Accept no substitute

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-26 1:18:01

Lewandowski’s five-goal haul puts role of subs under spotlight

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski of Poland celebrates after scoring a goal during Tuesday's game against Wolfsburg in Munich. Photo: CFP

Have you ever heard of Keith Peacock? The answer, unless you have a mind for trivia and an obsession with English soccer, is surely no. But you should have, because Peacock became the first substitute used in English soccer 50 years ago this season.

On the first day of the 1955-56 campaign, the Charlton midfielder came on as an 11th-minute replacement for the Addicks' injured keeper and in ­doing so made history.

Peacock recalled the day he became soccer trivia to When Saturday Comes magazine in 2003.

"I remember quite clearly I was disappointed at not playing," he told the magazine. Recalling that, "Before then a spare player had traveled, in case of illness, but not got changed. I still didn't expect to be involved - but after only a few minutes Mick Rose, our goalkeeper, had to come off."

The history of substitutes goes back to the earliest days of the game, when soccer was the preserve of the English public schools and reserves were used if players were late to the game or failed to turn up at all.

Man who made history

The earliest example of substitutions as we know them now, a named player being on the bench and coming on to the field of play as a replacement for a teammate who started the game, date back to the qualifying tournament for the 1954 World Cup.

Horst Eckel is the man who made history, coming on for the injured Richard Gottinger in the qualifier between West Germany and Saarland on October 11, 1953.

Eckel reinforced his reasons for being remembered by going on to lift the 1954 World Cup with his countrymen.

Peacock was not the only man to go into the record books on that opening day 50 years ago.

Bobby Knox of Barrow came on against Wrexham and became the first substitute to score a goal.

This was perhaps the first time that it became clear how much a substitute could affect the outcome of a match.

It wasn't lost on managers. Substitutes, while only allowed for injury, quickly became subject to ­systemic abuse.

People alive at the time are happy to tell you how the likes of Leeds often found themselves with an injured defender when they were losing games and an injured attacker if they happened to be winning as the clock ticked down.

Tactical substitutions were a de facto part of the game, later made legal. From the 1967-68 season onward, substitutes were allowed for tactical reasons in English soccer.

Fast forward a few years and soccer's first super sub was making a name for himself.

David Fairclough came off the bench to score goals that won ­Liverpool a league title and took them to the European Cup semifinals, a fact not forgotten on the red half of ­Merseyside.

The role that Fairclough created has been carried on by other players since, famously Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Javier Hernandez at Manchester United, among others.

Their success shows that, if anything, the role of substitutes has only increased as rules have relaxed over the years to allow more of them. It turns out that is not surprising.

Set records

In 2014, sports data company Opta announced the results of a study into World Cup games after France 98 proved that bringing on a sub if you were losing by a single goal at halftime improved a team's chance of winning from 24 percent to 40 percent.

Other studies have proved that substitutes in the Premier League have a dramatically higher rate of scoring than players who complete a full game.

The Telegraph newspaper even wrote of an American professor who devised the ideal time to roll the dice and introduce your subs - 58 minutes, 73 minutes and 79 minutes, for those who want to know.

Against Wolfsburg on Tuesday night, Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola ignored that advice and threw on striker Robert Lewandowski at halftime.

The Bavarians were losing 1-0 when the Poland captain entered the fray but they were back on level terms six minutes after the restart when Lewandowski equalized.

Nine minutes after that, Bayern were winning 5-1 and the substitute had scored all five.

Was this the greatest substitution ever? Hard to say given that no trophies were handed out at the end but the former Dortmund man set a record for the fastest ever Bundesliga hat trick, fastest ever four goals and the fastest ever five-goal haul.

He also became the first Bundesliga sub to score more than a hat trick and the fastest ever player in a major European league to score five goals since Opta started recording such data.

Incredible, but spare a thought for Thiago Alcantara - the midfielder Lewandowski replaced may be as forgotten as ­Gottinger for his part in the record.

Posted in: Feature, Soccer

blog comments powered by Disqus