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How to score goals
By Nicholas Ralph
Unlike many, I have an abiding respect for Wing Commander Reep: you will doubtless recall that he spent years devising a method of writing a football match in coded shorthand, and then used that method to track countless games. His conclusions were that goals were scored most often when they resulted from the fewest number of passes. He was a significant contributor, one might say, to the long-ball game which our beloved Hornets espoused for a season or two and then were roundly berated for it because it was successful and changed the rotation of the planets around the sun, at least as far as the media and the so-called big clubs were concerned.

If you study Reep's work, you will leap to the obvious conclusion that the best way to score goals is directly from goal kicks, as demonstrated by Pat Jennings and Steve Sherwood to such great effect. Another version is the long distance lob, first publicly executed before the world by Pele and then attempted with varying degrees of success by Nayim and R. Giggs.

The question that Reep's work did not address as assertively as it might was the location of absolutely the best spot on the field from which to take this direct smash at goal.

My extensive research, lasting almost forty minutes, shows that the definition of the sweet spot on either side of the field can be calculated using simple logic and mathematics. A few variables have to be defined (we are working in the imperial system here, by the way). All measurements are in feet:

c = center point of goal-line (so its coordinates are 0, c)
g = y-coordinate for goalpost (so its coordinates are 0, g)
h = height of goal
k = height of enemy goalkeeper
x = latitudinal coordinate (marked from goal line to goal line)
y = longitudinal coordinate (marked from touch-line to touch-line)
z = extensibility of goalkeeper

Visualize your view of the goal as an attacker. Clearly, from any perpendicular distance from the goal-line, you can see more of the goal if you are exactly halfway between the touch-lines. As you move left or right, the amount of goal-width at which you can shoot diminishes.

Also, as you approach the goal, the angle between one goalpost and you and the other goalpost increases - giving you more to shoot at. However, as you get closer and closer, the enormity of the extensible goalkeeper increases too.

Assuming that all goalkeepers are extensible and uniformly totally alert, we can calculate exactly how much of the goal there is to shoot at from any point on the pitch.

The extensibility of a goalkeeper is calculated as a function of height (k). It is assumed that when standing on tippy-toe with hands and fingers pointed upward as far as possible, the goalkeeper is one third taller than flat on his feet with arms by his sides. Also, goalkeepers can jump. As - mostly - they do this from a fairly unspringy posture, it is fair to assume that they can leap one-third of their normal standing height. Thus, the extensibility of a goalkeeper is calculated as being:

5k / 3

In terms of the area which the goalkeeper can block, and assuming perfect positioning in the center of the attacker's view of the goal while staying on the goal line (which happens all the time, ha ha), the area of the goal which is effectively blocked, when shooting from a point exactly half-way between the touch lines, can be calculated to be:

{k π [sin-1 (h / k)] / 60 } + {4 [(25k2 / 9) - 64]}½

given that the goal is twenty-four feet wide and eight feet high. The optimum distance from the goalkeeper at which to shoot is calculated as lying between:

12 (2½) and (5k / 3) (2½)

From this we can demonstrate that teams with goalkeepers whose height is less than four feet eight inches are in very serious trouble - since even fully extended they can only just touch the bar: at the same time, an eight-foot eight inch goalkeeper is technically unbeatable.

Since most keepers are around six feet tall, we can also calculate that the best place to shoot from is between 14 feet 2 inches and 16 feet 11 inches.

The chances diminish rapidly as you move from the mid-line, and further away from the goal.

The lob, of course, changes everything (and this is what a goal-kick is, too). You need to know the distance of the goalkeeper from the goal-line, and then hit the ball in such a way that it follows the graph for standard deviations. Nobody can do this.

In summary, then, here are the best ways to score goals:

  1. Hoof it up to Marlon or Ashley, for crying out loud, and aim the shot at the opposing keeper's boy-cow's dingle-dangle (reproduced by courtesy of the Royal Family, Blackadder ©®™, 1597)