Football is full of canine references – the midfield terrier, the yard dog at the back and the obligatory ‘one man and his dog’ turning up for a low key match – but did you know that there have been games and instances where dogs have played a starring role?
Any ball game played on a large, outdoor area is sure to attract the attention of a passing pooch, so perhaps it’s no surprise that they have occasionally been known to let their excitement get the better of them and scamper onto the pitch. Here are four of the most significant and meaningful football contributions of man’s (or should that be fan’s?) best friend over the years:
1. Torquay stay up after dog attacks player
Perhaps the most significant on-field role ever played by a canine was in May 1987, when a doggy disruption bought Torquay United the time they needed to score a crucial goal.
On the last day of the season, the Gulls needed to take something from their game against Crewe Alexandra or face dropping out of the old Division Four and into non-league football. At 2-0 down, it didn’t look good for the Devon club, but Jim McNichol pulled a goal back for them from a free kick.
McNichol, however, is remembered not so much for his goal as for being bitten by a police dog in the second half. The attack meant he needed five minutes of treatment, and when that time was added on at the end of the 90, Torquay grabbed the vital equaliser that kept them up at the expense of Lincoln City.
The dog certainly had its day that afternoon!
2. Dog steals the show at Argentine game
Last September’s game between San Lorenzo and Arsenal di Sarandi wouldn’t have lived long in the memory were it not for a cameo appearance from an invading pooch.
The feisty sausage dog ran onto the pitch during the Argentine Superliga clash and treated spectators to a feast of impressive control. After the game, he showed he still hadn’t lost any of his appetite by gnawing at an interviewer’s microphone.
3. Energetic pooch holds up play for seven minutes
Most of these doggy interruptions cause a bit of a chuckle for a few moments before things go back to normal, but at a non-league game near the end of last season, a determined four-legged invader caused a full seven-minute delay.
An eager canine gave players, staff and supporters at an Evo Stik League game between Halesowen Town and Skelmersdale United the runaround, before finally being calmed down and escorted off the pitch.
4. Pickles finds World Cup
This one was away from the football pitch, but it constitutes possibly the most well-known canine contribution towards the beautiful game, at least in the UK.
England famously won the World Cup (then known as the Jules Rimet Trophy) in 1966, but at one point it looked like there might be no trophy for them to lift at the end of it. In mid-March that year, the trophy was stolen and its whereabouts were a mystery.
A week later, David Corbett and his dog Pickles were enjoying a walk in the Upper Norwood area of South London, when the four-year-old collie was distracted by something beneath a hedge wrapped in newspaper. It turned out to be the famous trophy.
Pickles was awarded a medal by the National Canine Defence League and the trophy was returned. Just four months later, it was held aloft by Bobby Moore.
Dogs may be better at playing ball games than watching them, but as these examples show, their enthusiasm and playfulness can add to the tapestry of the game we love.