Paying the Penalty

City Ground

Nottingham Forest’s 10-9 Penalty shoot-out win over Bury in the Carabao Cup got me thinking, why don’t the converted kicks count on a player’s record?

When you look back through history, penalties have awoken and broken many a footballing career, from the preliminary rounds of the FA Cup right up to the biggest prize in football, the FIFA World Cup.

I remember watching in amazement as Italy’s Roberto Baggio blazed his kick over the crossbar back in 1994, and in doing so handed Brazil their first World Cup for over twenty years. It’s ironic that both Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro had missed spot kicks prior to Baggio’s sky bound effort, because the defining memory of that entire tournament will always be that of the pony tailed Buddhist.

Baggio will have to live with the indignation of that miss for the rest of his life, but if I were to ask you who scored their penalties for the Azzurri, would you be able to answer correctly? And here’s my point, the price of failure in a penalty shoot-out is colossal to the individuals concerned but for the successful kickers there is little personal reward for their endeavours.

Much is said regarding the comfortability and affluence of the modern-day professional footballer, and when you compare the income of a Championship player to that of Nottingham Forest’s European Cup winning side, there is a very strong case to answer. However, the reward for successfully converting a penalty within any given shoot-out should be added that player’s scoring record in my opinion.

At this point, every agent in the land will be rubbing their well-greased palms together, goal scoring bonus for their player and a percentage for themselves somewhere along the line? But, I don’t really have an issue with this because let’s face it, how many penalty shoot-outs does the average Pro footballer incur within his career? Not many at all, is the answer.

Returning to all things Nottingham Forest, my thoughts revert to Joe Lolley and Luke Steele in particular. Lolley, had the unenviable task of taking not one, but two spot kicks against Bury in the Carabao Cup, both of which he converted with aplomb. And, as for Steele, his debut for the Reds saw him scoring and saving to send the four-time winners through to the next round. Surely, professionalism of this magnitude should be rewarded or at least considered by the governing bodies?

Regardless of the occasion, the thought process of the penalty shoot-out is universal, the lonesome walk to the spot, the increasing heartbeat, the poker face and usually in my case…..the impending miss! Whether it’s in front of 94k at the Pasadena Rose Bowl or just 94 at Greenwich Avenue, the accolades should be universal for those who walk that walk and succeed.

The price to pay for missing these days is colossal, on both a monetary and a personal level. Michael Gray’s miss for Sunderland in the 1998 Championship play-off final is a prime example, it was reported that it was worth 280m to the winners of that very game. On a personal level it can be devastating too. A former teammate of mine by the name of Andy Furnell witnessed the emotional dejection of having missed under severe pressure. He was just 16 years of age when his spot kick was saved by Tottenham Hotspurs Ian Walker in 1994, a miss that ended Peterborough United’s FA Cup run and, in my opinion, thwarted the youngster’s rise to the very top.

I’d like to think that among all the outlandish law changes seen in recent years, like ABBA spot kick systems and so on, the powers that be will consider rewarding successful penalty takers for their endeavours.





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