One of the greatest appeals of football is the amazing stories, dramas and idiosyncratic players that surround this incredible sport. Last minute goals, relegation nail biters, tournament final hattricks, eight goal thrillers, playmakers with dodgy haircuts, astounding referee blunders….
There’s an almost infinite list of such villains and heroes, on and off the field. However, these three stories leave them in the dust. Completely unique and not likely to be replicated in the future, each one of these players and moments have gone down in footballing legend.
Two at Both Ends
Not a huge number of players can lay claim to scoring four goals in a professional match. In fact, only 26 can say they have achieved that feat in the English Premier League since it began 27 years ago. However, even fewer in number (in fact just one) are the players who can claim to have scored more than one goal for both teams in a single match. That player? Aston Villa defender Chris Nicholl, who scored all four goals in his team’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City way back in 1976. To add insult to injury, it was the only hattrick of Nicholl’s career – and he didn’t get to keep the match ball.
All Time Hattrick
Speaking of hattricks, you’ve probably heard of the perfect variety. For the uninitiated that’s one goal each with the left foot, right foot and head. However, former West Ham and England defender Alvin Martin is the only man in professional football history to score three goals in one game – against three different keepers. In the Hammers’ April 1986 match against Newcastle United, Martin scored against opposition keeper Martin Thomas and then again against substitute keeper Chris Hedworth. Hedworth was then sent off, with Martin waiting for a third, and was replaced in goal by striker Peter Beardsley. Martin duly smashed one in to complete his unique hattrick and seal his place in football folklore. Oh, and West Ham won the game 8-1.
Three Yellows Don’t Make a Red?
Controversial refereeing decisions will always be a part of football, even with the introduction of VAR. Some things will always come down to human interpretation, even with the aid of technology. However, not many calls will ever prove as blatantly wrong as match official Graham Poll’s error during a 2006 World Cup group-stage match between Croatia and Australia. With the match finely poised at 2-1 to Croatia in the last game of the group, defender Josip Simunic was booked in the 61st minute. In the 90th minute, with the match sitting at 2-2, Poll again reached for the yellow card after a Simunic challenge.
That’s a red – except not. Poll, who later wrote he was confused by Simunic’s Australian accent, failed to account for the first yellow and instead gave him a solitary second yellow before waving him on. Que sounds of amazement and bewilderment from spectators and commentators. The game ended 2-2 three minutes later, but the controversy was not over. Simunic remonstrated with the referee – who then gave him another yellow and sent him off. Sadly, for Graham Poll, his cringeworthy error led to him being dropped from the pool of officials for the next round. He retired from international refereeing before the end of the tournament.