Cyrille's struggles haven't gone away
I loved Cyrille Regis when I was a kid. Every football-loving youngster has their own little private pantheon and mine contained Pat Jennings, Archie Gemmill, John Toshack and Cyrille Regis. But Cyrille Regis above all. When you're that age you feel personally implicated in the deeds of your sporting heroes. Their triumphs are your triumphs, their setbacks your setbacks. I checked the Sunday papers to see if he'd scored the day before and it was a special occasion when West Brom turned up on the telly.
Perhaps the great attraction was how simple he made the game look. He'd get hold of the ball, often leaping acrobatically to trap it, then head straight for goal at top speed. No matter where he was on the field, the goal seemed to be the first thing on his mind. The very first time I saw him was on Football Focus, going half the length of the pitch to score against Middlesbrough.
That direct quality is perfectly summed up by the most famous goal of his career, the one against Norwich City in 1982 which became Goal of the Season. It's probably one of the Goals of the Goal of the Season. Everything good about Regis is contained in it, the technique which lets him control the ball on his chest, the sharpness which enables him to turn and get into his stride straight away, the power which sees him shrug off one challenger and leave others in his wake, the optimism which persuades him to have a shot from 30-odd yards, the talent which propels that shot into the top corner of the net at rocket speed. It is utterly exhilarating.