Corners are a mess.
We have ideals of a perfectly floated ball, gliding its way onto the head of a leaping gazelle and nesting into the safety of the net. It’s never this.
First, the build-up. As soon as the referee points to the flag, the crowd start building noise and clapping even at the sheer thought of it. It’s as if a scathing joke has just been said at a pub between a group of lads and they all start cheering and hollering, waiting for the comeback.
The corner taker then makes his way to the flag, often jogging, as if to capitalise on the sheer energy of the room and to look more up for it than any of those ‘defenders’, but sometimes slowly, like a gymnast making their way into their starting position for a freestyle floor routine.
Once there, the fans surrounding the flag lose their shit.
If it’s the opposition’s player taking the corner, they turn into a baying mob, falling over each other to give their wanker sign the most prominence, and to make sure the spit that naturally accompanies their insults gets as close to the player’s ear as possible.
“How dare you take a corner,” they scream.
“You play for the other team, I don’t like you,” they bellow.
“You’re at our house now, take your shoes off at the door, you rude bastard,” they boo.
Clubs should supply pitchforks and fire torches to these fans, just to add to the pissy medieval mob vibe they seem keen to give off. Corner takers are never the worst kind of player, either. If John Terry trots over to swing one in, fair enough. But Ramsey, Cresswell and Elmohamady are hardly villains of the year.
It’s embarrassing to see grown men losing their minds at the thought of a corner. Lawyers turn into louts, businessmen into berating bastards. That guy screaming his head off, that’s someone’s Dad. That’s Nigel from next door – likes Top Gear, shortbread biscuits, gardening, but put him by the corner flag and he turns into Danny fucking Dyer.
Then it’s the players’ turn to add to the madness, and football brings out a term that I’ve only ever heard used in this environment. ‘The Quadrant’.
I need to know, what advantage is there from the 2mm gained from the player placing the ball right on the very edge of the ‘quadrant’? They spend 30 seconds meticulously placing it there, as if that’s going to make or break the corner.
I have never seen a player put the ball in the middle of the ‘quadrant’ and take a corner. Ever. Why?
Then there’s the box. A pit of aggression, shirt pulling and advantage-gaining mating rituals.
Attackers usually stroll around for the first few seconds, casual as you like, the defender follows. We have three sets of two men, shoulder to shoulder, tangoing slowly inside a box, flailing arms as if it’s part of the story of their dance. Let’s just put a rose in Diego Costa’s mouth and let him really work it.
Quick shout out to everyone who screams ‘OUT’ when a ball is crossed in, as if all other defenders forgot they were professional footballers and decided to catch the ball and throw it into the net. “Thank God you shouted ‘out’, Dave, I was going to let it bounce around my feet for a bit and just chill.”
So here we are. The insults are being shouted, defenders jostling, the player has put the ball on the perfect blade of grass for maximum quadrant use. The crowd start clapping slowly, as if we’re in the Colosseum, Rome and not Turf Moor, Burnley. He takes two steps, kicks it…
It doesn’t clear the first defender.
Corners are a mess.
By Tom Hayward