The trouble with sporting folklore and legend is that you almost certainly need to win.
Stories that stand the test of time do so because they are usually reinforced by the steel of success. Compare Ben Stokes’ match-winning Ashes innings at Headingley to the ones, just as good, where England lost.
Or how we think of Michael Jordan’s title-winning buzzer beater for the Bulls against the Utah Jazz in 1998 as his last NBA shot and not, as it was, the missed lay-up for the Washington Wizards against the Philadelphia 76’ers in 2003.
And that is why, for what little difference it will ever make, I need to write about Brendan Creed’s diving save in the men’s final of the EuroHockey Championships.
With the Netherlands ultimately prevailing and amidst all the other drama and controversy that the final five minutes of the match conjured up, the likelihood is that this incredible act of bravery, athleticism and commitment will be remembered by all too few.
In saying that though, there is at least some sense of relief. For a moment that deserved some commentary gold akin to Barrie Davies’ ‘Where were the Germans?’, all I was able to contribute was the utterly bland exclamation of “my word”.
Even better, I repeated it for good measure.
Hardly what you’d call a superlative to describe an utterly astonishing piece of play. Thankfully, the ever-alert and smooth Nick Irvine alongside me saved the day by quickly and rightly noting that it was one of the finest recovering tackles he’d ever seen.
And that’s why I’m relieved. If England had won, there’s every chance I’d have been reminded of my entirely forgettable observation over and over again. An irony thankfully avoided.
All of this though is nothing to do with the main point and the purpose of my wish to at least provide one small tribute to Creed’s unbelievable tackle. Or save. No, tackle. Whatever it was.
As any player who has practiced in their garden or on their local pitch will tell you, you will always take a moment to stop and dream about that game-winning moment at the level you so desperately wish you could play at.
For the majority, which typically includes strikers, midfielders, some defenders and drag-flickers, it’s the game-winning goal. You’ll even practice it, over and over again. The one that wins it in the dying seconds, from the baseline, on the bounce, on the reverse, for the school. A team, the club 1s or even your country in an Olympic final.
Child, adult or even Master, we’ve all done it and we all do it.
And maybe that’s why I was so stuck for words. Because I knew what I’d just seen. It was literally that dream come true.
As a deep defender, we can still hope to score the winner. More likely though, our moment will be when we need to put our body on the line and somehow get stick on ball to save the day. And that’s what you think about in the garden or by yourself on the pitch. That split second, or less, when you perform the impossible when all hope is lost. And that’s what Brendan Creed did. All England needed to do was go on and win.
Unfortunately though, that’s where the life of a defender (and goalkeeper) is substantially different to our team mates further up the pitch. The old adage even says, “forwards are measured on the good things they do and defenders on their mistakes”.
The reality is that Creed could have done this five more times but it doesn’t matter. If you’re a defender, it’s only mistakes you get remembered for. Unless you win.
So Brendan Creed, this one act will almost certainly not go down in folklore and it probably won’t even get you as much publicity as catching a stray tennis ball at Wimbledon.
But any defenders worth their salt know you are a legend.
“My word”, I certainly do.