Dele Alli’s new goal celebration this month – unimaginatively dubbed the ‘Dele Alli Challenge’ – went viral on social media and has had households around the country trying to master the confusing hand gesture. Only last weekend I witnessed my father-in-law drunkenly attempting the move. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more amusing goal celebrations of the Premier League era. We’re all familiar with the Shearer one arm raise and the Henry knee slide, but here are ten of the most spontaneous post-goal acts that brought a smile to our faces.
Jurgen Klinsmann: Tottenham Hotspur vs Sheffield Wednesday (1994-95)
As mentioned in a previous post, Jurgen Klinsmann came to England in 1994 as one of the most hated men in football. His play acting for Germany on the biggest stages of World Cups and European Championships did not sit well with the English public. He dived regularly to deceive referees. The amount of fouls won and opposition players booked was endless. When Spurs chairman Alan Sugar signed the star striker before the season began many wondered how he would cope with the physical demands. Klinsmann answered the doubters in his first match. A winning header in a 4-3 win at Sheffield Wednesday was followed by a genius celebration. Before the match the striker told his dressing room that he wanted to do a dive celebration if he scored, and he duly delivered with all of his teammates joining in. Football fans up and down the nation were delighted that the German was able make fun of himself in front of thousands of people. From that moment on, he instantly became a Tottenham legend.
Roberto Di Matteo: Chelsea vs Middlesbrough (1996-97)
In the summer of 1996, things were changing forever at Chelsea. Glenn Hoddle left to take charge of England and was replaced by Dutch legend Ruud Gullit. He in turn, started the foreign revolution at Stamford Bridge, signing players like Franck Leboeuf, Gianluca Vialli and a certain Roberto Di Matteo. Little did the fans know that the Italian would go on to score winning goals in 3 major Cup finals for Chelsea by the year 2000 and win their only Champions League trophy as manager in 2012. It was his home debut against Middlesbrough however, where he announced himself to English football with a classy goal and celebration to match. Following a superb 20 yard strike, Di Matteo and his teammates laid down on the floor in a synchronised move, with one leg up and one arm in the air. A perfect photo opportunity for the back pages the next day. The Italian maestro had arrived.
Temur Ketsbaia: Newcastle United vs Bolton Wanderers (1997-98)
Without a doubt the angriest celebration on this list, Temur Ketsbaia decided to take his frustration out on the McDonald’s and Adidas advertising boards behind the Gallowgate End at St James’ Park. After finishing runners-up for two consecutive seasons, Newcastle were struggling in mid-table in January of 1998. Ketsbaia himself felt he was not getting a fair chance in the first team, so when he came on as a substitute to score a last minute winner against Bolton, all hell broke loose. The Georgian started stripping off, throwing his shirt into the crowd before trying to take off his boots. When they wouldn’t come off the sponsor boards started taking the brunt of his anger. Full-back Alessandro Pistone tried calming him down, only to be pushed away aggressively. In fact having lost his shirt, Ketsbaia had to play out the rest of injury time with a blank jersey found on the Newcastle bench. In a recent interview, he admitted that this incident is the thing he gets asked about the most from his time in the North East. I’m not surprised.
Robbie Fowler: Liverpool vs Everton (1998-99)
Merseyside derbies have always been feisty affairs. The clash in April 1999 however, made the back pages for the wrong reasons. Robbie Fowler had been a target for unfounded allegations of drug-taking during the most of late 90’s, and during this game at Anfield the Everton fans were hammering him for it all game. The England striker, who scored twice in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over the toffees, knelt down in front of the rival supporters’ away end after his first goal from the penalty spot, put a finger to the side of his nose and appeared to sniff the white line. Millions of fans saw the action as the match was live on Sky Sports that afternoon. Knowing that he was in trouble, Fowler apologised after the game but it was too late. The FA threw the book at him and gave him a four-match ban on top of the two he already had for an incident in the previous month with Graeme Le Saux, where he accused the Chelsea left-back of being a homosexual – can you imagine that happening now?? The Liverpool forward’s season was finished and the £32,000 fine that accompanied the ban certainly left him licking his wounds.
Emmanuel Adebayor: Manchester City vs Arsenal (2009-10)
In 2009, Man City’s summer transfer spending was at an all time high, with over £120 million spent on players such as Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, Joleon Lescott, Roque Santa Cruz and Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor. The gunners fans were furious with the Togo international, accusing him of moving for the money and having no ambition. In only his 4th City game, Adebayor faced his old club at Eastlands. The game finished 4-2 to the home side, but it was with 10 mins to go when the chaotic scenes began. Adebayor headed in a Wright-Phillips cross to put his side 3-1 in front and after taking boos and abuse all game from the Arsenal fans, decided to run the full length of the pitch and slide on his knees right in front of the away end. As he stayed knelt with his arms out, the furious supporters threw coins and objects on to the pitch and a poor steward was injured as the away fans tried to reach him. The striker was booked for his ill-judged reaction and later received a three-match ban and a £25,000 fine for his antics. A punishment that he still says to this day was worth it.
Jimmy Bullard: Hull City vs Manchester City (2009-10)
On Boxing Day 2008, Hull manager Phil Brown responded to his team losing 4-0 at half time to Man City by sitting his players down on the pitch in front of their travelling fans and giving them an infamous lecture for 15 mins. Eleven months later the Tigers were back at Eastlands, this time to claim a credible 1-1 draw, but it was goalscorer Jimmy Bullard who will be remembered more for the way he celebrated his equaliser. After firing home his penalty, the midfielder sat his teammates down in a circle and began to tell them off whilst wagging his finger, just as Brown had done the season before. It was perfect comedy timing by Bullard, proving himself at the time to be one of the funniest men in football. These days he is stealing a living by carrying on with the class clown act, on the rapidly declining Soccer AM.
Mario Balotelli: Manchester City vs Manchester United (2011-12)
On the way to winning their first league title for 44 years, Manchester City memorably smashed their local rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford in October of that season, but there was a certain Italian who stole the headlines. On the eve of this crunch match the fire brigade were called to Balotelli’s house at 1am. The striker had to check himself into a hotel for the night and met up with the team as normal at 10am the following morning. Not exactly ideal preparation for his biggest match of the season. It emerged that Balotelli and four friends had been setting fireworks off through an opened bathroom window and the towels had caught fire. Absolutely astonishing behaviour from a professional footballer, especially the night before a game. The Italian started the match however, and scored goals either side of half time to set City up for a famous victory. Later that month he was the face of the Manchester fireworks safety campaign for Bonfire Night. You couldn’t make it up! Haha!
Luis Suarez: Liverpool vs Everton (2012-13)
Another Merseyside derby here, this time the controversy coming from everyone’s favourite biter, Luís Suarez. In the lead up to the clash in October 2012, Everton manager David Moyes had publicly criticised Suarez for diving, saying that it was ‘driving supporters away from English football.’ Suarez saw the perfect opportunity to mock the Toffees boss after he gave Liverpool the lead, running straight up to Moyes’ dugout and diving on the floor right in front of him. There are photos of his manager Brendan Rodgers chuckling to himself as he lay there. Moyes may well have thought to himself he had the last laugh as Everton secures a point from this match with a 2-2 draw, but little did he know that this was the final season where his managerial career wasn’t considered a joke.
Samuel Eto’o: Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur (2013-14)
Jose Mourinho has never been afraid to criticise his players, even if they have won the Champions League 3 times and league titles in Spain and Italy. That’s what Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o had on his CV before he went to Chelsea. In the week leading up to his team’s match against Spurs, the striker had not been on a great run of form, with his manager publicity stating that Eto’o was playing more like a 35 year old, than his actual age of 32. When Eto’o opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge he showed he bore no hard feelings to Mourinho over the Chelsea’s boss’s jibes, with a goal celebration mocking his OAP status. Following the strike he started walking like a hunched old man to lean on the corner flag, feeling his back, which brought a smile to the crowd, his team-mates and Mourinho alike. Definitely one of the most light-hearted celebrations on this list.
Wayne Rooney: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur (2014-15)
However controversial Wayne Rooney has been in his career, to be fair to him he can take the mickey out of himself. No more so than during this match with Spurs. A few days before, a video was leaked of Rooney sparring in his kitchen with friend and former teammate Phil Bardsley. The footage shows Bardsley knocking Rooney spark out, before finally getting up and wanting to carry on. So when United’s captain slotted home their third goal from the penalty spot in a 3-0 win, he saw his chance to hit the back pages again. As he threw some air punches before falling to the floor imitating that he had been knocked out, the Old Trafford crowd cheering with delight at the humorous act.
I just had to put in my personal favourite celebration in at the end, which actually came from a missed penalty. In October 2003, Ruud Van Nistelrooy missed a vital last minute pen and allowed Arsenal to snatch a 0-0 draw, which helped them to win the title and go unbeaten all season. Known as the ‘Battle Of Old Trafford’, the match was the dirtiest of the decade, with several players banned afterwards for their involvement. But it’s this image of Martin Keown which stays with me after the penalty miss. So out of order, but so hilarious at the same time. 😂