The Perfect Pass - Wigan Athletic
Charlton came to defend on Saturday. That they only managed two shots on target, one of them after just three minutes and the other not long after, showed their intention. Not that they can be blamed for that: in their position many teams would have done the same, probably including Wigan Athletic. Perhaps it was because of that defensive attitude or because of the difficult conditions in the first half or because Latics were just not at the races but there was a real dearth of quality on show for the majority of the game. Passes went astray, shots followed an exponential curve to hit seats high up in the North Stand, players seemed to be standing still when they should have been in their stride and the first touch was sometimes more suited to elephants playing football rather than players with experience of the Premier League.
As is so often the case however, our memories of what happened earlier in the match were expunged by the finish. In this case, what a finish! It was not just the excitement of two goals in two minutes. It wasn't just getting the three points. It wasn't just what it means to keeping on target with our ambitions for the play-offs. It was the quality of what happened: quality to brighten up the murkiest of weather and the darkening skies of a winter afternoon. Jordi's free-kick was videoed by a fan in the South Stand so that we can see the curl on it as it flies around the wall to find the inside of the post. Majestic, magnificent and full of meaning, it will be replayed many times especially by those fans who have come to appreciate the sharp skills of the Catalan cavalier.
There was though, something perhaps even more beautiful on display in those last few minutes at WN5. Josh McEacran's divine through ball for Marc-Antoine Fortune was the product of vision, technique, inspiration and the right wavelength with a fellow player.
Look at it again from 1:32.
He's running forward, sees space behind the defence (space not a player), sees the potential for Marco to exploit it, comes under a bit of pressure so has to change direction to keep the ball, passes the ball at almost 90 degrees causing him to fall over, managing despite the loss of balance to put the perfect weight on the pass through a very tight space between two defenders right into the path of Marco who has read the situation extremely well. Marco does the rest and takes the plaudits.
Jordi Gomez's pass to Callum McManaman in the FA Cup Semi-Final last year was acclaimed and has been watched time and again by those who can appreciate good football. Josh's pass was even better. Jordi was under little pressure in comparison and had the time to wait for Callum's run. The pass was a triumph for footballing intelligence and vision. He wasn't off-balance when making the pass though and there was a huge amount of space for him to pass into. If Roman Golobart thought Jordi's pass was the best he'd seen while in this country, what would he say to Josh's? And from an Englishman too.
Which was better? Who knows. Like Goal of the Season and even Save of the Season, these are subjective assessments and there is no definition of what makes a pass great. Like goals, saves and even tackles (if you think of Bobby Moore's famous tackle in the 1970 World Cup), passes can be a thing of great beauty. But perhaps Golobart was right in the sense that we are not spoiled in this country with the players than can make those passes, at least with players born in these Isles.
But if we have Goal of the Season, perhaps we should celebrate the perfect pass. Besides Jordi, both Ben Watson and Jean Beausejour spring to mind as players who have executed sumptuous passes for the mighty Tics and are more than capable of doing it again. Will our beloved club be able to produce its own players in the future who can model themselves on Jordi, Josh and Jean? Now that would be really exciting: The Beautiful Game and the Perfect Pass, both celebrated at the shrine of the DW Stadium. Let's dream again.