A Messi finish but not in La Liga of their own

VIEW FROM THE PRESSBOX: Not for the first time, RANDALL NORTHAM thinks he’s seen it all before. Only when it comes to the Lionel Messi penalty pass to Luis Suarez, he had. At Plymouth Argyle. In 1961

The thing about growing older is that new experiences don’t come along that often any longer. For instance, when three years ago Aries Merritt broke the 110 metres hurdles world record, I admired the performance. But inside was a little voice saying that it preferred to remember when in 1981 at Zurich’s Weltklasse meeting, Renaldo Nehemiah became the first man to better 13 seconds.

What a double act: but Messi and Suarez owe their penalty trick to Plymouth Argyle. Apparently
What a double act: but Messi and Suarez owe their penalty trick to Plymouth Argyle. Apparently

Seb Coe, now the “embattled boss of the IAAF”, broke the mile world record that night but it’s Nehemiah’s almost out of control, buccaneering run that has stayed in my memory.

Athletics is full of these instances, football less so. But when Wayne Rooney scored with a bicycle kick against Manchester City five years ago – that’s another consequence of growing old, was it really five years ago? – the little voice nudged me to remember that I knew the man who invented the bicycle kick. For those who don’t know he is Doug Ellis, once owner and chairman of Aston Villa.

But there was another instance the other night, of something seemingly unprecedented, but which, really, had happened before. When Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez performed their penalty routine for Barcelona in their thrashing of Celta Vigo, Twitter went ballistic, but I remembered two much less stellar talents doing the same thing 55 years ago, and it wasn’t new even then.


Some of the Twitterati remembered Johan Cruyff doing the same in 1982, while some puffed out their cheeks in indignation. Former manager Ian Holloway told Sky Sports viewers: “The goalkeeper feels humiliated, there is no need to do that.”

Nigel Winterburn, the former Arsenal and England full back, informed the same audience: “If I was playing and it was my team I would be uncomfortable with my teammates doing that, but the rules state you don’t have to directly strike the ball.”

Some admirers, like Brighton manager Chris Hughton, preferred to differ. “I think most people will see it for the quality it is.”

I just wondered what Johnny Newman and Mike Trebilcock thought of all the fuss. And if Wilf Carter was looking down and thinking he was now ranked up alongside Messi, at least in one respect.

It was in a Plymouth Argyle v Aston Villa League Cup tie at Home Park in February 1961 when Carter, Argyle’s all-time leading scorer, pushed the ball forward for Newman, left half and captain, Argyle’s answer to Bobby Moore, to run in and beat a bemused Nigel Sims.

The crowd was at first silent and then jubilant. I was cheering straight away, having passed my referee’s exam only the previous year. We’d got one over on a First Division team. Didn’t do much though; we still lost 5-3.

Newman tried it again three years later when Argyle beat Manchester City in the old Second Division. This time Newman was the provider and Trebilcock, an Everton hero with two goals in the 1966 FA Cup final – even though he played only 11 games for them – ran in and scored. Except, as you can see on the YouTube clip, he almost forgot. Fortunately he was as quick as a hare and he got there in time.

Newman confirmed that he didn’t think of the ploy himself. He got it from Peter Doherty, the great inside forward who managed Northern Ireland for 11 years including at the 1958 World Cup finals.
Northern Ireland tried the penalty against Portugal in 1957 in a World Cup qualifier with the participants being Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy McIlroy. It was the type of innovation that Blanchflower was likely to come up with.

Sadly we won’t be able to ask anyone about that, although at 82, Johnny Newman is still around.

Writing about Doherty reminds me of a story I was told when we at SportsBooks published a biography of Raich Carter. Just after World War II, they played together in the FA Cup final for Derby County. We held a launch for the book in a pub opposite the Derby railway station, a pub packed with Derby County memorabilia.

There were two surviving players from the 1946 final at the do – right half Jim Bullions and right winger Reg Harrison.

“How good were Carter and Doherty,” I asked them, being too young to have seen either play.

“Think Bobby Charlton and George Best,” said Harrison.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Bullions.

“I think Doherty was a better dribbler with the ball than Best.”

  • Randall Northam is a former Daily Express sports correspondent and magazine publisher who now runs SportsBooks Ltd
  • Next View from the Pressbox: Adrian Warner, university lecturer
  • As with all authored pieces on, the views expressed here do not represent the views or policy of the SJA. Readers are always welcome to post their comments on the content of this column and the rest of the site




One thought on “A Messi finish but not in La Liga of their own

  1. Raich Carter did it with Jimmy Hagan during Chick Musson’s testimonial match at the Baseball Ground in 1955.
    Raich once told me that he would trust Peter Doherty to “kick a football around his best china.”.

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