‘Pay back’ – Stoke City legend Ricardo Fuller on that special goal at West Ham

Ricardo Fuller has a favourite goal from his time in the Premier League at Stoke City – and what a collection to pick from.

There is a three-way short list in particular and not so long ago StokeonTrentLive readers voted (61 per cent) that his turn and strike against Aston Villa in August 2008, that memorable first home match back in the top flight was the favourite.

It was followed by his dance through West Ham United (23 per cent) on this day a decade ago and his wonder effort against Birmingham in October 2010 (16 per cent).

All three were audacious in their conception and ruthless in their execution.

His 69th minute winner at West Ham was special in its creation and its execution – but also in its timing because it came on his first visit to Upton Park since being red carded for raising a hand to skipper Andy Griffin the season before.

Fuller took possession with his back to goal and with a defender at his rear, but he was allowed to turn and cut inside that man, then a second, before lashing past Rob Green just as a third threatened to slide in.

Get in! Ricardo Fuller lets fly to score after his mazy run into the West Ham area

“That goal was pay back,” he recalls, “after the year before when I was sent off after the thing with Griff.

“So I needed to do something special to get back into the good books of the manager and players. It was a nice goal to score and had special meaning for me as well.”

As for the Birmingham effort, a shot wasn’t the first thing on his mind when he picked up the ball so far out. Well, it wouldn’t be for most normal players.

Fuller said: “I remember that goal against Birmingham and I remember we were under a bit of pressure at 1-0 up in the second half.

“I went dribbling towards the right wing to waste a bit of time, to be honest, and then I looked to see I was the only Stoke player and thought about heading for the corner flag.

“But then I saw there was only three or four Birmingham defenders and suddenly thought `I could do this.’

“Barry Ferguson was chasing towards me at an angle that made me think I could cut the ball back inside, then another came at me at such an angle that I thought if I cut it back sharply I might win a penalty.

You beauty! Ricardo Fuller leaves Birmingham astounded and fans delirious after glory strike
You beauty! Ricardo Fuller leaves Birmingham astounded and fans delirious after glory strike

“But he ran past me and so the ball was on my left foot, which I usually used for standing on, and I let go for the far corner.”

That made it 2-0 in a game Stoke would eventually win 3-2 and it wasn’t until after the game that Winnie and John, Stoke’s kitmen, told Fuller it was his 100th goal in English football.

“When I realised that I said I can’t give my shirt away, so I got it signed by all the lads and I still have it at home for my son to wear.”

And so to that goal against Villa in the very first Premier League fixture on home soil when he made it 2-1 in the 81st minute of a game Stoke would eventually win 3-2 thanks to Mama Sidibe’s 94th minute winner.

Allowing a Liam Lawrence pass to roll over his foot with his back to goal and with Martin Lauresen at his rear, he completely wrong footed the defender as he and the ball spun goalwards before lashing his shot across Brad Friedel to hit the target just inside the keeper’s far right-hand post.

“We needed that win after coming off a defeat at Bolton in our first Premier League game,” he now recalls.

“It was a big game against a quality side and against a world-class defender in Laursen… and it was a difficult skill as well.

“Every time I see the goal back I feel an after shock. Our fans went crazy with joy and to make that happen has to be one of the best feelings ever.

Take a bow! Ricardo Fuller finishes off his handywork by thumping past Villa keeper Brad Friedel
Take a bow! Ricardo Fuller finishes off his handywork by thumping past Villa keeper Brad Friedel

“I played in the Premier League with Portsmouth and only scored one goal because of injury, so to score this one with a second bite of the apple pie was a special feeling. It felt like Christmas inside me!”

And so this is his favourite then?

“Yes. It’s a tough choice, I must say, because all three goals have a special significance, but the Villa one just edges it for me.”

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