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Back of the Net
It's been a crazy season in the Premier League, and Back of the Net's John Foster is here to serve up another piping hot slice of football knowledge pie...
Rumours are spreading of a mysterious masked footballer who has been appearing at Premier League grounds up and down the country, terrorising unsuspecting full-backs with his dazzling wing play, before vanishing into thin air.
According to several reports, the masked winger typically appears from nowhere to boost one team’s attacking options, ravaging the opposition’s defences for a ten or fifteen-minute spell, before disappearng as quickly as he came.
At Craven Cottage last Sunday, the mystery man abseiled down from the stadium roof to get goalside of the Wolverhampton Wanderers defence, before delivering a defence-splitting pass to Clint Dempsey, who scored to put Fulham 3-0 up.
Moments later, the velvet-swathed ace skipped past three Wolves challenges, and a desperate attempt by Richard Stearman to remove his mask, before unleashing a rising shot into the top corner.
His work complete, the man some call “The Deadly Shadow” mounted the black charger he had earlier tethered to Mark Schwarzer’s goalposts and rode back into the night, leaving the amazed crowd asking, “who was that masked man?”
“I’d never seen anything like it,” said Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley, who was tormented mercilessly by the black-clad figure, then aiding West Brom, during his side’s 4-0 defeat two weeks ago.
“We were doing OK, when suddenly [the mystery winger] sprang out from behind a corner flag and collected a through-ball to score,” he told FourFourTwo.com.
“He’d run at us every time he got the ball. He probably got to the byline 20, 30 times. Kieran Richardson’s refused to play at left-back since, just in case he pops up again.”
A league spokesman confirmed that it was against FA rules for the masked winger to swoop suddenly onto the field of play without the referee’s permission, to insist on playing in a midnight-black kit, and to carry a long, thin rapier, which he used to face down Paddy Kenny when scoring his second in Blackburn’s surprise 3-2 win over QPR last month.
But, the spokesman added; “It seems this mysterious fellow laughs in the face of the rules, and has no regard for status or convention."
Many observers are asking whether the appearance of the mystery winger is connected to other recent events.
In January, the houses of several ex-referees were broken into, with a single black marble chess piece left behind on each occasion, a crime that has left police baffled.
Then, last weekend, a question mark was discovered carved into the front door of FA headquarters in Soho Square, on the same day that high-society paramour Nancy Dell’olio was spotted clasping a black silk handkerchief, identical to the one the masked winger uses to mop his brow during matches
Fearing that his full-backs may be next in line to face the mystery winger’s torments, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is reportedly preparing for his team’s next game by picking only midfielders.
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