Back in 1998, the wrongful imprisonment of Coronation Street’s Deirdre Rachid whipped Britain into a genuine frenzy, with a widespread campaign for her freedom.
Graffiti and banners popped up around the country and it made the front page of the papers. Both Tony Blair and William Hague made statements in cringeworthy attempts to appeal to the everyman.
Through a 2021 lens, with a brain addled by infinite content, boredom ever placated by multi-screens and endless scrolling, it feels like the incomprehensible behaviour of an alien race.
At least, that was until Dele Alli’s superb bicycle kick for Tottenham against Wolfsberger in the Europa League, a moment that makes you identify with the injustice of Deirdre’s plight.
A goal so good, you’re almost inspired to climb the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium while carrying a shoddily-made #FreeDele banner and an even shoddier fancy dress outfit, Fathers 4 Justice style.
What a goal! To even try this bicycle kick takes confidence… 😳
Take a bow, Dele! 🚲 pic.twitter.com/AWJbibdxR1
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) February 24, 2021
On a pure technical basis, there’s an argument it was better effort than Olivier Giroud’s against Atletico Madrid the night before.
The French international had to improvise quicker and pluck the ball from the sky, sure, but the way it took a bounce before squirming past the reach of Jan Oblak was just that bit less aesthetically pleasing.
There’s just something extra satisfying about seeing a player control the ball to set themselves up for an acrobatic overhead kick, even if it might make it that extra bit easier.
This wasn’t quite the all-time standard-bearer, Rivaldo chesting it on the edge of the box before his vitally important late winner against Valencia, but for it to belong in the same wheelhouse is a badge of honour.
Then factor in his positioning, perfectly in the centre of four opposition bodies, and the cleanness of the connection: perfectly-struck, flying straight across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net without bouncing. Majestic.
The ball had barely crossed the line before the playmaker was back on his feet, in position to look straight down the lens of the close-up camera with a peace sign celebration.
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That’s the old Dele, and one we’re not seeing nearly enough of any more.
Because whereas Giroud’s was a decisive, first-leg away goal against European powerhouse Atleti, Dele’s effort was in a dead rubber second leg against modest opposition from a minor league.
Such a goal, and such a player, is worthy of a bigger stage. Not a game you probably didn’t even realise was on while you were making your tea.
But this is the only stage he’s been given this season, with opportunities in the cup and the odd substitute cameo. He hasn’t started a Premier League game since the opening day defeat to Everton.
It’s easy to forget that this is a player that scored 25 Premier League goals before he turned 21 and featured prominently for England as they came close to reaching a World Cup final. He’s still just 24.
He’s too good and too fun to be on the periphery, which is why it was so disappointing that January reports of a Mauricio Pochettino reunion didn’t amount to anything. Imagine him strutting about the pitch during PSG’s annihilation of Barcelona.
“We had a difficult period, he had an injury and at the same time talk, talk, talk about staying or leaving. The market closed, the injury went and he started working with motivation,” Jose Mourinho said after the Wolfsberger win.
The Spurs boss has kept Dele at a cold arm’s length this season, with little hint of him brought back into the cold.
But his stunning goal, and subsequent two assists, appeared to have warmed his manager’s heart, giving us hope we’ll see him tear things up on a more regular basis in the coming weeks.
“He is playing very well, I am not saying in this moment we have a starting line-up because of so many matches but it is coming,” Mourinho added.
“The goal was beautiful but the meaning of the assists and hard work for team means more to me. That work of continuity in the performance is what makes me really happy.”
You’re not the only one, Jose. Now set him free.