Skill Academy: The Flick & Volley starring Henry, Alli & Neymar

Date published: Wednesday 22nd June 2016 10:39

Henry volley

In our latest Skill Academy lesson, Danny Owen takes a detailed look back at some of the legendary flick and volleyed goals that have been scored over the years.

Two decades ago, Paul Gascoigne danced through the Wembley battlefield, his blood-thirsty bull-dog spirit encased in elegance and time-stopping tranquillity. Colin Hendry, bleached under the London sun, could only gaze on in atmospheric slo-mo as the man called Gazza lofted the ball skyward with his left foot before thumping it in the corner with his right. England 2 Scotland 1.

Think about it. How many goals have you seen in your lifetime? And how many can you actually remember? Not just recount, but really remember in every detail. Paul Gascoigne’s eternal volley, fizzing beyond the despairing reach of Andy Goram almost 20 years to the day, might as well have been scored 20 hours ago. And not just because it drove a dagger into the hearts of the Auld Enemies of the north. Because that goal was special, unique. The sort of goal deemed improbable even in the hyper-real, Matrix-like theatre of your footballing video game of choice.

How to define it, or even describe it? The flick and volley? The swivel and shot? There are so few occasions when its majesty has been replicated that examples are easy to recall. Dele Alli, for instance, not only perfected the skill, but built on it.

Yeah, Gazza’s golazo was good. But did he produce it with his back to goal, on the turn, following three touches so perfect they wouldn’t look out of place in a souped-up, mid-90s Pepsi ad?

“It was brilliant skill and the fact he has the confidence to even try that is fantastic. That’s proper talent,” said Matt Le Tissier, a man who knows a thing or two about the perfect volley.

There’s something so effortlessly suave about Thierry Henry. A dressed-down checked shirt in a studio of ties and top buttons, he speaks with a clerical authority, calmly clarifying the art of goalscoring to his infatuated disciples. And there’s a reason why the boy from the banlieue can so easily silence the bantering bloodhounds of SkySports or the BBC. Fabian Barthez never looked quite so flummoxed. Baffled and bewildered yes, but flummoxed not so much.

Neymar, then, could learn a thing or two from the Hero of Highbury. Perplexing selfies with brattish popstars and foul-mouthed Instagram outbursts are hardly the way to earn respect of both Gary Neville and Martin Keown simultaneously. But who needs respect from your peers in this funny old world? A few more goals like this and, who knows, maybe Neymar’s FIFA rating will go up by one or whatever.

And, finally, a word for Williams. They say success comes to easy these days. Not for Inaki. Born in Bilbao after his Liberian parents fled a war in their homeland, Inaki Williams is the first black player to score for the Athletic Bilbao in their 117 year history. Seventeen months on, the 22-year-old has a Spain cap in his wardrobe and a 50million euro release clause in his contract. Why, you ask? This is why.

They say you should never kick a man when he’s down. But if nonsensical hyperbole has taught is anything, it’s that Cristiano Ronaldo is more machine than man, custom-created to decimate the goal difference of mid-table Spanish sides. And, after all, it’s rare this opportunity presents itself. So, come on, let’s go to town on this rare week of profligacy for the Portuguese prince before he nets a hatful against Hungary.

The perfect volley is instinctive, born from a series of specific circumstances that are so difficult to replicate. Although, you could at least give next door’s window a rest and get one on target once in a while. Follow these tips to do exactly that. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

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