If you’re going to be remembered for one thing in your football career, you want it to be a good one.
Brazilian prodigy Kerlon might not have hit the heights expected of him, but mention his name and someone will point to his seal dribble.
Pajtim Kasami struggled to make an impact in the Premier League, but he’ll forever be remembered for the stunning goal he scored for Fulham against Crystal Palace.
For Chris Brass, though, the opposite is true.
Brass had an accomplished career, captaining both Burnley and York City during a career in which he made more than 250 appearances in the Football League.
He was also one of the youngest ever managers in the game, taking over as player-boss at York when he was just 27 – a league record which still stands to this day.
Sadly for Brass, though, your average fan won’t remember him for any of this. Instead he’ll forever go down in history for the own goal he scored while playing for Bury against Darlington in April 2006.
When you see someone score an own goal, you can usually at least identify what they were trying to do.
Jefferson Lerma’s thunderbolt against Arsenal fits that bill – diving in and on the stretch, the Colombian was clearly trying to send the ball behind for a corner, only to get things ever so slightly and ever so hilariously wrong.
Other stock own goals – the diving near-post header, for example, or the over-hit backpass – are similarly understandable.
In Brass’ case, though, even the best-case scenario is confusing.
As the ball is ofted hopefully into the Bury box, the world is Brass’ oyster. He can stoop to head the ball back to Kasper Schmeichel, perhaps the most sensible option at his disposal.
He can try to hook the ball out for a throw, risking getting it slightly wrong and conceding a corner.
He can look around and, realising no Darlington player is anywhere near him, bring the ball down, turn and clear downfield.
But why would you choose any of those options when you can score an own goal and break your own nose in one fell swoop?
It’s possible Brass had attempted an overhead kick before that afternoon in the northeast, but all evidence points towards it being his first time.
The execution couldn’t have been more perfect if he tried: the casual manner in which he moves to the ball, as if to say “I’ve got this”; the refusal to do anything too acrobatic when he knows it’s unnecessary to show off; and, most importantly, the look of sheer shock as the ball strikes him in the face, like a puppy trying to determine why a Frisbee is getting bigger and bigger with every passing second.
“I’d put my hand up hoping the lino would flag and, as I turned round, Brassy’s somehow smashed the ball into his own face,” team-mate Dave Challinor would later recall.
The word ‘somehow’ is usually reserved for moments of genius. Dennis Bergkamp somehow brought down Frank de Boer’s long ball before beating Carlos Roa. Diego Maradona somehow beat the entire England team before finding the net. David Seaman somehow got a hand to Paul Peschisolido’s effort to claw it away from goal.
‘Somehow’ and ‘smashed the ball into his own face’ are not natural bedfellows, but perhaps – in making such a marriage – Brass marked himself as a comic genius if nothing else.
When reflecting on that season, we don’t remember that Bury were the ultimate victors, with Matthew Tipton’s 90th minute strike completing a 3-2 comeback win.
We don’t remember the Shakers staying up that season by just three points, meaning Brass and his fellow defenders helped in a recovery without which their side could well have been relegated.
We don’t need to remember these things, though, because some things transcend results, seasons and football in general.
Somehow, Chris Brass’ own goal is one of those things.
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