Paddy Davitt: Paying the penalty at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
About the only thing I have in common with Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce or Gareth Southgate in a footballing context is the anguish of missing a penalty kick.
Mine was as a seven-year-old for Wolston in a Coventry Minor League fixture, but let me tell you it was no less painful in my young mind than the collective outpouring of angst experienced after Italia 90 or Euro 96.
There might, dare I admit it, have been a few tears at half-time recalling the horror of the keeper seemingly moving in slow motion to his left to parry my effort from 12 yards.
It was the last one I ever took in a competitive fixture. The scar tissue may have faded. But I always have retained a deep swell of respect for those who do subject themselves to the ultimate footballing duel at a considerably higher level than the Coventry Minor League.
Norwich have now missed four penalties.
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I prefer the term 'missed' to saved because frankly all four have been tamely struck or bereft of the angle and height likely to flummox Championship keepers.
Jordan Rhodes and Mario Vrancic have opted for the stuttering run-up and sidefoot finish. On all three occasions (sorry Jordan but it happened not once but twice on your watch) the opposing keeper almost had to wait for the ball to nestle in their midriff. Teemu Pukki's effort was the best of a bad bunch but too near Ben Amos.
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Daniel Farke was adamant after the game Millwall's custodian had strayed off his line, prior to the moment of impact. That might be true but if the predatory Finnish international had tucked it away in the manner he appears nerveless in open play we could have debated the merits of the penalty kick rule after the event.
It is not the least remarkable of an abundance of statistics framing Norwich's Championship upturn. City have only failed to win one of the four games where they fluffed their lines from the penalty spot - the first of those in a high scoring affair against West Brom at Carrow Road.
That is why it remains more of a numerical quirk than a source of bitter frustration or dropped points. But that may not remain the case moving forward. Certainly down the stretch, should Farke's squad maintain their lofty status when they resume league action this weekend at Swansea, that clinical edge must become sharper as the nerves become tauter.
One City fan pushed the claims of Neil Adams as part of the solution after Millwall, when I flippantly suggested City's coaching brains should get hold of Matt Le Tissier's phone number. It might not be the worst call. Adams was deadly from the penalty spot more often than not, although Le Tissier's career ratio of 47 successful spot kicks from 48 underlined his prowess.
The Skysports pundit has spoken in the past about his surefire technique.
'Pick your favourite corner – mine was to the keeper's left – and stick to it, then sidefoot the ball as hard as you can.
'Then, if the keeper moves early, it's easy to change your mind at the last minute. Keep your eye on him for as long as you're comfortable – and if he moves to your favourite corner, you can whip the ball round.
'It takes a bit of practice, but if you're confident you can change your mind quite late using this technique. Also, ignore everything. Once, Alan Shearer was playing for Blackburn and he tried putting me off. As I put the ball on the spot, he said to me: 'Whatever you do, don't smash it down the middle.'
'Tim Flowers, another ex-team-mate of mine, was in goal. They had come to the conclusion I had never hit it down the middle before, so they thought I'd do something completely different.
'I wasn't sure if he was bluffing or not. I just stuck to my technique and the ball went in the back of the net.'
Practice and technique. It is that simple. And maybe a few mind games into the bargain. It takes a special character to step up when the crowd falls silent and the referee's whistle blows.
It'll be interesting to see who steps forward if they get one in Wales this weekend.