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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ed Aarons

‘Bit overwhelming’: Ryan Hall on his 2.31-second goal and the viral reaction

Timed at 2.31 seconds, Ryan Hall’s goal for Croydon against Cockfosters in the semi-finals of the London Senior Trophy on Saturday could be a contender for the fastest in senior football. But had it not been for the quick thinking of the cameraman Chris Brown, AKA @big_gkam, it would never have gone viral.

“Luckily I started my camera just in time,” says Brown, who regularly films the Croydon goalkeeper George Kamurasi for his Instagram channel and was the only person to capture Hall’s wonderstrike. “The reaction since then has been incredible.”

Croydon are waiting to hear back from Guinness World Records about whether the goal has set a new mark, with debate raging over whether it beats Gavin Stokes’s strike from the West of Scotland Super League First Division in 2017 (timed at 2.1sec) or the Serb Vuk Bakic’s effort in 2012 (2.2sec). But at least Brown’s video has ensured Hall’s goal can be officially assessed.

“We’re not sure but it looks like it could at least be the quickest in English football,” says Croydon’s vice-chair, Tony Blencowe, who almost missed the goal because he was inspecting the leaky clubhouse roof before kick-off.

“We’ve had some incredible coverage and it’s exactly what a club like ours needs, even if one media outlet confused us with Croydon Athletic and said we were owned by Stormzy. We always said he bought the wrong club.”

Ryan Hall kicks off …
Ryan Hall kicks off … Photograph: Chris James/Croydon FC
… and the ball sails over the goalkeeper and in.
… and the ball sails over the goalkeeper and in. Photographs: Chris James/Croydon FC Photograph: Chris James/Croydon FC

For Hall, who is back where it all began in south London after a nomadic career that included being kicked out of Crystal Palace as a 20-year-old before he worked his way back into the Football League, it has been a whirlwind few days.

“It’s been all right – a bit overwhelming,” he says in the bar of the rundown Croydon Sports Arena, where The Trams play their home matches. “I’ve shot straight from kick-off in Sunday League before and scored but had never tried it during a senior match.

“In this league, most teams are waiting for the ball to be played backwards from the kick-off so they can pump it into the corner so I don’t think the goalkeeper was expecting it. He was on the edge of the box and normally keepers go back to their line when you kick off but he didn’t.

“I thought about doing it last week but he was quite a big lad and moved back at the last minute. But this time he didn’t go back so I decided to go for it. I said to one of my teammates: ‘I’m going to hit this from here, don’t touch it.’ And he said: ‘No way, you’re not going to do it.’ But I was like: ‘I’m going to do it’ and it went in.”

Hall has just finished an interview with TalkSport – one of several the 36-year-old, who works part-time as a delivery driver, has conducted, including one with Radio 5 Live when sitting in his van. He shakes his head and laughs when asked whether he had spoken to Simon Jordan, the former Palace chairman who sanctioned his release in 2008 after an incident at a local five-a-side centre and works for TalkSport.

“I would like to,” he says, smiling. “I always knew I was capable of playing in the league but I got myself in some trouble when I was younger and Palace had to let me go. My friends got into a fight at the Power League and they found out that I had been playing football when I wasn’t supposed to be.

“Simon Jordan said I had to leave. But Mark Goldberg invited me down to Bromley with a few of the other players from Palace and that led to Southend coming in for me.”

Ryan Hall playing for Crystal Palace against QPR in November 2007.
Ryan Hall playing for Crystal Palace against QPR in November 2007. Photograph: Jed Leicester/Shutterstock

Hall, who was spotted playing for Croydon’s youth team by Arsenal before joining Palace’s academy, excelled in Essex and earned a move to Leeds. “I was playing every week, scoring goals and creating assists [he managed 25 in 2011-12, the most in the Football League]. And then I got the move to Leeds with Neil Warnock, who had been in charge at Palace when I left a few years earlier. I think he wanted to keep me but upstairs were saying I had to go.”

A series of ankle injuries plagued Hall in subsequent moves to MK Dons, Rotherham and Luton before he returned to non-league with Bromley, Welling and Beckenham Town. When Croydon’s manager, Liam Giles – who Hall used to play with as a child – asked him whether he fancied dropping down to the Southern Counties East first division, he had no hesitation.

“I’m getting to that age now,” he says. “I have two young boys who are playing football [one at Brighton, the other at Chelsea] and I want to spend more time with them. Juggling everything is pretty hard.

“I’ve struggled with it; not training every day you lose sharpness and eating has been a challenge. When I was a pro I had a nutritious diet and we were used to playing in much better facilities. But I’ve still got the buzz for it and hopefully I can keep going as long as possible.”

Croydon followed up their 3-0 win over Cockfosters by reaching a second cup final in four days on Tuesday when Hall, after a long day working and being interviewed, opened the scoring in a 2-1 win over Whitstable Town in the Kent Senior Trophy.

“The game against Cockfosters was my home debut and I’ve been waiting a long time to give something back to the club and everyone who came to support me,” he says. “I’m hoping to finish my career here and maybe get on the staff. This is my hometown club and it means a lot to be back here again.

“Croydon does a lot for the community and we have a lot of young players coming through who should be playing at a much higher level. Hopefully we’re going in the right direction.”

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