When footballers find themselves going through a goal drought, they can need a slice of luck to get out of their funk and go on a scoring run.
However, in Michail Antonio’s case it felt as though the manner of his first West Ham goal was laying it on a little thick.
The winger struggled for games after joining the London club from Nottingham Forest in 2015, with Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Enner Valencia and Victor Moses in front of him in the queue for a starting spot in one of the club’s attacking midfield or second striker roles.
In fact, Antonio’s anonymity was enough for fans to trick chairman David Gold into retweeting an appeal for the Englishman as a missing person (look, it was 2015, people did weird things for attention), but an injury crisis left manager Slaven Bilić with no option but to throw him in.
After a goalscoring start to the season with Forest, things didn’t come as naturally at Upton Park to begin with. But his goal against Southampton, as well as being his first for the club, was surely his weirdest.
As Antonio bustled into the box from the left, he went down under a challenge from José Fonte and hands went up from the home crowd. However, before they could finish shouting ‘penalty’, the ball was in the net without anyone realising how it had happened.
It took a few replays and a few “wait, what?”s before we figured out what was going on. Victor Wanyama had smacked a clearance into Antonio’s head as he lay on the ground, and the ball had looped up over Maarten Stekelenburg and nestled in the back of the net.
Antonio has played five times against Southampton since, but that goal remains his only goal against the club. As West Ham prepare to face Ralph Hassenhüttl’s side on December 27, it might be time for him to acknowledge the only way he’ll score against them again is to attempt something even weirder, and we’ve got a few suggestions.
Kicking the ball into his own face
They say you can learn a lot from the players you train with, and Antonio has had 18 months to pick up all the tricks of the trade from teammate Chicharito.
The Mexican striker announced himself to English football fans with a miraculous goal in the 2010 Community Shield, sliding in to meet a cross from the right and hitting himself in the face with the ball, presumably to pre-emptively bolster his headed goals stats.
We can only imagine Chicharito practices the same move in training in an effort to repeat the feat, and surely he isn’t the only one in E20 attempting to master the trick shot.
One-two with a dog
West Ham have been used to seeing pitch invaders at their games, with the fan planting a corner flag in the centre circle the most recent example, so why not try to use it to their advantage?
Granted, it’s trickier to predict animals entering the field at away games, but Antonio’s game has always been about improvisation and we have faith in him developing as much of an understanding with a random canine as he ever did with Nikica Jelavić or Jonathan Calleri.
Driving a black cab onto the pitch, stepping out and scoring
Look, I know this might sound far-fetched, but let’s not forget the Upton Park pitch on which Antonio scored that first West Ham goal also played host to one of the most bizarre send-offs we can remember.
After the final game at the Stadium a number of club legends entered the field in London taxis for no obvious reason, and it would be fitting for Antonio to pay tribute to his predecessors in claret and blue in such a manner.
Now, you might come back with a counter-argument like “it’s against the rules” or “it’s a safety hazard” or “the game’s at St Mary’s” or “Shut up Tom”, but Christmas football is a law unto itself.
Southampton – 6/5 | Draw – 5/2 | West Ham – 23/10
Not only can Michail Antonio jump out of the driver’s side door and sidefoot past Alex McCarthy, but he must.