My favourite goal: Peter Lorimer’s wonder volley was a rocket to the moon

‘What’s your greatest goal?” wondered the Sports Editor on a quiet Tuesday. Actually, to paraphrase Morrissey, pretty much every day’s like a quiet Tuesday right now, but it was a very good question …

Peter Lorimer was renowned for his long-range goals and appeared to have TNT in his boots. Picture: Colorsport/Shutterstock

Can I have two? No, it’s okay, I’ll abide by the rules, but in nominating Peter Lorimer vs Manchester City on 16 October, 1971 there’s a reason for mentioning in dispatches his Leeds United team-mate Eddie Gray vs Burnley two seasons previously.

Back in 2002 I met Gray to talk about his just-published memoirs. It was a big thrill to meet the Scot who wore the No 11 shirt in the team which ruled English football at that time. Ruled it with an iron fist, bodies made of teak (Gray was convinced Paul Reaney’s was carved from the hardest wood) and boots which, if you believed Leeds’ critics, were offensive weapons in need of licensing like guns.

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But “Dirty Leeds” had artistry and they also had the hardest shot in football. Gray was in charge of the painterly flourishes on the left and, the interview done, we were talking about “Lash” Lorimer in the No 7 shirt as Gray drove me from Elland Road to the train station. They still turned out together in charity games, he said, and his mate’s warm-up was the same as in his heyday in that it wasn’t a warm-up at all. “Peter runs onto the park with a ball at his feet, no limbering up or stretching, and when he gets to about 20 yards from the empty net, hits it as hard as he possibly can.” Then Gray swerved to the side of the road: “The very man. Peter, this is the boy from The Scotsman. He’ll be coming back down to hear your rubbish soon.”

Double big thrill. Two legends in the one afternoon. And, contriving a reason, I did interview Lorimer later. Gray’s goal was out of this world – a dribble which made monkeys or maybe sloths out of six men. He also had to shimmy round the prostrate Albert Johansson. But Lorimer’s goal was a rocket to the moon.

It was enough to impress me and my school-chums that he was one of that band of Scots firmly installed at, and vital to, England’s top clubs in the glorious era of wild hair, gluepot pitches and cascading bog-rolls. These guys were like our great explorers and inventors, Mungo Park and Alexander Fleming. But Lorimer had TNT in his boots.

We were Cowboys & Injuns kids and children of the Space Race. We were mad for vapour trails and velocity. Naturally we all wanted to be Lorimer, to strike the ball like him, as fierce and unerring. During the brief English highlights at the back end of Sportscene we’d already seen him score great goals, long-distance goals and goals which whizzed along the turf, but never one like this.

Leeds in their all-white were already two-nil up against a City side copying AC Milan’s red and black stripes when Billy Bremner in his own half chipped a pass to the marauding Lorimer who’d stolen in between Mike Doyle and young Willie Donachie, pictured. Confident to let the ball run across him, he then displayed the ultimate expression of gallusness to flick the ball high into the air.

That it nicked off Donachie on the way up – truly, this was a goal made in Scotland – did not perturb him. From 25 yards, his outrageous volley screamed past poor Joe Corrigan. Defenders bamboozled by George Best were reckoned to have been left with twisted blood. To continue the outer space analogy, City’s goalie perhaps felt like he’d been subjected to g-force.

I might have seen more spectacular goals since but you never forget your first time. The first volleyed goal. Not just that but the set-up had been his, too. How had Lorimer done it? We tried to replicate this thing of wonder in the playground every morning-break and lunchtime. Disconcertingly, when I met Lorimer he was wearing slippers to greet me at the door of his pub. Disconcertingly, he told me he never practiced shooting.

Disconcertingly, he’d been required to take part in a competition with Bobby Charlton, Francis Lee and others at a Midlands munitions factory to find the player with the most bullet-like strike when 
the outcome, surely, was 
obvious.

There had been feeding frenzies over the signatures of Lorimer and Gray – 30 cars outside the home of Peter’s folks in Broughty Ferry and 35 in Eddie’s Castlemilk.

Gray won there but what did commentator David Coleman say about the day Elland Road became Cape Canaveral? Simply this: “WHAT. A. GOAL!”