Penalty heartache is tough to take

Date published: Friday 2nd August 2013 9:00

It’s funny how now matter how much pain football puts you through, your body seems able to handle it, disseminate it and then put you through even more pain. And in a strange way, we seem to enjoy it or we wouldn’t keep going back for more.

So with the pain of Brentford once again losing out on promotion slowly ebbing away, I was thinking back on how quickly this time I was able to recover after the events of Doncaster Day – the day that Brentford missed a 94th minute penalty on the final game of the season which would have sealed their automatic promotion.

It took literally hours. Why was that?

Thinking back over how many penalty shoot-out matches I have personally had the misfortune of watching live from the terraces and my subsequent pitiful success rate (I’ve actually personally witnessed every single one of England’s miserable penalty shoot out losses), I realised it was obvious ….. It was all my fault.

So I thought I would rack my brains and rate my top 10 live (watching from the terraces) most gutting penalty knock-out matches for teams I was supporting on the day.

The list doesn’t reflect the relevance of the result but more importantly, how ultimately gutted I felt after the match.

1. Brentford 1 Huddersfield 1 / 3-4 penalties (Playoff semi-final 1995, Griffin Park)

I will never forget this evening. It aptly rounded up a travesty of a season for the Bees. Everything that year ended up just horrible.

Not only were we pipped to first place by our ultimate rivals Birmingham City.

To add insult to injury, 2nd place wasn’t enough for Brentford to gain automatic promotion as some pen-pusher somewhere decided that it would be a great idea to reduce the Premier League from 22 to 20 teams.

As a result there would only be one instead of two automatic promotion places from the old Division Two (now Division one) for one season only – the season we finished 2nd.

We finished 3 places and 4 points above Huddersfield. We were better than them in every area. But they had Neil Warnock in charge. Houdini.

With everything to play for at home, Griffin Park was an absolute cauldron and an exciting game goes to penalties.

It’s all going to plan before Brentford’s dependable captain Jaimie Bates steps up and misses his kick, Huddersfield score and suddenly it’s all over. It felt like my world had come to an abrupt end.

A trip to Wembley in the Leyland Daf (that we lost) and a FA cup run ending in defeat at Anfield were Brentford’s only previous sniffs of success in my lifetime. Brentford badly needed this trip to Wembley. I badly needed this trip to Wembley.

Alas, it just wasn’t to be.

2. England 2 Argentina 2 / 3-4 penalties (World Cup 16s France 98, St Etienne)

This still goes down as probably the best England game I’ve ever been to for pure drama and atmosphere. The energy in that rickety stadium in St Etienne was electric.

I remember the action as clear as if it was today. Michael Owen weaving his way through the Argentinian defence and scoring that wonder goal to put England 2-1 up prompting me to run down the aisle and hug a coke seller.

Sol Campbell’s disallowed match-winning header. To this day I still fail to accept the referees decision that someone was fouled.

So penalties once again for England. It’s 4-3 to Argentina. Batty steps up. He has to score.

Rubbish penalty. My heart sinks. Major depression sets in. I board a train back to Paris drained sitting besides athlete Daley Thompson. We barely exchanged words throughout the whole journey. It was all his fault athletics bandwagon jumper.

3. England 1 West Germany 1 / 3-4 penalties (World Cup semi-final Italy 90, Turin)

Brilliant game. Brilliant atmosphere. This game was gutting because England were great and it was the closest I will probably ever get to seeing England in a World Cup Final.

England fans were outnumbered 10 to 1 by our German neighbours but we out-sang them. I’ll remember this game for two things on the terraces. The spontaneous invention of the now not-so-popular dambusters chant .. Everyone on their seats arms stretched out doing their best plane impression.

And “you’re not singing any more” after England equalised with the England fans first pointing left at the Germans .. Then pointing right at the Germans … Then pointing up at the tiers above us at the Germans … The chant and its actions reflecting the fact that the Germans were quite literally bloody everywhere.

On the pitch, I’ll never forget the German goal. A free kick deflected by Paul Parker high into the the orbit which seemed to take 4 years to come back down to earth … Right into the back of Peter Shilton’s net.

And the head rush when Gary Lineker equalised – unbelievable. Everyone went bezerk.

There was a massive feeling of euphoria on the terraces at the end of ET. Little did we all know at the time that this was to be the first of over two decades of unsuccessful penalty shoot outs. When Stuart Pierce missed that final penalty to put the Germans through to the final, it was like a stun bomb had been dropped on the stadium.

Even more gutting – I had a voucher for a ticket to the World Cup final if England got through. In retrospect not that big a deal. I would collect another four of those never-to-be-used world cup vouchers over the coming years.

4. Brentford 1 Oldham 1 / 2-4 penalties (FA Cup 2nd round replay Dec 98, Griffin Pk)

This surprisingly features above the Doncaster game as it was the first time in my lifetime that Brentford were potentially drawn against top drawer opposition in one of the earlier rounds of the FA cup. This was an enormous deal to glory-starved Brentford fans.

One simple catch – we had to dispose of Oldham.

It was the night of my works Xmas fancy dress party and I snuck out of the building to find myself quite literally hanging from the rafters in Griffin Park’s infamous ‘Hate Corner’ dressed in full army camouflage gear shouting the Bees on.

Owusu and Freeman put the Bees 1-0 and 2-1 up but Jaimie Bates got sent off just after half time. And when Lee Duxbury equalised for Oldham, the writing was in the cards. We ended up losing 4-2 on penalties.

I returned to the Xmas party gutted and still fully camouflaged up just in time to watch Craig David start his live PA.

“Re-re-wind”. I’m not sure I lasted the full duration to be totally honest.

5. England 1 Germany 1/ 5-6 penalties (Euro Champs Semi-final England 96, London)

This was England’s tournament. We had broken our penalty duck by beating Spain on penalties in the previous round. It was the Germans once again but this time we were on home soil. One game to go and we were in the final.

Once again I had a ticket for the final. Once again it wasn’t to be. It hurt but at least this time it was only a short tube ride home.

This was best England team since 1990 and little did I know at the time, this probably going to be the last England team for the next 20 years, probably more, to come within spitting distance of actually winning a tournament.

6. Brentford 0 Doncaster 1. 94th minute penalty (Final match Div 1 2013, Griffin Park)

More than half way down my list comes what is possibly Brentford’s most infamous game. Not quite a penalty shoot-out but in reality it was a sudden death penalty shoot-out so it slips in

But why so far down? I’ve been so beaten down by penalties over the years, I almost expected the inevitable when Marcello Trotta stepped up.

Anyway we missed the penalty. They scored a goal. They went bezerk. We went silent. Then we went back to the pub and had a huge party.

7. England 2 Portugal 2/ 5-6 penalties (Euro Champs Quarter-Final Portugal 2004, Lisbon)

A humdinger of a match. Ahead in normal time. Behind in extra time. Lampard equalises to take it to spot kicks.

It’s neck and neck in penalties. The fans are all on the edge. We can smell another semi-final on the horizon. Then up steps Darius Vassell … keeper saves …then to rub it in further, scores the winner. Gutted!!!!

Fun in the sun ruined by our game against Portugal as the locals really rubbed it in. The first time I’ve ever seen hoardes of grannies emerge from houses banging pots and pans – the pain of that evening made even more unbearable seeing the whole country partying over our misfortune.

8. Ghana 1 Uruguay 1/ 2-4 penalties (World Cup Quarter Final South Africa 2010, Johannesburg)

The one great thing about tournaments is the unwritten rule that it is OK to lend your support to certain other teams.The concept of wearing your team’s colours to other games was widely accepted and fans are delighted when other fans embrace their side for the day.

Ghana were one of my favourite ‘other’ teams of the 2010 World Cup and after England failed to get to the Quarter Finals, I opted to go to Soccer City to watch Ghana play Uruguay proudly (despite our dismal showing) wearing my England top.

The whole of the country was behind Ghana. The atmosphere was electric. And what a fantastic game. I was sat behind the goal with Sadaam and his crew .. The hard core of the South African supporters.

I wanted Ghana to win so badly. Then Suarez – 90th minute handball. Penalty.

I stood shoulder to shoulder with the South African massive and watched as Gyan blasted his penalty against the crossbar. Brentford’s penalty taker against Doncaster Marcello Trotta watching at home would have absolutely no idea that he would become the new Asamoah Gyan three years later.

Sadaam turned to me and said “That penalty was important for the whole of Africa”. Gyan had the burden of a whole continent on his shoulders.Miss a last minute match-winning penalty and the writing is on the cards. Ghana never recovered from that. The inevitable penalty shoot-out loss created a morgue-like atmosphere over the whole country for days.

Ghana may not have been ‘my side’ but an African team progressing to the semi-final of the World Cup is a pivotal moment in football. As a black football fan, I wanted to witness that first hand. This shoot out hurt nearly as much as any.

9. England 0 Italy 0 / 2-4 penalties (Euro Champs Quarter Final, Ukraine/Poland 2010, Kiev)

After quite literally holding the Italians at bay for 120 minutes, it was about that time again. I remember our crew behind the goal. All hands linked. Praying for salvation. And when the Italian missed his penalty, we thought salvation had finally come.

But then it became a tale of two Ashley’s. Ashely Young blasts the crossbar and Ashley Cole passes to the keeper. All over. Inevitable.

But even more gutting as it was at that point that all our travelling crew pretty much gave up on the idea of ever seeing England win a major tournament.

10. Japan 0 Paraguay 0 / 3-5 penalties (World Cup 16s South Africa 2010, Pretoria)

Ever since Japan 2002, I’ve been in love with Japanese football fans. Quite simply .. They’re the best. I’ve been to league matches and cup finals in Japan and the atmosphere is tremendous.

At the World Cup, their fans are positively bonkers and I will always go out of my way to ensure I can get tickets to see a Japan game if I can.

It was a terrible match. But the Japanese fans didn’t care. I plonked myself right in the middle of their singing and dancing and chanting and general madness.

Then came the penalties. All the Japanese fans put their hands on the next persons shoulders. Unity.

Paraguay struck a straight 5. Japan couldn’t reply missing one crucial penalty. Game over.

One thing I will never forget is Keisuke Honda then walking over to the assembled Japanese fans. He stopped. Bowed. They bowed to him. Then he turned around and walked off. Apparently not only a sign of respect to the supporters but also an apology to the fans for the team not delivering the result they all wanted.

Wind back to the moment that England got eliminated by Germany a few days earlier. Rooney similarly came over to the fans .. But as opposed to paying them respect, he slagged them off.

I felt truly gutted for the Japanese. Their performance on the day wasn’t the best. But it was noble. Their fans were truly magnificent. And I feel that there is something about the Japanese game that still retains a little bit of integrity – something I feel that we have lost somewhat in England with all the hype and the money and the egos.


Putting the list behind me, I now have a whole new season to look forward to. Brentford have strengthened their squad adding a number of real quality players to the fold including Alan McCormack from Swindon, Javi Venta from Villarreal and George Saville from Chelsea. There is a real feeling of optimism in the camp.

But probably the most important signing to ensure that the fans and players don’t have to ensure the same misery as they did in the 94th minute of the last match of last season was the capture of Will Grigg from Walsall.

With 20 goals under his belt last season, almost half of those being from penalties, Brentford are making damned sure that they don’t have yet another entry in my Top 10 penalty loss list come this time next season.

You can find Billy on Twitter at @BillytheBee99 – and don’t forget to follow @FanZone for links to all the latest blogs.

Billy the Bee writes for Beesotted fanzine. Check out for more left-field news and views on Brentford FC.

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