robinson’s only goal in competitive football, nor even his first. He also scored in the last minute of a League Cup tie against Swindon for Leeds at Elland Road, equalising right at the death and forcing extra time, before saving the vital penalty in the shootout in the end to send Leeds through. That was, perhaps, more dramatic, but it was also fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Leeds would be knocked out by Manchester United in the next round and relegated from the Premier League.
It’s rare indeed, but Robinson is the perfect example of goalkeepers scoring goals, having scored with both types. The last-minute towering header against Swindon and the long, lucky lob against Watford. He’ll always have that to look back on.