Football Features

11 crazy moments & stories only testimonials could create

By Steve Jennings

Published: 17:18, 25 January 2021

Manchester City celebrated a club legend in 2019, putting on a testimonial match for Vincent Kompany at the Etihad Stadium.

It was fitting, then, that Kompany – a player who struggled with countless injuries in the latter years of his playing career – was unable to play because of a muscle strain.

As is often the case, this testimonial created a story that only these kind of matches can, and the irony wasn’t lost on Kompany. “Of course I’m injured in my own testimonial,” he said when addressing the fans before the game.

But Kompany’s misfortune isn’t the only crazy moment to come out of a non-competitive match like this one. We’ve picked out several strange tales below.

Adrian and Ashton light up Noble’s testimonial

Goals scored by goalkeepers are a rare thing. Goals scored by goalkeepers who run the length of the pitch to find the net don’t actually happen… unless you’re Adrian.

The Spanish stopper — now at Liverpool — had a rush of blood to the head like no other when he threw the ball out to himself, ventured forward and scored an incredible individual goal in Mark Noble’s 2016 testimonial. The incredible thing is that it wasn’t the most impressive goal of the game.

Dean Ashton rolled back the years with a stunning overhead kick that had Upton Park on its feet. The former Hammers striker scored some great goals during his playing days, but he saved the best until after his retirement.

Carragher scores for Everton and floors Neville

After Jamie Carragher scored a penalty for Liverpool in his 2010 testimonial, visitors Everton were awarded a spot-kick of their own. But when former Toffees striker Yakubu stepped up to take it, Carragher swooped in and scored it himself to the bemusement of everyone watching.

It’s common knowledge that Carragher was an Everton fan growing up, and it’s likely he always kept his childhood dream of scoring against Liverpool alive, something he was obviously unable to do as he played for the Reds his entire career — though he did record seven Premier League own goals.

This bizarre moment was merely a consolation for Everton, however, as Liverpool won 4-1.

Carragher produced another memorable testimonial moment when he took out his Monday Night Football co-star Gary Neville in a celebratory match for Michael Carrick at Old Trafford in 2017.

Lewis Holtby wipes out Webb

During Ledley King’s Tottenham testimonial in 2014, referee Howard Webb suddenly realised his officiating wasn’t being closely scrutinised for the first time in many years. And so, midway through the second half, Webb did something he’d never done before.

The now-retired ref, who now serves as Manager of Video Assistant Referee Operations for Major League Soccer, decided to have a little dribble with the ball. But Spurs midfielder Lewis Holtby was having none of it.

Webb had barely moved a few yards before Holtby flew in with a two-footed tackle from behind that sent Webb tumbling to the floor, much to the delight of the crowd. Both player and referee were then guilty of simulation – they can be thankful VAR wasn’t around back then.

Gazza wears an Arsenal shirt, but Spurs get Maradona

If the last entry brought back fond memories for Tottenham supporters, it’s now time for Spurs fans to look away. In May 1996, Paul Gascoigne took part in Paul Merson’s Arsenal testimonial, pulling on a red shirt for the occasion.

Another Tottenham icon, Glenn Hoddle, also turned out for Arsenal on the day. It’s certainly a strange sight, but at least Spurs can lay claim to a rather wonderful player donning their shirt, too.

10 years earlier, Diego Maradona accepted an invitation to play for Tottenham in a testimonial match for Ossie Ardiles. Then turning out for Napoli, the Argentina legend gave onlookers a glimpse of Maradona playing in English football – if only it happened for real.

Toby Hibbert provokes pitch invasion

Everton fans always said they would riot if Toby Hibbert ever scored a goal, and they kept their word when the long-serving Evertonian finally found the net in his testimonial against AEK Athens at Goodison Park.

Unlike many others, Hibbert didn’t need to be handed a penalty to have his big moment. The right-back lined up a free-kick just outside the box and blasted the ball under the wall to provoke a much-anticipated pitch invasion.

It was a sincerely special moment for a man who made 328 appearances for his one and only club.

Grimandi’s “tackle” on Edgar Davids

Ajax were the only possible opponent for Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial at Arsenal. The Dutchman scored 122 goals for the Amsterdam club before joining Inter Milan, from where he earned a move to Arsenal – and the rest was history.

Edgar Davids was a Tottenham player at the time but his Ajax connection saw him play a part in the testimonial. The Spurs star was sent through on goal midway through the second half only to find himself unable to put the ball into an open goal.

Indeed, Gilles Grimandi’s “tackle” – if you can call it that – thwarted Davids at the last moment. Grimandi’s deadpan reaction makes the moment even funnier. Ajax were awarded a penalty but Ronald de Boer blazed it over, en route to a 2-1 Arsenal win.

Steve Watson revives the somersault throw-in

When Steve Watson first unleashed his somersault throw-in as a teenager, the FA moved quickly to ban the technique. With that in mind, Watson had to wait a long time to revive it, but he eventually got his opportunity.

The former Newcastle United and Everton full-back took part in Peter Beardsley’s testimonial in 1999 and produced one of the biggest cheers of the night with his party piece.

George Best scores a genuine worldie

Four years after his retirement, George Best was given a testimonial at Windsor Park. The Manchester United legend was 42 in 1988, but he was still able to pull out an absolutely worldie from his locker.

Best made space for himself before producing a chip that would have beaten any goalkeeper in the world, such was its perfect height, pace and dip.


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