I confess I’m a connoisseur of goal types; the stanchions and nets. One of the sad things about the modern game (apart from the oft-cited and obvious) is that all goals are becoming standardised, much like the new grounds, programmes and coffee. You take a look in any of the numerous new stadia built recently and they all have exactly the same goals – back stanchion posts tied to the top corner. Is this a new FIFA ruling? It all began around the mid-eighties and the Mexico 86 World Cup.
One thing that disturbed me about Mexico was the size of the goals. Obviously the frontage was the standard issue 24’ by 8’, but the size of the nets behind was cause for grave concern. The style of goal they used was rarely seen in England at that time, but very popular on the continent: where the netting is tied to a post each side of the goal by chords strung from each top corner. I wasn’t keen on these but Mexico took them to new heights (and depths) of repugnance. They were simply enormous. They were as deep as they were high. They must hold the record for the largest volume inside a goal. You could easily have fit a car in there facing outward with it’s bumper all the way behind the line.
The problem with this was that a scored goal just didn’t look as good flying into these nets. Top Corners (my favourites) were lost inside these voluminous onion bags. There’s nothing nicer than a long shot smacking right in to the top corner against the triangle or the corner of the back stanchion, but at Mexico ’86 to score a proper top corner would almost require breaking the laws of gravity. You’d have to shoot fast and low but rising steadily upward to hit the corner where the netting was attached to the supporting post. Vasili Ratz did manage it though for Russia; needless to say this was my favourite goal of the tournament.
Most goals, however, were marred by the horrendous billowing of the ball as it swished around in the mass of netting. The sad thing is that these became commonplace in England. All new grounds built since 1986 come with these as standard. Admittedly they’re not as deep as the ones in Mexico, but I still don’t like them; and like a lot of things in football, such as new Stadiums themselves, their uniformity has taken some of the charm and individuality away from the sport. Is it just me or can the net and the type of structure of the goal-frame make quite a big difference to the beauty of a goal? Nets in the eighties were so personal to each club; there was an array of different styles back then. I could tell you the ground straight away by the goals alone. (try doing that now).
There were back stanchions of different colours, triangles, small holed nets, large-holed nets, criss-crossed diamond patterned nets, coloured nets etc etc. This may be a wild claim but I reckon I could tell you what sort of goals every league club had circa 1986. Some grounds’ goals stand out particularly for me. Do you remember the Dell’s goals? They were strung with really coarse small-holed netting; so tight that shots fired at any speed flew back out again. There were Anfield’s red nets and Everton’s blue ones, both of which you could hardly see through, and on the same theme Sheffield Wednesday’s small-holed white nets were virtually opaque. Swansea’s were unusual in that they were strung diagonally so the holes were diamonds rather than squares – a nice effect. They all had the triangle. Arsenal had the back stanchions, which were red, with small holed nets.
Brighton’s Goldstone Ground also had back stanchions but were unique in that the stanchion didn’t start exactly at the corner of the bar and post but about half a foot down, and the stanchions had an extra kink at the bottom, about a foot off the ground. Our netting was large holed. Stamford Bridge had unusual goals; this was when the Bridge was shaped like Wembley with two enormous semi-circular gaps at either end where the terracing swung round in a semi-circle. (Is it my imagination or were there cars parked in these spaces?) They had the back stanchions but instead of just one bend had two so were shaped like this:
Loftus Road was also home to some peculiar stanchions (and I’m sure some Subbuteo goals I bought were modelled on them). They had back stanchions like at Chelsea but which curved down smoothly rather than bending at an angle and the netting, rather than being wound round the back of the stanchions, dropped down a couple of inches short of them so they looked a bit like this:
Dartford’s Watling Street Ground had some unusual goals that reminded me of ones used in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. They had jet black stanchions that kinked in two places, Like Chelsea’s, but with the top bit being much shorter than their white Stamford Bridge counterparts. A little bit like this. Stanchions were definitely rarer than the common triangle. Though the triangles themselves came in a variety of colours, sizes and styles. Some weren’t even triangles! I saw some pretty awful approximations of a triangle at some of the Conference grounds while watching the FA Cup round-up on Match of the Day. Some were more like Rhombuses (Rhombai?). One of the rarest type was triangle and stanchion together in the same goal! This was like the Penny black of stanchions. I saw it a couple of times but usually on school pitches seen from the train on the Brighton to Victoria line. Nowadays most clubs have moved over to the new style stanchions and nets. I think every club in the Premier League has the big continental nets with the posts at the back. It’s a shame. I miss the triangle. Never again will we see a football get stuck in the triangle like Trevor Brooking’s goal against Hungary in the early eighties, nor will we see the ref wave play on after a free kick rebounds out off the back stanchion a la Clive Allen, also in the early eighties.
Perhaps I’m the only person in the world who cares?