Goals are what we live for in football. We all love to reminisce about bicycle kicks and 30-yard screamers, and dream of our team nabbing 90th-minute cup final winners.
This is why one of the most depressing things for any football fan to experience is a goal drought. Struggling to win a game is one thing, but failing to get the ball over the line deprives you of having anything to cheer at all. It’s humiliating as well because your team is failing to achieve the most basic requirement needed to win a football match; until they start scoring, they aren’t going to make any progress up that league table.
As you’ll likely know, this hopeless feeling is one that has been felt pretty widely in a particular area of South London recently. Crystal Palace started this season making headlines for all the wrong reasons, but while it may have seemed things couldn’t get any worse, it’s worth remembering that Palace aren’t the first team to suffer such a feeling There has been many goal droughts in the past, and some of them have been totally humiliating for everyone involved.
1. Crystal Palace
Ah, well this isn’t how I wanted to start an article that was supposed to make Palace fans feel better about their goal drought. I don’t have a hidden hatred against Crystal Palace or anything, but their recent 731-minute barren spell in the Premier League isn’t their first depressingly long goalless run in recent memory. In the 1994-95 season, Palace went a dismal 9 games without finding the net, a period totalling 839 minutes, which is the longest time a team has went without a goal in Premier League history. That run may get forgotten about as people dwell on their most recent drought instead, but it’s fair to say that most Palace fans will probably want you to try and forget both of them as soon as possible.
2. Hartlepool United
Palace may hold the record for the longest goalless run in the top flight, but if you look at the history books of the lower leagues, there are even worse fruitless spells. The current record for the longest goal drought in the Football League is held by Hartlepool United, who went a staggering 1227 minutes without a goal in 1993. Andy Saville finally broke the run scoring in a 1-1 draw at Blackpool, after the fans suffered 13 whole games without seeing their side hit the net. Brian Honour (a player at the club at the time) recalls that the team and supporters celebrated ending the run with a night out in Blackpool after the game, where some of the fans even bought the players a round of drinks just for scoring a goal. We could do with some of that in football today couldn’t we?
3. Coventry City
Before Hartlepool, there was Coventry City. Fans of the Sky Blues will be thankful that Pools’ goalless run broke their goal-drought record which had stood for almost three-quarters of a century. In their first season in the Football League, Coventry had gone 11 games without a goal, totalling 1048 minutes. However, Coventry’s patience was famously rewarded with a Christmas gift, as the drought ended with three goals to help them beat Stoke 3-2 on, of all days, Christmas Day 1919, and even managed to avoid relegation at the end of the season.
4. Hamburg SV
It’s not just English clubs that suffer such embarrassing failures. Even clubs in Germany, a nation renowned for its efficiency, suffer desolate phases in front of goal. In fact, only three years ago, former European Champions Hamburg SV broke the Bundesliga record for the longest time taken for a team to score their first goal of the season. They had to wait until their sixth game of the season for the first goal of their campaign, a period lasting over 475 minutes. Compared to other droughts on this list, this seems minuscule, but as this was a goal drought record being set by a team with such a successful history, it certainly makes it a humiliating one. They did at least manage to stay up that season, albeit by the skin of their teeth, as they were victorious in the relegation play-offs for the second season running.
5. Tasmania Berlin
Staying in Germany, in 1965-66, Tasmania Berlin experienced the worst season in Bundesliga history. They did break plenty of records though, including the record for the fewest wins in a season (4), the lowest ever attendance at a Bundesliga game (827), the most goals ever conceded in a single season (108), the longest ever winless streak in a season (31 games), and of course, the longest ever goalless streak. In amongst the twelve records they broke, they went 900 minutes without hitting the net. They did get some points though, their 2 wins and 4 draws meant that they chalked up a grand total of 8 points, although that wasn’t anywhere near enough to save them from relegation.
6. CLS Amazons
Goal droughts aren’t exclusive to the professional leagues. In fact, when they happen at an amateur or semi/professional level, they tend to be even worse. Just ask the Chester-Le Street Amazons. They are a women’s and girls team in North East England that was set up in 2005, competing in the (*breathes in*) Durham County Football Association Women’s Development Division. However, it’s fair to say that things didn’t get off to a good start. In fact, it took them more than three whole seasons before they managed to even score their first goal. That’s less of a drought, and more just not knowing how to score. They spent those first seasons frequently losing 15-0, and used to celebrate when they managed to keep the deficit down to single figures. It was four seasons before they even managed their first win.
Although this is a great source of amusement, it’s hard not to feel a little inspired by their spirit. After twelve years of struggling, this year, The Amazons finally got their hands on the Durham County Football Association Women’s Development Division trophy. Although, I hope you don’t want to see their name on the trophy as proof because I’d be surprised if there’s any room left to fit it on with a league name as long as that.
7. Northern Ireland
International football is home to its fair share of depressingly long goal droughts as well. You don’t have to look too far from home to find one either. Northern Ireland’s international team set a European record for the longest period an national team went without a goal, going 13 games without anything to celebrate, spread out over a period of two years (2002-2004). The Northern Ireland supporters however – as they always seem to – made the best of the situation, famously singing “I would wait 500 minutes and I would wait for 500 more, just to be the man who waits a thousand minutes to see our wee country score,” poking fun at their 1298 minute goalless run in hilarious fashion. The drought was ended by David Healy against Norway to the delight of the fans at Windsor Park, although they’d still lose the game 4-1.
8. FC Magdeburg
I’m sure that anyone who had internet access in 2012 will be able to remember this one. Three-time East German Champions FC Magdeburg found themselves in a bit of a rut five years ago. After having gone five games without a goal, they found themselves propping up the four-tier German league. The Magdeburg fans (clearly being the proactive type), decided it was time to do something to resolve the situation themselves, and each brought with them a giant luminous arrow to point towards the goal and a banner reading “we’ll show you where the goal is”. Fans behind the goal ran from side to side with the arrows to make sure their directions were as clear as possible, and the result was stomach-achingly hilarious.
The best part is, it worked! Magdeburg hit the net that game to break their goalless run, although, would still lose the match 2-1. Any goal drought is pretty embarrassing, but I’d bet that going on a run so bad that your fans feel the need to remind you where you need to put the ball to score, is enough to make you want to hide your face from public attention for (approximately) the rest of your life.
9. San Marino
Because of course they have. San Marino is a nation known across Europe purely for having a terrible football team, not that it’s really their fault. As every pundit and commentator on TV reminds us before each San Marino game, the nation’s population is only 33’000, and so they have a team made up of students, businessmen and people who just work in local shops. Because of this, it’s pretty fair to be sympathetic towards San Marino’s failings, but it doesn’t change the fact that they hold one of the record worst goal droughts ever, lasting five years! Yep, YEARS!
Now obviously international teams play a lot less than domestic clubs do, but this five-year period still included an utterly soul-destroying 29 games in which San Marino didn’t score, equating to over 2610 minutes of game time! The goal that broke the run? A bullet header by Alessandro Della Vale from a free kick, to equalise against Poland, although they’d go on to lose the game 5-1… Obviously. They’ve been in prolific form ever since though, netting twice within the same World Cup qualifying campaign, including a goal that seemingly destroyed the pride of a panel of Norweigan pundits.
Do you know of any ridiculously long football goal droughts that we missed? Share them below and be sure to follow our social media channels to keep up to date with our latest articles.