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Associated Press Emmanuel Adebayor riles up the Arsenal fans after running the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of them in September 2009. Another ex-Arsenal player, Kolo Touré, is in the background.
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Memphis is right... players should celebrate goals against former clubs
Do we read too much into a players body language after hitting the back of the net against past employers?

IN MANCHESTER UNITED’s pre-match press conference ahead of their opening Champions League group game with PSV Eindhoven, Memphis Depay announced he would certainly be celebrating if he managed to score against his old club, remarking: “Of course I have respect for PSV, but I will celebrate. Football is a game and scoring is special.”

The following day when he opened the scoring for the Red Devils, he duly stuck to his word, even if his strike couldn’t save Louis Van Gaal’s men from an opening game defeat.

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It is an issue that seems to crop up every time a high-profile player returns to their old haunting ground, but do we read too much into a players body language after hitting the back of the net against a former club? After all, celebrating scoring a goal is a natural thing no matter who the opposition, right?

Perhaps the most infamous and controversial case of a player celebrating in a way they shouldn’t have was when Emmanuel Adebayor hit the net for Manchester City against Arsenal in September 2009 before running the length of the pitch to rub it in the faces of the Gunners faithful in the away section of Eastlands. The provocative solo celebration caused severe consternation among the Arsenal fans at the time, but the Togolese defended himself saying he never wanted to leave the north London side in the first place.

“I was being abused by people who six months ago were singing my name. The abuse was for no reason. It wasn’t my fault I left, it was Arsene who wanted to accept the offer for me. They were all clapping Kolo [Touré] but they were shouting personal abuse at me before the match had even kicked off.” He also put the celebration down to sheer emotion and claimed it was a spur of the moment decision.

“People say I had time to think about it because I ran the length of the pitch but that is not true. I was abused all match and scored a goal I knew would win the game for us. Ten seconds is nothing — your emotion is going to last a lot longer than that.”

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Of course, not all players have the gall and cheek to provoke a reaction from their former clubs’ supporters — many simply celebrate á la Memphis. Danny Welbeck helped Arsenal knock his old club Manchester United (whom he had joined aged eight) out of the FA Cup back in March and clearly enjoyed his rounding of David de Gea between the Old Trafford posts.

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Then there are those who do not celebrate against former clubs at all – these are the players who felt so loved by their previous club and left on such good terms that even a raising of the arm in celebration would feel like a mark of disrespect. Cristiano Ronaldo is a good example after scoring upon his return to the Theatre of Dreams – the Portuguese attacker looked almost apologetic for getting on the scoresheet for Real in front of the Old Trafford faithful back in 2013.

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Obviously the onus is on each individual player to decide whether or not to celebrate under these circumstances, but it is surely time for players to find the happy medium between the Adebayor’s and Ronaldo’s of the celebration world.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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