Kieran Trippier’s goal in Tottenham‘s win over Fulham will be a mere footnote in the Premier League season, but for a brief moment it helped an entire country relive the best moment of the summer. And for that we thank him.
The short amount of time between the end of the World Cup and the start of the Premier League season left a fair few fans in a state of confusion, attempting to take off their international hat and wrap a club scarf around their head in its place.
This is especially true for Tottenham fans, whose move to their shiny new stadium has been put on hold. The enduring presence of Wembley, with its ties to the past and to the national team, has left them in a sort of limbo.
While the remainder of the Premier League is stacked with new managers, record signings and a general sense of progress, Spurs are – if not looking backwards – waiting for the forward momentum to take hold.
This might be cause for concern, were it not for the on-pitch foundations being far sturdier than those at White Hart Lane. And for those without an affinity to the club but who warmed to their players over the summer, continuity evokes nostalgia.
So, when Kieran Trippier sent a free-kick into the top corner against Fulham on Saturday afternoon, it had a deeper meaning than simply handing Tottenham the lead in their first home game of the season.
For football fans, a World Cup can be a valuable tool for mapping out one’s life. The four-year cycle, while having some continuity in terms of players and managers, can provide a sense of how far you, and those around you, have come.
A World Cup is a summer, so the friendships you made in 2010 will come to mind whenever you hear K’Naan’s ‘Wavin’ Flag’ or watch Siphiwe Tshabalala’s goal against Mexico.
Your lads’ holiday in July 2006 will forever be tied to Fabio Grosso’s winning penalty. That summer fling you had in 2014? You’ll get a reminder of that first kiss whenever you see Robin van Persie flying through the air to head beyond Iker Casillas.
It’s for this reason, then, that there can be confusion and mixed emotions whenever a player reminds us of an iconic World Cup goal after the fact.
It doesn’t matter that Trippier’s goal against Fulham was from slightly further out, or that it went to Fabri’s right as opposed to Danijel Subašić’s left; the words ‘Trippier free-kick’ will never stop having that association.
It’s the same whip, the same single-mindedness of a man who can see his name in lights and has decided the time to stay grounded and modest has been and gone.
Before the World Cup, he might not have looked at any stage as belonging to him, but the Russian summer hasn’t truly ended for him and for his club.
They still have the long summer nights, they still have the men they played alongside and formed bonds with, and – until the stadium move breaks that spell – they still have yet to move on to the next chapter.
It’s not even the finish on its own that sets off those memories but rather the littler things at play, like the wait between the ball being placed and the right-back stepping up to let fly.
Now, whenever Trippier gets ready to deliver a set piece, there’s expectation where there rarely has been at Spurs, or even at Burnley, where fans will remember much less accomplished executions.
The reason for the expectation is, of course, the strike against Croatia. It’s a goal that will forever take you back to wherever you were when you saw him beat Subašić: at home, at the pub, maybe even at the Luzhniki itself.
Trippier’s approach will leave you tasting the same tastes of that night, smelling the same smells, feeling the same sticky floor beneath your feet, regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing.
Even before Fabri embarks on his dive, he knows he’s beaten. He can see.
That little turn away after striking the ball is just as evocative, acting not quite as a celebration but rather as a knowing wink to himself. It acts as a reminder of the swagger that England team had – a swagger few England teams have had before – and the luxury of watching a team and expecting them to deliver.
For those caught up in the ‘it’s coming home’ narrative, there was a level of expectation, if not an air of infallibility. It’s the continuation of that one summer, those few weeks when anything could be attempted and anything could be achieved…. until it couldn’t.
The execution itself carries with it the aura of someone coming fresh off a summer in which they found themselves or saw themselves differently. It’s Lisa Simpson in ‘Summer of 4ft 2’, recognising her reinvention didn’t need to be as dramatic as she thought; that she already possesses what she needed to grow enough to leave with those fond memories.
The Trippier of last season might not have jumped himself to the front of the free-kick queue, but it was never in question for the version still hanging onto that glorious summer.
Before that moment he was the man with no Premier League goals all season, but taking responsibility against Fulham was enough for him to hold on to that thread connecting him with Moscow and with possibility.
You might never be able to repeat the pure joy you felt when it registered that he had scored against Croatia: it’s like the first high of a drug which you’ll never be able to recover however much you try, but the difference comes from the knowledge that you’ll never have to try.
The taste will return, but the taste will be all you need.
By Tom Victor