Picking a top ten of Albion goals over a lifetime of watching isn’t easy. For starters, at this advanced age, I’ve forgotten most of them. And do you pick great goals, funny goals, important goals? It’s a good question and I’ll only know the answer by next week when I’ve finished with it, but all I can say is it’s going to be a very personal collection and you’ll almost certainly disagree with it. Argue away…
The League Cup has become something of a lesser light in the modern day football season, though clearly nobody told Zlatan Ibrahimovic that. Albion’s record over the last 30 years or so has been pretty woeful, but nonetheless, the competition had its moments and none more so than this particular goal on a balmy summer’s night in… Leyton.
It wasn’t wildly significant, not one on the way to Wembley, nor one that crowned an epic victory, just a goal in a routine early round win against lower league opposition, but it was no less a beauty of a goal for that and thus a reminder as to why it is that so many of us make the pilgrimage to outlandish places in all weathers and at all kinds of expense both financial, physical and emotional.
It’s just so that we can be in the presence of those striped shirts when one of the inhabitants does something extraordinary, just so that we can say that we were there, so that we can join in that peculiar communion that brings football fans together and leaves the heretic unbelievers scratching their heads in bemusement, the poor devils.
This particular gem of the goalscoring art came at Brisbane Road, home of Leyton Orient, back in August 2006 as Albion polished off our hosts to the tune of three goals to nil, a very nice tune if ever there was one.
Young Stuart Nicholson had given us a first half lead, but with 71 minutes gone, there was still the disturbing possibility of extra-time looming should we make one slip. Those worries were eased with a cultured swing of Darren Carter’s left peg to add the final flourish to a lovely team move.
The move began in Albion territory, Paul Robinson bringing the ball forward and playing a pass into the path of Albion debutant Kevin Phillips. He collected it just inside the Orient area, but the bend and bounce of the ball took him away from goal.
With all the years of accumulated knowhow being brought to bear, there was no panic from Phillips who simply collected the ball and meandered away to the byline. With no obvious options in the box, he rolled a pass into Jonathan Greening, still a winger in those days.
Greening collected the ball and the great man then performed his traditional version of the Green Cross code – check one way, check the other – before spotting an Albion shirt dashing into the box.
Greening’s cross flashed through the six yard area and reached Darren Carter, for it was he making the run. As the ball reached him, the angle could not have been much tighter, just wide of the six yard box, maybe four yards from the touchline, while the height was a bit awkward too.
No matter to Carter. Without breaking his stride, he ran full tilt onto the ball and in one movement unleashed a ferocious left foot volley that saw the ball crash into the top corner of the net at the near post, almost uprooting the goals with its ferocity.
It was just a shame that because of rebuilding work at the ground, there was nobody behind the goal to see it. Fortunately it was captured on television – high definition at that, one of the very first broadcasts of its kind. A genuine Albion classic.