It was Roman lyric poet Horace who once said, “Seize the day, and trust as little as possible in the future.”
More recently, Eminem wisely noted, “If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?”
Both men were geniuses of their times, and both will have served as undeniable inspiration for David Nugent as he stepped onto the pitch in Barcelona when England took on the mighty Andorra in a Euro 2008 qualifying match.
The Nuge was warming his bum on the Three Lions bench, still waiting for his first international cap. The Preston North End star was like a lucky contest winner sat among the Premier League elite, or a husband who had been given the perfect Experience Gift Box money could buy – a chance to play for England.
“Nuge, warm up”
– Steve McClaren
Nugent had no idea whether he would get this chance again, and so, coming onto the pitch with 11 minutes to go, he knew he had to take full advantage of this potential once in a lifetime situation.
The seconds were ticking by and Nugent’s chances of making a name for himself were slipping away. Then, as the clock showed 90 minutes, his moment arrived. Jermain Defoe brought down a clipped pass inside the box and hammered the ball low and hard.
The Andorra goalkeeper got a strong hand on the ball, but it wasn’t enough to stop its trajectory towards the goal line. The sphere span rotated on the white line, ready to dribble into the net, but our hero Nugent had other ideas.
The poacher showed his killer instincts, racing to the ball under no pressure whatsoever and lining up a surgical finish like the classic fox in the box he always has been.
The now England international showed exactly why Steve McClaren had placed his faith in his abilities, clinically hammering a fine finish from a centimetre out into the bulging net. It was the goal of his dreams. Nugent ran off screaming “IT’S MINE!” to try and kill any doubt over the scorer, and Defoe conceded defeat, handing the Nuge a perfect debut.
Defoe was not best pleased at the time, but had he have known that it would be Nugent’s only England cap and subsequently his only goal in the white jersey, he probably wouldn’t have begrudged him his moment in the sun.
And that was it in terms of international football for Nugent, who enjoyed a brilliant club career, scoring over 150 professional goals. He may have only managed one for his country, but in doing so he wrote himself into the history books, now boasting the shortest England career to have resulted in a goal. He’s probably got the best goals to minutes ratio, too.
Most of all, he will go down in English folklore as the plucky Championship striker who worked hard to earn his crack at international football, and when the chance came to create a legacy, he captured it and didn’t let it slip.
What did the man of the hour have to say about it?
“I was trying to (warm up) but my legs were shaking,” – Knees weak, arms are heavy? Vomit on his sweater already? Sorry, back to Nuge.
“You’re like, ‘oh my God, this could be my chance’. There was 20 minutes to go, I’ve come on, and I’ve missed a chance in the first five minutes. Stewart Downing has pulled one back and I’ve had a shot that’s gone wide and I think that’s my chance over.
“But then last minute of the game Jermain Defoe gets the ball and he has a shot, the keeper saves it and you can see it like rolling in but I’m thinking I’m going to get this. I’m not leaving it!
“I’ve ran in and scored, basically on the line, and Jermain has run off celebrating. I was like, ‘it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine!'” as cited by Sky Sports.
After poet Horace and rapper Eminem, we now have one-cap wonder Nugent.
“You have just got to keep trying hard and working your hardest and your chance will come.”
Never give up, kids.