You have to have some degree of sympathy for David Fairclough. Hamstrung from the start by the “Supersub” nickname that he acquired when he first appeared for Liverpool, everything he did seemed to be overshadowed by something or someone else. So it was with his hat-trick for Liverpool against Norwich City in February 1980 – long forgotten, when compared with possibly my favourite goal of all time. I’m talking, of course, of Justin Fashanu’s absolutely belting goal for Norwich City in the same match.
It had already been quite a game. Norwich were mid-table but were still looking over their shoulders at the relegation places below them, while Liverpool were closing in on the First Division championship, but with Manchester United just behind them in the table. A thirty-six year old Martin Peters had given Norwich the lead, before two Fairclough goals turned the tables in Liverpool’s favour. Kevin Reeves, however, then showed a little of the quality that persuaded John Bond to part with £1m to take him to Manchester City in bringing the scores level at 2-2 just before half-time.
Early in the second half, Fairclough completed his hat-trick and gave Liverpool a 3-2 lead, but then came the moment for which this match lives long in the memory. Norwich swept the ball across the pitch, with a short pass finding Justin Fashanu on the edge of the penalty area. In one movement, he teed the ball up with his left foot and unleashed an absolutely unbelievable volley that flew past Ray Clemence, bounced off the far past and hit the rear stanchion before coming to rest.
It is difficult to overstate how difficult this is to do. For one thing, the Carrow Pitch looked as if it had been used for a World War One battle re-enactment the day before. Controlling any sort of pass on a pitch like that is deceptively difficult. To control the ball with one’s favoured foot with exactly the right amount of delicacy to be able to then shoot with the same foot shows quickness of thought and physical dexterity of staggering proportions. The shot that finishes it all off is wonderful icing on the cake – spinning slightly to deceive the goalkeeper but with enough power to not give him the opportunity to react to it anyway.
Now isn’t the time to dwell upon the sad coda to the story that arguably started on that breezy afternoon in Norfolk. Just sit back and bask in the luxuriousness of twenty seconds that says everything to me about why we love football so much. I have sympathy for David Fairclough but, you know, February 9th 1980 was all about Justin Fashanu.