Football Etymologies is a series of articles that look at the language that fans use to describe what’s happening in the beautiful game. This week, the focus is on the top corner, otherwise described as the postage stamp, top bins and the upper ninety.
Football Etymologies: The Top Corner Goal
The Postage Stamp
This is probably the most classical image used to describe hitting the top corner. Immediately, it conjures an image of the ball perfectly slotting into the uppermost part of the goal. Commentators quite often use this phrase today but it is perhaps becoming a little outdated. With the rise of technology, the prevalence of post has declined. But, the phrase emerged at a time when postage stamps were just an everyday object. Today, stamps might be a little less in the consciousness of most smartphone-wielding, internet-surfing fans, but it nevertheless survives as a term.
Of the three terms, this is the most recent. Urban Dictionary logs an entry in about 2012. It is a term that is more commonly used among the youngest of fans. Soccer AM did create a contest whereby guests had to score in some literal top bins placed in the top corners of the goal, with the image transcending into reality.
The image is a little strange. After all, it is describing scoring a goal as akin to putting some rubbish into a bin. It could perhaps refer to the improvisation of many poor, aspiring footballers, football clubs and children alike who might practice their skills by aiming into a bin.
A rarer name for the top corner. It actually refers to the V-shaped part behind the post joining to the crossbar. The modern goal-stands in stadiums such as Wembley seem to lack the older versions of stanchions. Instead, this is something that survives more in Sunday League football or lower down the football pyramid. Playing without a net, the absolute top corner would be to thread a shot through the top corner, then the stanchion and out of the other side.
The Upper Ninety
Clinical, mathematical, precise. The upper ninety refers to the perpendicular angle at which the post meets the crossbar. Interestingly, it is also used commonly in lacrosse, and probably emerged from there, in the USA. Indeed, this is a term that is mainly used by US soccer commentators. However, it has also made its trans-Atlantic passage to reach the British football terminology.
This is the least creative term, as it takes the use of the metaphorical for the rational and logical. As a term used in commentary, it is effective and still brings across the accuracy of the strike. However, it lacks any deeper meaning, with no image or object to cross-refer to.
Best Top Corner Goal?
A top corner goal is one of the sweetest sights in football. Some of the greatest all-time upper ninety strikes include Roberto Carlos’ seemingly physics-defying free-kick (1997). But also regular top corner hitters in the English game include the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, and also David Beckham, now to the likes of Gareth Bale versus West Ham (2013) and Eden Hazard against Spurs (2016).
Which is your favourite top corner goal? And what term do you prefer to describe it?