Magic moments are what makes football special

13th December 2014

Speaking as someone whose left foot is exclusively for standing on, I can't understand why someone would risk ridicule and possible injury to perform a left-footed "rabona", when a simple swing of their right would suffice.

But that's exactly what Erik Lamela did for Spurs against Astera Tripoli in the Europa League a few weeks ago.

When the ball rolled towards the Argentinian on the edge of the Astera box, it was begging to be curled into the top right-hand corner with the instep of his right foot.

Instead, Erik planted his right foot firmly on the ground and crossed his left leg behind it, allowing him to hit the ball with the outside of his left foot, executing the perfect "rabona".

The result was spectacular, the ball flying into the top right-hand corner with the same curl and trajectory as it would have done with a right foot shot.

But why go to the trouble? If I'd have tried that, at best I would have kicked my right foot from under me as the ball trickled harmlessly to one side.

At worst I would have ruptured my Achilles and potentially caused myself an even more uncomfortable mischief which may have required surgically uncrossing my legs.

I suppose the answer is: because he can.

I could only dream of performing such a skill on the local parks pitch, let alone in front of tens of thousands of people at White Hart Lane.

I suppose that pretty much sums up the difference between a professional footballer and a former local league clogger like myself - the pros have the talent to perform a skill and the confidence to try it on the big stage. I had neither.

Even so, Erik took quite a risk. It's a difficult skill to pull off even for a talented player. Imagine how silly he would have looked if he had ended up on his backside and ball had ended up at the corner flag. I'm sure his manager wouldn't have been impressed.

I wonder if he'd try it in the last minute of a tense North London derby with the result in the balance?

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown acknowledged Lamela's technique, but questioned whether it was the right thing to do during a game.

"Fantastic skill," Keown told the BBC's Football Focus. But he added: "I think that's a major self-indulgence to do something like that. If it comes off then great but if it doesn't . . ."
If it doesn't, he looks a right Charlie and could potentially lose his team a vital match. I suppose there has to be a balance between taking an outrageous chance and playing the percentages.

But everyone loves to see a special moment of skill don't they?

Fans still talk about seeing the Cruyff turn for the first time during the 1974 World Cup in West Germany - although the Swedish right-back Jan Olsson may want to forget it.

I still remember seeing Johann Cruyff leaving Olsson bamboozled for the first time and wondering "how on Earth did he do that?"

Now, it's become almost as familiar as the back-heel, with even the most inadequate players like me capable of pulling off the basic mechanics of the Cruyff turn, although never ever with the skill, deception and ultimately the success of the Dutch master himself.

The big trick when I was a kid was the Ardiles flick, which I first saw the little Argentinean perform for the first time in a scene during the film Escape to Victory.
For months afterwards just about everyone in the school yard or the local park was trying to flick the ball up onto their heel and forwards over their heads.
The nearest I ever got was almost falling head over heels after tripping myself up while attempting the manoeuvre.
There had been a stark variation on this move performed at the Vetch three years earlier in 1978 when the newly crowned World Cup winner Ardiles arrived with his new side Spurs for a League Cup match.
But this was less Ardiles "Flick" and more Ardiles "Kick" as former Liverpool hardman Tommy Smith welcomed the South American to British football with a challenge which almost sent him into orbit, let alone head over heels.
There have been some other Swans players over the years that have come up with some rather more skilful tricks than Smith's tackle on Ardiles.
Back in the late-70s and early-80s all Swans fans used to try and emulate Alan Curtis' swerve where he would drop one shoulder to side-step past defenders. 

Looking at Curtis back then, a casual observer would think he was playing with a dislocated shoulder, as one would always seem to be considerably lower than the other, depending on which way he was about to side-step.
In fact Leeds full-back Trevor Cherry almost dislocated a hip trying to stop Curtis scoring his famous opening day goal against United back in 1981.
Dzemal Hadziabdic also brought an individual skill of his own to the Vetch. Playing at left back he would curl the ball around opponents with the outside of his right foot down the touchline for Leighton James to run on to. He seemed to particularly enjoy playing this pass in front of the packed North Bank where I used to stand.

I know it would probably have been easier for him to play the pass with his left instep, but it wouldn't have looked anywhere near as cool.

It may not seem that special now, but back in the early-80s it was something new to see a defender playing passes we'd only seen from Brazilian full-backs on the TV.

It was certainly a major reason why "Jimmy" was one of my favourite players during this era.
No reminiscence of Swans players' tricks would be complete without mentioning a certain Lee Trundle.

The mercurial front man had more tricks up his sleeve than Paul Daniels and David Copperfield put together.

It's difficult to pick out just one signature move from all his tricks and flicks because there were so many.

But probably the one he will be best remembered for was the shoulder roll, which he had the audacity and skill to successfully perform in a match at the Vetch against Huddersfield Town.

Although I seem to remember the Tykes' manager Peter Jackson not being particularly impressed by Trundle's turn. He felt Trundle was showboating and disrespecting his players.

To be fair to Magic Daps, it wasn't all show because it took him away from an opponent in the same way Cruyff's turn did all those years ago.

Which I suppose takes us back to the balance between taking a chance and playing the percentages.

We all want to see our teams winning, but it's all the more special when they play with a bit of style - something both clubs meeting here this afternoon have become famous for. 

It's the Swansea Way against the Tottenham philosophy, which is summed up by the club motto "To dare is to do".

So, there should be plenty of magic moments during the 90 minutes this afternoon, but I'll be equally delighted whether the winner's a stunning Sigurdsson strike against his old club, or if the decider deflects in off Bony's backside!

C'mon you Swans!