‘It was pretty much a perfect strike’ – Paolo Di Canio’s wondrous Wimbledon volley, 20 years on
It is exactly 20 years since Paolo Di Canio scored one of the greatest and most-iconic goals in West Ham United history – his famous volley against Wimbledon.
There were just nine minutes gone in the Hammers’ Premier League clash with the Dons at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday 26 March 2000, when Trevor Sinclair launched a diagonal cross into the penalty area.
Rather than control the ball before unleashing a shot, the enigmatic and supremely talented Di Canio launched himself into the air before arrowing an unstoppable first-time shot past goalkeeper Neil Sullivan with the outside of his right foot.
I can understand in England why they show this because it was pretty much a perfect strike
Paolo Di Canio
Harry Redknapp's side went on to win the game 2-1, with Frederic Kanoute getting the home side's other goal just before the hour-mark, and future Hammer Michael Hughes netting a consolation for the visitors 14 minutes from full-time.
It was the Italian’s early strike that the 22,438 fans left the stadium talking about, though, and in May 2016 the goal was named the greatest in Boleyn Ground history and honoured during the stadium's closing ceremony.
Reflecting on a strike labelled ‘sensational, even by his standards’ by long-serving Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler, the Italian used typically enigmatic language.
“The Wimbledon goal was very good!” he smiled. “The delivery was a typical English delivery, you know, as it was a delivery that started and arrived quickly.
“In an instant, I saw this ball arrive and I did a bicycle volley instinctively and the percentage of the difficulty is 99 per cent. But, if you see the change in the air, it is a harmony that only the dancer can have.
“I can understand in England why they show this because it was pretty much a perfect strike.”
Even the man who was beaten by Di Canio’s volley, Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, looked back on the moment fondly!
“The dive was just a token dive!” said the former Scotland international. “It was more fall over than a dive as it came off his foot like a bullet. To actually do that takes some guts to do it! It could have gone anywhere, but it went right in the far corner.”