Michael Owen played 89 games for England and scored 40 goals. Check Wikipedia, ask FIFA, you can even corroborate that with Sue Barker herself. It’s down as a fact in the record books – there’s absolutely no disputing it, right?

Well, it’s wrong. It should read 41. FIFA chose to credit Frank Lampard with a goal against Wales in 2004 when it clearly hit Owen on the way in. That was wrong, and it bothers me, just like it bothers me that Franck Moussa has been awarded a goal against Rotherham that he didn’t even touch.

In the context of the struggles we’re facing at the moment this sort of stuff is clearly trivial, but people are needlessly buggering up the all-time records here. So while nobody listened to me about Michael Owen back when I was woofing about it on MSN Messenger in 2004, a mistake with a Coventry goal in 2014 is a little bit different.

Who is the scorer of a goal?

Let’s pretend you’re all idiots for a second and run through the basic principles of goalscoring:

1. The goalscorer is the player from the attacking side who touches the ball last, if his shot/touch was on target.

2. However, if the final touch from the attacking side is not on target and is deflected in by a defender, then it’s an own goal.

Replay any goal and providing it’s clear who got the last touch, you can make a pretty decent call on who scored it. The above principle has been applied for years. It’s the basis of the Dubious Goals Panel’s work, and of the many aspects of football which are left in the hands of human interpretation, I’d say this is one of the most water-tight. The trickiest part is usually figuring out whether the ball is going in or not, but even then, they usually get there in the end.

I’ll get on to Moussa’s “goal” against Rotherham in a minute, but in true classroom fashion, let’s head over to the metaphorical VCR on wheels for a little history lesson. Here’s the Michael Owen effort for England that FIFA made an almighty pig’s ear of:

Give me strength. I don’t how they managed to get this one so wrong. OK, Frank Lampard had a shot and it was going on target – good on him. Why should this matter though if the same shot has slammed into Owen and deflected in? It’s never mattered before and I will never understand why they decided to waive this rule at the time. Clearly it doesn’t annoy Owen as much as me, but like he references, imagine if this was the difference between him beating Charlton’s record or not?

One of the arguments I’ve heard FIFA used was that Owen knew nothing about it. You’re really asking for trouble if you introduce “intent” into the equation. The fact is the ball walloped him on the back of the foot and that deflection totally deceived the goalkeeper and went in. Don’t argue me on this one. It should have been Michael Owen’s goal.

It wasn’t Franck…

So, what has this got to do with the goal they gave to Moussa’s the other week? I’ll admit the scenarios are different. For a start, Moussa didn’t even touch the bloody thing. He stooped to head the ball as it came in from the corner but ended up being a good six feet behind where it was actually flicked. The video’s not the greatest, but as a Coventry fan who back in 2007 sat on the highest row at Old Trafford without his specs on, identifying the shape and shading of Sky Blues players is a skill I’ve kept to this day. See what you think:

Watching the video back it becomes clear that the player to win the flick on was Cyrus Christie. He gets up highest, beats his marker to the ball and diverts the ball towards goal. In my rage, I composed this despicably crude graphic of events (tap for a bigger version if you’re on a mobile):

BfYudQjCMAEJbW9

I agree it’s a tricky goal to attribute, in so far as the ball was on its way towards the net and then took a flick off the Rotherham defender. Was it going in already, or did the deflection divert the ball into the back of the net? It’s hard to be definitive. But either way, that is the only call the Press Association/Football League have to make on this: was it Cyrus Christie’s, or was it an own goal? Simply sticking with the Franck Moussa decision is barmy.

Jim Brown also raised this point in his blog over the weekend. Presumably this sort of thing impacts on Jim, the club’s official historian, far more than it does me, mainly as he now has to keep his records based on this obvious mistake. That must be hard for him, knowing that the people providing the information to the rest of the country have messed it up like this.

But that’s where we are. It’s a daft one, and people will wonder why it’s bothering me, especially at it will probably never get changed. But if you do read this blog and have any means of nudging the people at the FA, Football League or Press Association to take a look at this, do me and my sanity a favour and have a word please.

I really don’t want to be the man to contend this if Franck Moussa eventually becomes the greatest Sky Blues player in history and a question about his goalscoring record comes up on a Question of Sport (which I presume I’m taking part in having reached the top of the Darts game). But I will.

I’ll leave you with some wisdom on the value of getting things right by someone who knows a thing or two about it – Mr David Brent:

We’ve been quiz champions for six years now. We nearly lost it two years ago, unjustly, because Gareth was quizmaster then and the question was, “What type of alien is Mr Spock?”, and everyone put “Vulcan”, which is incorrect! Mr Spock is half-Vulcan, half-human, okay? And Gareth went, “Oh, look, just , everyone gets one point”. No, no, everyone does not get one point. Carpet Munchers don’t get a point. Dr Wankenstein doesn’t get a point. Stephen Hawking’s Football Boots don’t get a point. I do.

I had to go home and get a book to prove it. And he went, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, you’re right again, well done, you’ve won, sorry.”

“No apologies necessary, let’s get on with the quiz.”

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6 comments

    1. Cheers Jim, that’s great. Without any other angles, I think I’m inclined to give the benefit of that particular doubt to Christie too.

  1. Good luck with your campaign. I’m still waging war on the official record which says that Dion Dublin scored for Cambridge against us in the FA Cup in 1992. Dublin’s penalty struck the bar, rebounded to the throng of players following in and City’s Lee Hurst – presumably trying to hoof the ball clear – rocketed it into the top of the net. Dublin wasn’t even close to the ball, but if he had been would have been penalised for kicking the ball twice from the penalty.

  2. If they have given it to Moussa then they are saying that the header was on target… and since Moussa didn’t touch the ball, clearly it is Christie’s goal 🙂

  3. I’ve never fully agreed with the principle of attributing a goal you mention in the article.

    Many shots which were on target would never have gone in (straight at the keeper, weakly hit) without the opponent’s deflection and it can seem ridiculous to give the resulting goal to the player who took the shot. Similarly, I find it ultimately unsatisfactory that shots which were clearly going in anyway but were skimmed by a teammate’s head or banged in by a teammate on the line should be given to the teammate.

    I’d prefer some rule whereby the player without whose decisive touch the goal would not have been scored is credited with the goal. But I don’t know how to phrase it any better so as to avoid ambiguity and subjectivity.

    I guess that’s the main virtue of the ruling as it stands; they are questions of fact as to whether the shot was on target or not and whether it was touched or not by a teammate or opponent. So I’ve argued myself back into orthodoxy.

    Cheers!

    1. Hmm! Let’s just say I’m pleased you came to your senses! It’s a rule – you have to be able to consistently apply it…

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