After the shortest pre-season on record, even if it has felt to some of us like the longest ever, Premier League football is back!
Yes, there are still no fans. Sure, there’s not even Manchester City or Manchester United for the time being, thanks to their late European finishes. But as football gradually edges its way back to normality across all levels, the flagship competition begins its 2020-21 campaign on Saturday, when Fulham host Arsenal at Craven Cottage.
Following the last six months of uncertainty, suspensions, quarantines and lockdowns, it’s time to celebrate the arrival of a full Premier League season to come. And nobody, but nobody, knows how to celebrate quite like Premier League footballers. Don’t believe us? Believe this lot…
THE OUT OF LINE WITH ROBBIE FOWLER
“He was pretending to eat the grass,” said the shadiest defence lawyer this side of Saul Goodman, when Gerard Houllier was asked to explain Robbie Fowler’s goal celebration against Everton in April 1999. Fowler had, of course, been getting it in the neck from Everton fans, with totally unfounded allegations of his fondness for a particular Columbian export. So when he slammed home a penalty for Liverpool against their city rivals, he got down on his hands and knees and dragged his nose along the big white painted bye-line, to produce one of the most controversial gestures in Premier League history.
Houllier’s straight-faced explanation had nobody convinced, least of all the FA, who banned Fowler for four games.
THE SUBLIME WITH ERIC CANTONA
The question with Cantona is which one? There was, of course, the time he swung off the stanchion behind the goal to celebrate equalising against Liverpool, stopping just short of jumping into the crowd on his return to action, eight months after he went hurtling feet-first into a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park.
But surely the most iconic was the sheer look of brilliant arrogance as he stood with arms aloft, taking a slow turn to survey all around him after delivering a sublime chip over Sunderland keeper, Lionel Perez, in a 5-0 Manchester United win, in December 1996. It was a perfect reflection of the aura around the scintillating Frenchman.
THE TEAM TALK WITH JIMMY BULLARD
Hull City’s first-ever season in the top flight will forever be remembered for the moment Phil Brown shunned the warmth of the dressing room for the freezing cold Etihad Stadium pitch to conduct his half-time team-talk, with his side 4-0 down against Manchester City on Boxing Day 2008.
And the Tigers’ second campaign in the Premier League will forever be remembered for Jimmy Bullard’s recreation of his gaffer’s unforgettable faux-pas. Having equalised from the penalty spot with just eight minutes to go, Bullard had his team-mates congregate around him and proceeded to wag a finger of fake disapproval, sparking laughter among fans of all persuasions. Brown himself was understandably slightly less amused!
THE QUESTION WITH MARIO BALOTELLI
Why always this celebration? Because nobody will ever forget the act itself or the incredible game, that’s why.
Just 36 hours before the Manchester derby at Old Trafford in October 2011, Mario Balotelli had caused £400,000 worth of damage to his bathroom (that’s a lot of bathroom right there!), after he and his friends attempted to set off fireworks from the window. It was the latest in a lengthy list of misdemeanours from the headline-grabbing Italian forward, so when he netted the opener in City’s unforgettable 6-1 trouncing of United he unveiled the inquisitive ‘Why Always Me?’ printed vest which would become so iconic. We never did find the answer.
THE KNOCKOUT WITH WAYNE ROONEY
Who needs a well-crafted social media post to respond to press criticism when you can use a goal celebration to deliver the ultimate counter-punch? Wayne Rooney’s goal in Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Tottenham in March 2015, gave him the perfect chance to make a joke of the video which had emerged that morning, showing him being knocked out by former team-mate Phil Bardsley, during a friendly sparring session in the England captain’s kitchen. As you do.
After finding the back of Spurs’ net, Rooney threw a few fake punches, then recreated his dramatic fall against Bardsley by collapsing backwards onto the Old Trafford turf. No longer a huge drama, the story was now little more than a light-hearted explanation of a memorable Premier League moment. Killer blow, Wayne.
THE PAYBACK WITH EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR
“Emotions took over me, and I feel sorry for what I have done,” said Emmanuel Adebayor after this one, but surely we’ve all wanted to do what he did at some stage in our life?
Adebayor had just been sold by Arsenal to Manchester City for £25.5m when the two teams met at the Etihad Stadium in September 2009, so when he bagged City’s third goal in a 4-2 win over the Gunners every Premier League fan would have been anticipating something special to come.
The Togolese front man ran the full length of the pitch before sliding on his knees in front of the Arsenal supporters who had been taunting him over his departure from north London, with rabid gestures and verbal taunts the inevitable response from the visitors’ section.
Beats the feigned hand-up apology of many an ex-hero, if you ask us.
THE ORIGINAL WITH FABRIZIO RAVANELLI
We all copied this one. Whether on the park kicking the ball about with brothers and sisters, or on the Sunday League pitch, or even delivering an unusual greeting to the neighbours after a long night bringing in the New Year – that last one wasn’t yours truly, honest. Yes, at one stage or another we surely all ‘did a Ravanelli’ by pulling our shirt over our head to mimic the Italian striker who made the celebration famous on his Premier League debut for Middlesbrough in August 1996.
Perhaps he had more reason to do it than we did, since he scored a hat-trick against Liverpool and we just megged our two-year-old sister/bounced one in off the injured keeper’s knobbly knee/had one Guinness too many, but we all loved reproducing the White Feather’s moment in the Riverside sun, which remains one of the top flight’s most iconic sights.
THE ROBOT WITH (WHO ELSE?!) PETER CROUCH
The man, the myth, the Robot.
The Premier League got this celebration second hand, since Peter Crouch first unveiled his now-legendary moves in a couple of England friendlies shortly before the 2006 World Cup. He would later explain that it came from a throwaway joke at David Beckham’s pre-World Cup party, when he promised Jamie Carragher he would do something daft on the way back from the toilet. Carragher tipped off an ITV cameraman in attendance, Crouchy chose to do the Robot, and a legend was born.
So when the Stoke City striker netted his 100th Premier League goal against Everton 11 years later, he brought the infamous Robot moves out of hiding to the delight of English football fans everywhere.