Here’s one for you: who was the first player to score in a penalty shootout? Tough one, isn’t it?
Okay, I’ll give you a clue: he was from Burren Way in the Cregagh.
You have to go back over half a century for the first penalty shootout officially recognised by Fifa.
Manchester United v Hull City, Watney Cup, Boothferry Park, Wednesday, August 5, 1970.
A few weeks earlier, Football League secretary Alan Hardaker — a Hull native, funnily enough — had decreed that drawn cup ties would no longer be settled by the random ‘toss of a coin’.
His decision followed on from the International Football Association Board (IFAB) giving the green light to shootouts on June 27 of that year. Prior to that, ‘unofficial’ shootouts had been used in places such as Yugoslavia.
And 34,000 fans would get the chance to see this new contraption in action after The Tigers – who were then managed by my old pal Terry Neill — drew 1-1 with Sir Matt Busby’s United in the semi-final of English football’s first sponsored, if ultimately short-lived, tournament.
George Best took the inaugural kick, sending Hull keeper Ian McKechnie the wrong way and walking away without much celebration, clearly not realising he had just made football history.
Team-mate Denis Law, scorer of United’s equaliser in normal time, would also get his name into the record books that day — as the first person to miss during a shootout.
A few moments after heroically denying The Lawman, however, fellow Scot McKechnie became the villain — slamming his own penalty against the crossbar and sending United through to a final they’d ultimately lose to Derby County.
“No one spoke to me in the dressing room afterwards,” McKechnie later recalled — “including those team-mates who didn’t have the bottle to take one themselves.”
So the forlorn McKechnie became the first of many poor souls to miss the ‘decisive’ penalty — or ‘kick from the penalty mark’, to use the technical term — in a shootout.
He’d be followed a month later by Aberdeen’s Jim Forrest who, by failing to convert his kick against Hungarian side Honved in the Cup Winners Cup, became the first to fail in international competition.
Little has changed in the intervening half-century, with the supposed ‘culprits’ remembered more vividly than those who put away the winning pen.
Few people outside Hull remember the late Ian McKechnie (he died in 2015), but a lot more will recall the agony on the faces of Italian Roberto Baggio and Frenchman David Trezequet during World Cup finals.
Baggio was the best player in the world at the time, but that miss against Brazil in 2014 — the first Fifa final to be settled on penalties — still defines him.
Luckily for Lionel Messi, fewer people recall him blazing a similar effort over the bar for Argentina in the ill-fated 2015 Copa America final against Chile.
Closer to home, how mightily sick are Gareth Southgate, Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle on being reminded, yet again, about those pivotal moments in England games?
An now Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga knows how his fellow goalkeeper McKechnie felt all those years ago.
It had to be him, didn’t it? The guy brought on in the last minute of extra time to thwart Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final shootout.
Instead, he failed to save from any of the 11 he faced, before blasting his own effort into a stand full of ecstatic Scousers.
And, naturally, it didn’t help Arrizabalaga that, despite no longer being a first choice at the Bridge, he remains the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, and a potent example of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s obscene power and wealth that is now back in the global spotlight.
Not long after Liverpool’s Wembley triumph, stories emerged as to the influence of neuroscientists Niklas Hausler and Patrick Hantschke, who specialise in mental health training and have been helping the players improve their focus from dead ball situations.
It’s a fact that all 11 Liverpool players scored ‘from the penalty mark’, but Chelsea were pretty impressive from 12 yards as well.
Indeed, there was little evidence of Diogo Jota and Ibrahima Konate having benefited from the club’s newly-recruited neuroscientists.
Both produced poor attempts that Arrizabalaga really should have saved, especially from Konate, who took Liverpool’s tenth.
Instead, the Spaniard parried the Frenchman’s tentative effort into the net rather than out to safety, handing Chelsea team-mate Trevoh Chalobah the pressure of keeping his side in the competition, rather than the chance of winning it.
The point is this: penalty shootouts are no fairer, no less random than the old ‘toss of a coin’ but, man, are they a lot more exciting.
Statisticians tell us that the advantage is always with the penalty taker — some 76% of them are scored — but it’s the same game of chance for both sides.
And naturally it’s unfair on the failed taker to get all the blame, just as it’s unfair for the scorer of the defining penalty to milk all the credit. But hey, welcome to professional sport.
No mention of penalty shootouts is, of course, complete without recalling the greatest one of all — in the Euro 76 final between Czechoslovakia and defending champions West Germany in Belgrade.
It was the first shootout in a major international tournament, and also the most memorable.
The record books show that Czechoslovakia won it 5-3 after a 2-2 draw in extra time, but the significance of that game’s pivotal moment endures today.
The Czechoslovakian players weren’t even aware that there’d be a shootout, and initially left the field of play before being ordered back onto it.
The first seven spot-kicks were all successful and, with Czechoslovakia leading 4-3, up stepped future high-profile jailbird Uli Hoeness to blast his effort over the crossbar,
That gave the little-known attacking midfielder Antonin Panenka of Bohemians (no, not that lot from Dalymount Park), the chance for immortality.
As a transfixed world looked on, a wiry little bloke with a luscious moustache and pudding bowl hair ran up, opened his body to suggest he was aiming for the right side of the goal, then slowed down and dug his right foot beneath the ball, almost like a golfing sand wedge.
The ball drifted into the centre of a goal that disorientated German keeper Sepp Maier had just vacated — and Panenka had wheeled away, celebrating his country’s first and only European Championship even before his astonishing effort had hit the back of the net.
Even now, it remains one of the most audacious, ballsy moves in sports history; you could say it’s the football equivalent of the legendary late Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ against Mike Gatting at Old Trafford.
Other big-name players like Gary Lineker would later discover that to fluff ‘a Panenka’ is one of the most humiliating, embarrassing experiences.
But as the delighted Prague native, who’d practiced the high risk, high reward technique in friendlies, said afterwards: “I was one thousand per cent certain I would score that day.”
Czechoslovakia goalkeeper Ivo Viktor — one of Penanka’s best friends — obviously had similar confidence.
Look carefuly at the classic photo (just above Maier’s head) and you’ll see him lounging on the grass, seemingly without a care in the world, as Panenka produces his moment of magic.
You’d never tire of watching that, but Panenka has mixed feelings about it now.
Firstly, it removed his greatest weapon; the element of surprise. After what he’d achieved in front of millions, Panenka would rarely attempt to repeat it (although that’s no consolation for France’s wonderfully named keeper Dominique Dropsy, who was well and truly ‘Panenka-ed’ during a European Championship qualifier in Bratislava in 1979).
Secondly, like Baggio but in a good way, it’s the moment that forever defines him, not the 139 goals (in 357 games) he scored for Bohemians and Rapid Vienna, nor the 17 he bagged for his country in 59 appearances.
Ironically, his most famous dinked ‘goal’ doesn’t actually count as a goal, because it came in a shootout.
“I never wanted people to regard me as just a one-trick pony”, said Panenka, who is now 73 years old.
Perhaps not, but what an unforgettable trick that was.