An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United match day programme for the game against Carlisle United on 8 September 2018.
The cause of much hilarity on the terraces and despair on the pitch, the own goal is football’s way of shrivelling even the most swollen ego.
As I’m sure you know, Cambridge United proudly occupies a prominent place in the oggy annals – more of that later.
But the first own goal in the Football League came years before our predecessor club, Abbey United, was even thought of. In fact it came just 20 minutes into the League’s inaugural match day of 8 September 1888, when Aston Villa full back Gershom Cox (his real name, honest) obliged at Wolves’ Dudley Road ground.
Fal played a total of 446 games for the U’s, so his average actually isn’t as bad as it looks at first glance.
We have to get a bit more up to date to find the fastest own goal ever scored by a U. It came when Exeter visited for a Division Three game on 12 April 2003 and the guilty party was Izzy Iriekpen, who glanced a header deftly past Shaun Marshall from James Coppinger’s cross a mere 22 seconds into proceedings.
There were few recriminations afterwards: John Turner’s last-minute goal gave the U’s a 2-1 win.
But Izzy’s praiseworthy effort looks insignificant when you compare it to Torquay defender Pat Kruse’s amazing feat on 3 January 1977.
The quickest own goal in Football League history came when, from the kick-off, United’s Dave Stringer lofted a high ball into the Gulls’ penalty area and Kruse headed it past his keeper, Terry Lee. It had taken him just six seconds to claim his place in the record books.
The story behind Kruse’s cock-up is almost as funny as the accomplishment.
The Plainmoor pitch that day, with ice in one goalmouth and a mud lake in the other, was tricky. United keeper Malcolm Webster, not knowing which end he would be defending first, took the field wearing one boot suitable for mud and one for a harder surface, donning a second studded boot when he found himself at the muddy end.
Trainer John Simpson (pictured, bobble-hatted, on an earlier occasion with Ron Atkinson and Ray Freeman) scurried off to the dressing room with the rejected footwear.
Lee should have followed Webby’s example. He had chosen the wrong boots for the ice-bound end and, when Kruse thoughtfully tried to give him an early touch, he skidded away, out of control, while the ball trundled gently past.
Shortly afterwards, Simpson emerged from the dressing room. Unaware that the U’s were ahead, he assumed the hosts were kicking the game off when in fact they were restarting it.
He remained in that state of ignorance until after the final whistle. Thinking his brave boys had lost, he was unconvinced when the players claimed they had gained a point with a 2-2 draw.
And they had done so without scoring: United’s second goal came from a Phil Sandercock og in the 44th minute.