From June 23rd-25th at The Belfry this summer, two of the biggest spheres in the sporting world will collide, as football meets golf in a tournament not quite like any other – ICONS of Football 2017.
That’s right, 24 of the biggest names from the beautiful game will switch sports in a Ryder-Cup-style tournament that sees Lee Westwood’s England side take on the Rest of the World, captained by fellow golfing great Darren Clarke.
Of course, most footballers these days, especially those already retired, will already be well-versed in the art of golf; ex-players have a knack of spending their time on luscious courses around Britain and yonder.
But how will England fare when the action tees off in four months’ time? Perhaps a look at the hottest shots from their playing days will give us an insight into how Westwood’s boys will perform on the golfing green.
Michael Carrick has never been a great goalscorer but he has scored some great goals, not least including this effort against Northampton last year. Indirect free kicks inside the box are a bit of a collector’s item these days but when Wayne Rooney failed to convert, Carrick stepped up to calmly career the ball into the net. Tidy finish.
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were one heck of a strike partnership and their lethal combination came to a head as Manchester United charged down the 1999 Champions League title. Back in the group stages, the Red Devils took part in a six-goal thriller with Barcelona, and this Yorke-Cole combination, finished by the latter, was the pick of the bunch.
Referred to as simply ‘God’ for his impeccable finishing ability, Robbie Fowler netted a staggering 120 Premier League goals for Liverpool. Some required greater ingenuity than this one, but it’s the importance of the opponent that makes the above strike so special – rifling home against the Reds’ ancient enemies Manchester United.
From one Liverpool great to another, Steven Gerrard’s Reds career was littered with goals as special as this one. Winners against West Ham and Olympiacos more immediately come to mind, but the technique required to produce this curling volley against Middlesbrough truly stands out from Liverpool’s Captain Fantastic.
Defender Phil Jagielka’s scored 40 goals throughout his entire career, but none to date have been more special than his thunderous drive to draw Everton level in the final moments of the Merseyside derby. Liverpool looked on course for a win until the England international popped up outside the box to produce a once-in-a-lifetime rocket that fired into the top corner past a helpless Simon Mignolet.
Teddy Sheringham will argue he scored far more glamorous goals throughout an especially lengthy career at the top of English football. But in terms of importance, few rival his famous poke home in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 1999. That was the first in a historic last-minute comeback from the Red Devils, earning Sir Alex Ferguson his first European title as United boss.
Superb technique has always been an underrated part of James Milner’s game, much to Bayern Munich’s detriment when they met the then-Manchester City midfielder in the Champions League. Working as tenaciously as ever on the left wing, the England international latched onto a low cross before taking a step inside and curling delicately past none other than Manuel Neuer into the far corner.
The midfield enforcer was better famed for solid tackles and team-marshalling, but he popped up with his fair share of goals as well throughout spells with Manchester United, Liverpool and Inter Milan. That includes this improvised effort against QPR, when the former England skipper instinctively flung his body towards a rebound to athletically stab home from close range.
Alan Shearer certainly gave us plenty to choose from, but even amid a record-breaking career that saw him notch up a staggering 260 goals in the Premier League, his piledriving volley against Everton particularly stood out. A goal any player in the world would be proud of, and a goal no ‘keeper in the world would be able to stop.
One of the greatest midfielders of his generation, Paul Scholes steadily transitioned from a goalscoring No.10 to a majestic deep-lying playmaker. But even amid his elder years, when dictating traffic with the ball became more important than finding the net, he still produced some worldly finishes – not least including this sublime strike from long range against Barcelona.
Kevin Phillips was a goalscorer, pure and simple. Before claiming European football’s Golden Shoe in 2000, he fired Sunderland from the First Division to the top flight with a whopping 23 goals, not least including this absolute beauty of a curler against Barnsley.
These icons will be looking to switch from netting goals to sinking putts at ICONS of Football 2017 and the thought of them altogether on one course is enough to whet the appetite for football and golfing fans alike.