It’s not often that an opposition player scoring gives me cause to giggle. I think I had a bit of a chuckle when Heidar scored against England once, and some of the own goals that Keith Dublin scored were incredibly comical. More recently though, Derby’s consolation goal in the last game of last season put a smile on my face. Not because of the quality of the move or the nature of the finish, no, it was the celebration that made me smile.
Many of you will remember that it was our very own John Eustace who scored Derby’s goal that day. It was a fairly meaningless goal, Watford had as good as won the game and both teams were safely ensconced in the middle of the Championship table. John Eustace was pleased to have scored though, and having netted at the Vicarage Road End he ran full pelt towards the Watford faithful in the Rookery, jumped up in the air, planted his feet and raised both arms in celebration. All with a huge, goofy, slightly maniacal grin on his face.
In these days of mind games and arguments, money and moaning, diving and dishonesty, I was delighted to see a bloke playing football, and managing having a bit of fun at the same time. Granted, it was only a small thing, but I noticed it, and I enjoyed it.
What has given me greater pleasure is that John Eustace has since returned to Watford, and has played a significant part in our season to date. He’s been effective, combative, and a consistently impressive performer in our pleasantly surprising season to date. What’s more though, he’s done it in his slightly barmy, unhinged, enjoyable way. Eustace charges round the pitch like a youngster playing his first game on a full pitch, and I’ll grant you some of his challenges can be a bit, ahem, exuberant. But there is never any malice intended when he and a bemused and shaken opponent invariably end up in a crumpled heap on the floor, and I’ll tell you why. Because John Eustace is having fun. He likes playing football. He is enjoying himself, and it shows.
Here is a man who gets very little credit from the fans, has been on the transfer list at his parent club and shunted out on loan, yet still obviously loves his job. The majority of us fans would give pretty much anything to be a professional footballer, and If I ever did get that opportunity, I like to think I’d embrace each game, each opportunity like John Eustace does.
Sadly, there are fewer and fewer players with which fans can feel any sort of connection, but I can relate to John Eustace. He covers ground for the team, he tackles hard, he passes the ball whilst looking the other way, he shoots, he tries stuff. Most importantly of all though, he smiles.
Keep smiling John, and we’ll keep smiling with you.