Wilson’s Wisdom: Being on the spot can be horrible

Kevin Dillon was a penalty specialist for Pompey in the 1980s
Kevin Dillon was a penalty specialist for Pompey in the 1980s
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Penalty specialists are hard to find.

Some believe it’s the easiest job in the world.

Jed Wallace proved otherwise against Exeter with what he called the worst penalty he has ever taken.

Thankfully, it didn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things as he popped up with his stoppage-time winner.

Pompey have had some reliable penalty-takers down the years and that first blemish on Wallace’s record is no reason to see him pass the baton to someone else just yet.

The young midfielder is a confident lad and does not seem the type to allow the mind games to affect him when the pressure is on.

But at the same time, he probably learned a valuable lesson about the whole business.

There is simply more to it than trying to stick the ball past a goalkeeper from 12 yards.

The lengthy delay that took place surely had some impact on what occurred next.

No doubt a few words from opponents came his way, too.

It only takes a moment of “he knows where you are going to put it” to muddle a few thoughts, which can then affect concentration or make you change your mind.

There is also an increased burden of expectation with a spot-kick because the taker is always supposed to score.

And even those of us who have had the job in junior football or Sunday League back in the day can testify to that feeling of a thumping heart in your chest when you step up to take one. It’s a unique feeling.

While scoring goals (no matter how insignificant) was always a great feeling, it was that little bit different for a penalty because it was expected.

And some of us can also still recall that horrible feeling of missing one.

Before I get too much stick (it’s probably coming anyway), I realise it may seem a bit silly or be viewed as an attempt to inflate my own ego when making the comparisons.

Let’s be honest, I’m not sure the three men and a dog watching me really cared whether I scored but the 14,000 at Fratton Park – and thousands more following the game remotely – certainly did last weekend.

But what those who haven’t taken one in a competitive game – even at such a lowly standard as myself – will struggle to understand, is that moment of intense pressure that comes with it.

Sometimes the only ‘importance’ is about whether you are going to get a load of stick in the pub afterwards if you miss.

So what would you do?

Go for ‘the laces’ with full power and risk losing accuracy or attempt to be precise and take some of the pace off with a sidefoot?

Do you give the keeper ‘the eyes’ by looking one way and sticking it in the other corner or avoid all eye contact to stop him picking up any clues on where it’s going?

Or do you just smash it in the top corner without a second thought?

Of course, it’s easier to do that in a kickabout or in training than when it actually matters.

Kevin Dillon and Alan McLoughlin were masters of the art but even they missed the odd one.

As Wallace said: ‘Better players than me have missed penalties’.

If it makes you feel any better, Jed, much, much worse players have as well.