When you reminisce over a player elegantly flicking the ball above an opponent’s head while bearing down on goal, and then cushioning an inch-perfect finish beyond the goalkeeper, you’re immediately transported back to Paul Gascoigne’s moment of magic in 1996.
But only two years later, a goal so breathtaking was scored that it possibly eclipsed the England star’s strike against Scotland in the European Championship.
That was Jamie Pollock’s incredible (own) goal for Manchester City in a crucial relegation battle against Queens Park Rangers in 1998. To add some context, this was a very different Man City side to the one which challenges for the Premier League title and gets welcomed to European Super Leagues like today.
The Citizens were struggling at the wrong end of the second division, close to unthinkably dropping into the third tier of English football for the first time in their history.
Man City needed a positive result against QPR at Maine Road to stand any chance of avoiding the drop. With the scores delicately poised at 1-1, Pollock stepped up. The midfielder was doing his duties admirably and tracking back to stop a dangerous attack when things all got out of hand.
A defensive slip in front of Pollock forced him into action, but calm as you like, he clipped the bouncing ball over the head of QPR striker Mike Sheron, sweeping up as he jogged towards his own penalty area.
The midfielder’s dink into the sky began plummeting towards earth, and such was the accuracy and skill involved, the ball was readying itself to land plumb on Pollock’s forehead. He took a glance towards the goalkeeper, who was stationed on his line, and decided to round off this moment of genius himself.
Pollock allowed the ball to bounce off his head and towards goal, cushioning his effort to where the hands of the goalkeeper had been positioned. Only, Martyn Margetson was not on his line anymore.
The shot-stopper had come charging out to meet the ball and was now helplessly stranded as Pollock’s header looped over him and into the back of the net. The ground was stunned. No one could quite believe what they had just seen.
Pollock’s skill and finish were so emphatic and convincing that for a second, the commentator appeared to forget that the Man City player was shooting towards his own goal.
“Pollock comes across to cover…good skill by Pollock, good header – Pollock – OH, WHAT AN OWN GOAL! THAT’S GOT TO BE ONE OF THE BEST OWN GOALS I’VE EVER SEEN! POLLOCK MUST FEEL LIKE A RIGHT PILLOCK!”
All professionalism out of the window, there. Unfortunately for Pillock – sorry, Pollock – and Man City, that goal saw QPR take a 2-1 lead, and although the hosts pegged them back for a second time, the game ended in a draw.
That result left them needing a minor miracle to survive on the final day, and although they did win against Stoke City, it wasn’t enough and Man City were relegated to the third division for the very first time.
What does Pollock remember of the incident? Well, he lands the blame squarely on the shoulders of his DVD collection, and a subconscious love for gaffes and bloopers.
“It was funny because on the Friday – and I’ve never done this before – somebody had got me a video for Christmas of own goals and gaffes, and I said: ‘I am not watching that,’” Pollock said in an interview with The Guardian.
“But on the Friday, for some reason, I put it on and my wife Linzie came in and said ‘I can’t believe you’re watching that before the game’, but I was like ‘nah, I’ll be alright’ and then I actually did one.
“Pollock must feel like a right pillock. “
– the commentator
“I don’t know if it was something subconscious in my mind from watching the DVD but I’ll try to blame something, it was just crazy.”
Without that moment however, we may not have the Man City of today. Perhaps survival would not have shocked the club into making the necessary changes, and they could still be a middling Championship side in the shadow of their bitter rivals.
Instead, they learned from their errors, summarised and immortalised in hysterical form, and transformed the club, becoming the force that they are in modern day football. All the heartache and all the suffering led to the fame and fortunes that now exist on the blue half of Manchester.
Remember Citizens, if you can’t support them at their Jamie Pollocks, you don’t deserve them at their Sergio Agueros.