‘Thanks Lookman, but you are not the only one to look stupid’

There have been plenty of awful gaffs from penalty takers over the decades...

They say that Christmas comes early every year and it’s also the time for giving – well that can be said for the end of November too. 

Firstly, the giving where West Ham allowed opponents the opportunity to take game-changing penalties; and when both were saved or missed it did feel like Christmas had come early for us Hammers fans. 

Both the Fulham and Aston Villa games involved our opponents taking penalties and missing out. 

This meant that we ended up with a full six points rather than a mediocre two from those games.

Each penalty, although having the same outcome, was very different. For Aston Villa it was a case of blasting it – the only problem being that Ollie Watkins aim was slightly off and he hit the bar, maybe the pressure of missing three of his last five penalties was a contributing factor.

But for Fulham, Ademola Lookman’s attempt at a Panenka was not only foolish, when it was to be the last kick of the game, but also an embarrassment. 

It seemed that Lukasz Fabinaski almost felt guilty saving it. The penalty taker can be a hero but in Ademola and Watkin’s case they went from possible hero to well, zero. 

Watkins at least was brave enough to step up and if his shot had been just a few inches lower he would have rescued a point for Villa. 

As for Lockman, he just came away with egg on his face and made many of us question if we had seen the worst penalty of all time. 

It’s close but digging into the archives I have found a few more contenders.

There is one penalty that will forever stick in my mind and even now I still have the odd nightmare just thinking about it. 

That penalty belongs to none other than Freddie Kanoute.

Even though it happened in August 2002, it is one I will never forget. 

On that late summer afternoon I stood in the Boleyn Ground and could hardly believe my eyes.

West Ham were two nil up against Arsenal and seemingly coasting before Henry pulled one back and it seemed as if all that effort was at risk. 

But instead of sitting back and defending that slim lead we pushed on further and all that pressure resulted in Joe Cole being upended in the penalty box by Ashley Cole and Kanoute stepping up for that spot kick.

But then it all fell apart when his spot kick trickled towards David Seaman who embarrassingly didn’t even need to save it – he merely had to pick it up from the ground as it moved at a snail’s pace towards him.

That miss was a game turner, and in my eyes a season-defining moment. Not only did Arsenal come back to net a late goal and leave with a point but we never seemed to recover and went on a run of form in which we failed to win a home league game until almost February and were ultimately relegated at the end of the season.

And there’s more, how about one from the God-like genius Paulo Di Canio in the game that came about because of Mannygate. 

For those who are too young to remember, in December 1999 we had beaten Aston Villa in the quarter final of the League Cup only to find that a second half substitute, Manny Omoyinmi, had already appeared for Scunthrope in the cup and was thus ineligible to play. 

This resulted in the tie having to be replayed. With the tie entering extra time Villa were the first to strike and to take a 2-1 lead but cometh the hour, cometh the man and with us being awarded a penalty up came, in my eyes, the greatest West Ham player I have ever seen play in the flesh to level the score. 

He had already put two penalties past David James in the Villa goal, during the ties, and thus this seemed a formality. 

However this time it was not to be and James saved it and we conceded another and lost the tie  3-1 and with it a League Cup semi-final placing.

Even further back takes me to one of my earliest West Ham memories and that of Geoff Hurst and again a League Cup match up. 

This one was in 1971 – yes I’m that old – with the game tied at 2-2 up stepped World Cup winner Hurst against World Cup winner Gordon Banks. 

Hurst had, like Di Canio years later, already scored a penalty against Banks in a previous tie but this time his luck ran out and Banks made a save which he later said was greater than the one he made from Pele in the 1970 World Cup. 

The miss led to a West Ham defeat and a failure to progress into the League Cup final.

But at least all three West Ham misses did not result in missing out on the ultimate prize.

That miss has to go to a certain Italian in the World Cup and fortunately has nothing at all to do with the Hammers. 

Imagine the scene, it’s the World Cup Final watched by millions, the game has gone to extra time and still the match is tied. 

Thus came penalties and up stepped the pony tailed one, Roberto Baggio, the darling of all Italians. 

Calmly he linked up and blasted over the bar – effectively losing the World Cup. True two of his colleagues had also missed penalties earlier but it will always be to Baggio that the history books will turn to as the man who lost the World cup. 

It almost puts those West Ham missed opportunities into prospective.

There is good news for Fulham’s Ademola Lookman as a survey has only put his penalty miss as the third worst of all time in the Premier League. 

In second place came Jason Puncheon for Crystal Palace against Tottenham in 2014 where he hit the ball high wide and no doubt the ball is still in orbit. 

But the worst of all time has two illustrious names attached to it and those are Robert Pires and Thierry Henry for Arsenal against Manchester City in 2005. 

Here Pires lined up to take the penalty only to instead pass it from the penalty spot to Henry who missed much to the embarrassment of both and an ultimate classic Premier League moment.

You have to be brave to step up for that game-changing shot from just 12 yards – Ray Steward and Mark Noble were and are experts. 

Let’s hope, with Mark now being more a substitute than a starter, we find someone equally up to the task. 

I wouldn’t want that job and I have a feeling that Ademola Lockman just might rue the time he tried to show off in front of a live television audience if Fulham are relegated in the summer by just one point.

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