Giles Smith’s Thursday Thoughts

Now you see it, now you don’t. Columnist Giles Smith is still in awe of Chelsea’s opening goal on Sunday, as he writes in his fan’s-eye view of the Wembley day…

Good grief, that Olivier Giroud goal on Sunday. It happened right in front of me, but, even as we all jumped up out of our seats, I still didn’t really know what I had just seen, a feeling which, on reflection, I realised I hadn’t had quite so strongly since going to see David Copperfield at Earls Court in 1994.

Giroud related the whole thing to skiing, in an interview after the match, and there was certainly plenty about it that David Vine would have appreciated – the goal taking the form of a kind of compressed slalom on grass which could easily have been complemented by a soundtrack of mad Swiss Alpine sports fans, clanking cowbells and whooping.

But it looked like a piece of conjuring too, or a piece of close-up magic – sleight of foot, as it were - and if the ball had flown into the net in the form of a white dove, or turned up a couple of minutes later, to guffaws of disbelief, in Mark Hughes’s ear, it wouldn’t have been entirely out of keeping.

Many goals (contrary, one might say, to the abiding belief of television producers) are made less impressive by slow motion, which can suck the energy out of them and fill them full of air and time which they didn’t originally have, thereby oddly diminishing the physical impact of them. Not this one, though. You needed slow motion to understand it properly – the deftness, the balance, the quick wittedness, and, best of all, the wild piece of improvisation in the final sideways flinging of that right leg.

Accordingly, when it was shown again on the big screen, a noise rose from the crowd of a kind that you don’t often hear – a sound which was partly a sign of admiration, and partly an ‘a-ha’ of dawning comprehension from those of us obliged to play catch up: ‘So THAT’S what he did.’

Even at the time, though, and without the benefit of hindsight, you could tell it was a special kind of move by the number of Southampton players left lying on their backs at the end of it. Here was one of those uniquely satisfying passages of play in which the solo actions of one player unbalance a surprisingly large quantity of the opposition, sending shivers outwards which cause the earth to move for an entire defence.

Shades of Eden Hazard’s invisible earthquake against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge last year and, further back, of Gianfranco Zola single-handedly putting a large portion of a rather distinguished Manchester United team on its backside with a couple of twists of his hips (viewable below). I suspect we’ll remember the Giroud goal as strongly and as fondly, as time moves on.

There are bad trips to Wembley – the kind, say, when it tips with rain and you end up losing 4-0 to Manchester United. And then there are good trips, when the sun shines warmly and you confidently outplay Southampton to get, yet again, to the final. But all trips to Wembley these days feel a bit like a rehearsal – a chance to test out the infrastructure and the general atmosphere ahead of that possible period in the longer term in which, while Stamford Bridge gets reconstructed, the National Stadium could plausibly become our home for a while, as opposed to now, when it could more plausibly be described as our home-from-home.

With this in mind, it was especially disappointing to discover on social media that Kenny Rice, who is a Chelsea supporter, has failed at the first hurdle to get an official parliamentary petition underway on the motion ‘Make the hamburgers at Wembley stadium not £9.’ The standard letter of notification from the UK Government and Parliament Petitions team, which Rice, in the spirit of democracy and due process, posted on Twitter, chooses to reject the motion on the grounds that ‘it’s offensive, nonsense, a joke, or an advert’ and therefore ‘doesn’t meet the petition standards.’

This is a shame. If my understanding of the system is correct, had the petition been deemed suitable, just 10,000 signatures would have obliged the government to issue a response to it, and 100,000 signatures (or not much more than one full house at Wembley) would have obliged the House to consider debating it. Okay, some would say the government has more pressing and more important things to think about, though, from the outside, and especially during Prime Minister’s Questions, it rarely seems so, and if the time comes when we’re all going to Wembley every other week, it will seem so even less.

Anyway, Rice has vowed that ‘this is only the beginning’ and that the struggle for a more reasonable pricing on Wembley hamburgers will continue and I’m sure he has widespread backing from a wide portion of the Chelsea fan base on that, whether we’re possibly watching our team there constantly, or, as at present, just a couple of times a month.

Giles Smith is on Twitter: @PsychicPsmith

Click to read about Olivier Giroud's passion for skiiing

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