One undoubted hero for Leeds United so far this season has been Giuseppe “The Warrior” Bellusci, a centre back with a penchant for rampaging forward, delivering ballistic free-kicks and delicate chips – and, significantly, a most perturbing goal celebration.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no greater advocate than this blog for players who, upon donning the famous white shirt, are prepared to “bust their ass”, as our transatlantic friends have it, in the name of Leeds. We fans of Yorkshire’s premier club like nothing better than to see some effort being put in, some never-say-die attitude, a willingness to get some blood on the old boots. It’s what we demand of our heroes around these parts and if all this fearsomeness and belligerence can be allied to some genuine ability too, then so much the better.
The thing is – nobody with the interests of the club at heart wants to see this “ass-busting” become too much of a literal thing. And this is where the worries start with our Giuseppe. Because, when he scores, he has this celebration – first he does the traditional running around in small circles before fleeing for the nearest bunch of United fans, pursued by delighted team-mates. But then, it becomes a little scary as he ends his run by jumping into the air, tucking his knees up before extending his legs before him in flight – and landing square on the base of his spine, impacting the unforgiving earth with a hefty bump.
The first time I saw this, after his stellar dead ball strike at Bournemouth, I put it down to the fact that he’d just dispatched a worldy in a game where United had looked likely to get properly thumped. Some relief and delight was understandable – but even so, it made me wince. Bellusci is a meaty lad, and when his full weight hits terra firma from a height of even four feet, said weight jolting through his lower spine – well, you just have to fear for the headstrong guy’s coccyx.
The coccyx, for those who do not know, is the vestigial remnant of what used to be a fully-functional tail and dates back to that shadowy period of history when we all lived in trees and needed a prehensile “fifth limb” to aid us in negotiating our way from branch to branch. Those of us outside Lancashire have long since evolved beyond the need for such equipment but, nevertheless, we have that small, bony leftover at the base of the spine, much as whales still have redundant finger-bones in their flippers. Evolution, it appears, frequently fails to tidy up behind itself. The coccyx serves no function nowadays, save to remind us of the time when we all looked like Wayne Rooney – but it is a particularly vulnerable spot, as anyone who has sat down abruptly on a hard surface might testify. The risk of injury to the goal celebrant who makes a habit of abusing his coccyx (if you’ll pardon that expression) is very real indeed.
It’s lovely to see Bellusci score – obviously we will all hope he gets many more goals both this season and beyond. The sight of him rampaging forward against poor old Huddersfield was beautiful to behold; he took a return pass from Antenucci and exquisitely flighted the ball onto the Terriers’ crossbar for the redoubtable Mirko to volley the rebound into an empty net. Poetry in motion. On this occasion, as he hadn’t scored himself, Giuseppe merely modified his anguish at being denied into arms-raised joy at going two up after all. But, last time out, he was at it again with the coccyx abuse, after he’d slotted home beautifully, left-footed, to equalise against the Wendies. It was now obvious that this potentially painful celebration was not just a Bournemouth one-off. The nutter clearly intends to do it every time – and I’m very much afraid that disaster is inevitable; especially when the ground gets harder as the nights draw in.
Somebody needs to have a word with the lad. He’s a cult hero already, right up there with our superb, panther-like goalie Silvestri. He’d be a big loss to the team if he went and did himself a mischief the next time he provides a world-class finish. There must be other, perhaps more elegant ways of letting off some steam after notching. Hasselbaink’s half-baked cartwheel used to trouble me slightly, but it was nowhere near athletic enough to pose much of a risk to the scorer. Something ebullient, but safe – that’s what we’re really looking for here.
Perhaps if anybody with Darko’s ear (or even access to the Sheriff himself) reads this, then they might make a subtle suggestion that a bit more caution could be observed? After all, such a crunching jolt might not only imperil this valuable player’s coccyx – he might even end up biting his bloody tongue off, or wrenching something vital in the abdominal region. Such thoughts can bring tears to the eyes, and cause a troubled shadow to cloud the brow, of even the strongest fan.
Obviously, in the heat of the moment, it’s not easy to restrain the joy of scoring for Leeds. I can well believe that’s the case. But it’s frankly painful to watch one of our heroes risking his mobility and wellbeing in quite such a cavalier fashion and, if that’s how he is going to celebrate every time he scores – well, quite frankly, I’d rather leave the goal-getting to Noel Hunt, Steve Morison or, slightly more realistically, Silvestri himself.
Fellow Leeds fans, I kid you not.