Are wild goal celebrations a ‘waste of energy’? One manager thinks so

Whether it be a single raised hand or a full triple-somersault, the goal celebration in all its many forms has been part of footballing culture for as long as anyone can remember.

In the past, goals were marked with a polite recognition of the scorer via a stout handshake and a muttered word of congratulations. However, in the modern game, knee slides, cartwheels and even ensemble dance routines are par for the course.

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While even the most stridently traditional of fans have come to accept and perhaps even enjoy the practice, there is one prominent dissenting voice within football: Nigel Clough. And he has raised his head above the parapet this week to decry goal celebrations as a “waste of energy.”

Clough is manager of Mansfield Town, who are riding high in League Two (England’s fourth tier) on the back of a club record-equalling 20-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. However, despite the Stags’ excellent run of form, it has been noticed that very few of their 29 league goals have been marked with any particularly lavish celebrations.

“I don’t really see the point of celebrating goals when the game is still in the balance,” the 57-year-old told BBC Radio Nottingham. “If you score a last-minute winner and you know it’s almost the last kick of the game, then by all means. But do your celebrating at the end of the game.”

Clough outlined his specific gripe with overly enthusiastic goal celebrations, grumbling that players could be depleting vital energy stores that would be better used to help see out the remainder of the match.

“Yes, you have that individual moment when you do score, but I think it goes a bit over the top,” he added. “Be a bit more reserved about it, save your energy certainly — because when they kick off you have to go get the ball back. At the end of the game, if you have been lucky enough to have won, then that’s the time to celebrate.”


Clough is the son of Nottingham Forest’s legendary Brian, who led the club to back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980, and he also played for the club himself under his father in a successful career that saw him score more than 100 goals for the Reds before representing both Liverpool and Manchester City. The talented forward also won 14 international caps for England in the early 1990s.

Asked how he and his Forest teammates used to celebrate goals back in his day, Clough recalled that little beyond a standard handshake was required.

“You got a little pat on the back, a pat on the head or someone shook your hand — people like Ian Bowyer or Garry Birtles, who have won European Cups,” he said.

“And even when you see [Bowyer and Birtles] scoring in semifinals of the European Cup, or even the final, there was no everyone running into the corner flag and everything. That’s because they knew then that once they kicked off, you need all the energy you have got to get the ball back to try preserve your lead.”

There is evidence to back up Clough’s claims too. For example, footage of Bowyer’s decisive goal against Koln in the second leg of the semifinal of the 1979 European Cup (which Forest eventually went onto win outright) saw the midfielder briefly mobbed by his teammates — though despite the momentous nature of the goal, the ensuing celebrations certainly didn’t go anywhere near overboard.

Who knows, perhaps Clough has a point? While few could blame players for getting swept up in the adrenaline rush that comes with scoring, that doesn’t mean they aren’t sapping away precious energy as they hurtle toward the corner flag or leap over hoarding and into the crowd.

We can only assume that the Mansfield boss was made to cringe at the physical exertion made by Emmanuel Adebayor when he scored for Manchester City against former club Arsenal and then sprinted the entire length of the Etihad pitch to goad the entire away section.

And a young Clough must have been raging at the sight of Mario Tardelli and his famous wide-eyed, tear-strewn, quivering rampage after scoring for Italy against West Germany in the 1982 World Cup final.

Lots of players have demonstrated their acrobatic skills after scoring but few have matched the technical gymnastic mastery reached by Nigeria striker Julius Agahowa, who hit a succession of flawless flips after heading home against Sweden at the 2002 World Cup.

Worse than wasting energy while celebrating must be risking serious injury. That didn’t stop Jacopo Violan of Italian amateur side Riolo Terme from ramming his head through the perspex wall of the dugout in what seemed to be a premeditated move.

All things considered, it’s perhaps best that we don’t introduce Clough to Icelandic side UMF Stjarnan. who made a name for themselves a few years back by performing an array of fully choreographed goal celebrations.

The team’s routines that went viral included giving birth to a football, reeling in a wriggling salmon and even transforming themselves into a human bicycle.

Never mind the players tiring themselves out on the field — just think of all the time and energy it took devising and rehearsing all of those on the training ground!

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