So Kevin Nolan refused to cluck after scoring against his former club Newcastle. Kevin’s ‘chicken dance’ is certainly one of the more unusual goal celebrations in West Ham’s history. So why does Nolan cluck? “Basically, it’s how my best mate dances when we are out. All the lads started to take the Mick one night. It just started with a quack!” was how Nolan explained his bird-brained routine to the Newcastle Chronicle. It’s not often that absence of clucking can be seen as a sign of respect, but let’s hope the Toon Army were impressed.
We’ve known many a bizarre goal celebration over the years. My personal favourite was when Carlos Tevez finally scored his first goal for the Hammers against Spurs in 2007. It’s a brilliant free kick into the top corner. In typically restrained fashion Carlos whips his shirt off and swings it round his head while running towards the Dr Martens Stand, vaulting the advertising hoardings, eluding the bemused stewards and leaping into the crowd to be engulfed by hordes of West Ham geezers. He disappears under the throng for a minute or so before reemerging to receive a yellow card. Typically, we then went on to lose 4-3.
The greatest ever West Ham goal celebration is surely Frank Lampard’s jog around the corner post in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final against Everton at Elland Road. The ball came over and Frank fell over, and scored the winning goal. The unlikely scorer ran madly towards the corner flag, grabbed it and ran round it in circles. This was the first example of pole dancing ever recorded in Britain. His son Fat Frank Junior was to emulate his dad’s routine when scoring for West Ham at Leeds in the 1990s.
For a choreographed routine it would be hard to beat Ian Wright’s goal against Southampton. Aided by Razor Ruddock, Wrighty imitated Paolo Di Canio’s infamous push on referee Paul Alcock. Wrighty brandished an imaginary red card, Razor gave him a light push, and Wright theatrically fell over. Ironically Di Canio would soon become their teammate.
Paolo has his own place in West Ham folklore of course. Every goal produced a memorable celebration, but perhaps the most stylish was his winning goal away to Man United in the FA Cup in 2001. Paolo eluded United’s offside trap and stroked the ball past a taxihailing Fabien Barthez. PDC then ran to the away fans by the corner flag, slid on to his knees with his arms aloft and declared, “I can play away!” to the camera. Di Canio produced another brilliant celebration after scoring the winner against Chelsea in the relegation season of 2002-03. He’d been dropped by Glenn Roeder then restored to the bench by Trevor Brooking. It looked like his goal might have saved the Hammers. After scoring he ripped off his shirt to reveal a white vest, swung his shirt above his head and raced towards the corner flag sliding on to his knees with tears running down his face, as you do.
Some of our lesser players have had their memorable moments too. No–one at Upton Park will ever forget Eamonn Dolan’s brace against Sunderland in 1989. After shooting into the top of the net from close range he ran to the North Bank and jumped up and down from leg to leg while pumping his arms up and down, all followed by a bizarre Irish jig. After his second, a fine first time shot, Dolan ran to the Chicken Run with his arms outstretched doing a Dambusters impersonation.
Other celebrations have been dodgier. I still have bad dreams about Steve Lomas whipping off his shirt to reveal his white-skinned torso after scoring against Man United, while Anton Ferdinand ran the length of the pitch to do a David Brent dance in front of the West Ham fans after scoring away at Watford in 2005. Then there was Alan Pardew’s “dad dance” as he celebrated Marlon Harewood’s winner against Middlesbrough in the 2006 FA Cup semi-final with a bottom wiggle and shuffle of his managerial hips.
In some ways the old celebrations proved less is more. Billy Bonds favoured the double-armed clenched fist salute, Bobby Moore usually went for a simple manly handshake while Trevor Brooking favoured one arm aloft as if gently waving goodbye to a maiden aunt. Budgie Byrne’s somersault after Ronnie Boyce’s 1946 FA Cup Final winner against Preston was all the more effective because back then footballers simply didn’t do that kind of thing.
And the worst ever West Ham goal celebration? That has to be Nigel Reo-Coker after scoring the winner against Man United in 2006. After half a season of sulking he could have won back the crowd with a bit of badge kissing or by just looking vaguely pleased. Instead he cocked his ear to the crowd in a terriblyjudged display of thinskinned egotism.
The most unique goal celebration was surely supplied by Steve Potts as it only happened once. My pal Nigel, Pottsy’s number one fan, assures me that he whipped his shirt off and then ran round the corner flag in tears after scoring his only ever goal with a toe-poke beneath the keeper in the 7-1 demolition of Hull City. Though my memory of the event is of Pottsy just looking a little embarrassed. If only Clucking Kevin Nolan had been around to offer Pottsy some Strictly Come Goal Scoring advice…