90s Heroes: Everyone Who Chipped Peter Schmeichel, 1991-1998
There was a sufficiently impudent reminder this week – courtesy of the awakened muscle memory of Falcao, the watching, helpless John Stones and the full-stretch yet stranded Willy Caballero – of the stealthily devastating power of the chip.
It’s a humiliation, and an extended one. Unlike a nutmeg, which is meted out in a moment, the emotional punishment of a chip begins with the backlift of the kicking foot and doesn’t end until the ball skids satisfyingly down the back of the billowing goalnet. The necessary technique and inevitable trajectory mean that the chipper can only stand and admire their work, rather than allowing them to naturally wheel away in celebration.
Perhaps more than any other type of goal, the chip requires the perfect confluence of execution, context and goalscorer. There are no scrappy chips, such is their inherently telegenic nature. With some notable exceptions (Falcao on Tuesday, Ramires at the Nou Camp in 2012) they tend to take place when the pressure has already been released: either by margin of imminent victory or defeat, or simply because there’s a 13-year-old child in goal.
Finally, they’re not for everybody. Where Geoff Thomas fell short…
…Eric Cantona did not.
Ultimately, though – artfulness aside – the chip is often the only logical way to get past the formidable obstacle in front. In the 1990s, obstacles did not come more formidable than Peter Boleslaw Schmeichel MBE.
But – despite all the 16-stone-defying acrobatics, clawing away of goalbound headers, starfish-shaped denial of one-on-ones and famously constructive feedback for his back four – the Great Dane had an XXXL weakness. It’s no secret – your dad still chuckles at the joke about Schmeichel and a potato – but we’re going to revisit it anyway.
If you watched him play at any point during the summer/autumn of 1996, there was roughly a 22% chance of seeing Schmeichel get chipped. Three times, in the space of fourteen games for club and country, Big Pete was beaten with a pitching wedge. That concentrated spell of impudence is bookended by two more blots of his copybook at either end of his Manchester United career.
Before we examine the individual merits of each, it’s worth underlining just how much goalkeepers – and Schmeichel in particular – hated being chipped. Paul Scholes picks up the story in his cryptically titled autobiography “My Story”:
“I had to chip him in training, even though it made him so mad. It’s always seemed strange to me when keepers that that attitude because chipping is part of the game, so why wouldn’t we want to practise it? Most of them are the same, though. For instance, it was always against the law with Ben Foster and, when I was with England, Dave Seaman hated it, too. If you tried to chip him, he’d grab the ball and boot it as far up the field as he could to register his protest. It’s as though keepers see it as a personal insult.”
We begin our trip of chips in Schmeichel’s first season, after a £500,000 move from Brondby.
David Rocastle, 19th October 1991
Actually, as far as chips go, this is quite an untidy effort. Rocastle’s persistence and dancing feet account fairly easily for Paul Ince and Bryan Robson, but his 30-yarder has neither the disguise nor the sky-scraping arc of Schmeichel’s later nemeses. What it does have, though, is an element of surprise. Also, not insignificantly, it enjoys the final flourish of the ball bouncing in off Schmeichel’s back.
Chip Humiliation Factor: 6/10
Davor Suker, 16th June 1996
The impressive thing here, as Croatia’s band of merrily talented men disposed of Denmark’s hopes at Euro ‘96, is that Suker’s sumptuous goal at Hillsborough wasn’t even his first attempt at mugging Schmeichel off that day. An earlier sighter – from 50 yards – was clawed off the line and met with a grudging Schmeichel thumbs-up.
Suker recalls the moment and, at the same time, taps right into the mindset of the sort of player who even considers the chip an option.
“For me, it’s that first idea that comes into my mind and I want to pursue it, even if it is more difficult or technically more demanding. Perhaps you think about, in that millisecond you have, perhaps it won’t work. But as an attacking player, someone who is confident, someone who does it in training, who would do that at any time…that was the first choice for me.”
“I saw Schmeichel coming and controlled the ball well after a long pass from Aljosa Asanovic. Had I not received it properly at the start of the move, I wouldn’t have been able to make that lob [chip, Davor, chip – but let’s not get into this right now].”
Once again, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of disguise here. Suker shapes up to chip it over the hopelessly advanced Schmeichel – who had just sprinted back from a late, abortive Danish corner at the other end – and does exactly that. The goalkeeper lets his gargantuan frame crash backwards to the turf in surrender, as if he’d been deforested.
“We all know that at one point, most certainly he was the best goalkeeper in the world. I feel somewhat sorry about that one offence, but in the end he got a lob [CHIP, Davor] that I would have done if I had been playing on my street.”
Oof, that apology actually make it worse.
Chip Humiliation Factor: 8/10
Philippe Albert, 20th October 1996
As is so often the case with 90s Heroes, sadly, there isn’t much to tell you about this goal that you haven’t enjoyed – or endured – several dozen times before.
Martin Tyler: “On a day that Newcastle would have taken one, here they are looking for number five…with Philippe Albertoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh…..absolutely glorious!”
Andy Gray: “Well, if the rest was the cake, there is the icing.”
Albert is handed the freedom of Newcastle to amble forward and assess his options – or just option, singular – by which time Schmeichel has already advanced to the Crown Goalkeeping Principality of No Man’s Land. The chip, with glorious hindsight at least, is 100% on. Albert obliges, perhaps with a hint of disguise, and Schmeichel embellishes his textbook, statuesque strandedness by twisting his neck to watch the ball all the way from Belgian boot to autumn sky to welcoming goalnet.
Newcastle United 5 Manchester United 0.
Chip Humiliation Factor: 10/10
Matt Le Tissier, 26th October 1996
Manchester United’s mid-90s struggles away to Southampton all seem to blend into one. Was this in the 3-1 or the 6-3? Was it the same match that United changed their kit at half-time? Who cares.
“I had watched United lose the week before and Albert had chipped Schmeichel, so I took a bit of a gamble that he was going to be off his line again. If he hadn’t been I’d have looked a bit of a numpty, but it paid off.”
This was the moment that Matt Le Tissier managed to 1) make Peter Schmeichel suffer the ignominy of being chipped for the second time in seven days, and 2) score the only goal in the Dell’s 103-year history not to have bounced back out of its absurdly shallow goalnets.
“Funnily enough, Peter and I were both inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame and when they called me up to get my award they showed a few of my goals and they showed that one, which was quite amusing with Peter in the audience. He wasn’t too happy and when he got up to take his award, he had a little pop at the organisers for showing it.”
Chip Humiliation Factor: 9/10
Graeme Le Saux, 4th Jan 1998
The pressure-off, meek-hand-of-celebration spectacle of the consolation wonder goal is a fine footballing sub-genre. It’s the polar opposite of the cake-icer so ably deployed by Philippe Albert above, and yet equally accommodating to the chip.
Consolation doesn’t get more scant than when you’re 5-0 down at home in the FA Cup, David Beckham has gleefully cupped his ear to your fans at one end and a grinning Teddy Sheringham has even more gleefully body-slid in front of them at the other. After 78 minutes at Stamford Bridge that day, Graeme Le Saux had had enough.
Schmeichel still hadn’t learned his lesson, stubbornly attempting to save the unsaveable, before getting up to berate the nearest wearer of a red shirt.
Chip Humiliation Factor: 6/10