The recent penalty in the Barcelona versus Celta Vigo game involving Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez caused a number of extraordinary comments and a ridiculous amount of moralising from a number of football pundits, especially Mister "with an opinion on everything" Eamon Dunphy.
Messi and co were called arrogant and unsporting. The penalty itself was just another trick that was conjured up by a footballer to beat an opponent. Great players leave their mark on games of football by outsmarting their opponents. The question is how original was the penalty, where did it come from, and who did it first?
I may have found the answer to both questions.
It is the origins of the penalty that I find so interesting. Johann Cryff used it in a game in Holland when playing for Ajax in the 1970s, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires used it in a game for Arsenal, but messed it up, and of course Messi and Suarez were successful when they used it. The origin of the penalty, however, lies closer to home than Holland, Spain or France. It was first used in a game about 1950 which happened to be a friendly which took place in the Brandywell Stadium in Derry. I am sure anyone reading this piece will be at the very least sceptical about my assertion that the birth of this piece of football trickery took place in Derry, never mind Ireland more than 60 years ago.
Jobby Crossan and Peter Doherty
When I was growing up and playing football in the Brandywell, we would try it in games and we called it the Peter Doherty. I was reminded of this in a conversation with a friend of mine from Derry called Jobby Crossan who attended the friendly game in question as a 14-years-old football fan. Jobby Crossan and the creator of the penalty Peter Doherty have a lot in common. Both were from County Derry, Jobby from Derry city and Peter Doherty was from Magherafelt in south County Derry, and both of them played for Manchester City. Doherty won a championship with City in 1937 and Jobby captained them in the 1970s.
The day the penalty was first used was in a friendly between a North West Select, which was made up of players from Derry City and Coleraine, captained by Peter Doherty’s brother Kevin, and opponents Doncaster Rovers whose player manager was Peter Doherty. During the game Doncaster was awarded a penalty by local referee Gordon Young. It was Peter Doherty who shaped up to take the penalty, but passed it to another player called Watters who struck it home, leaving the goalkeeper, the referee and the crowd stunned into silence. The referee questioned Peter Doherty about the legality of the penalty and apparently Peter the great quoted the rules on what constituted a legal penalty kick. The referee said: "I believe you Peter", and awarded the goal. So Lionel, Johann and Thiery, you were only 60-odd years behind the almost forgotten genius that was Peter Doherty.