Michail Antonio stands alone at the top of the list of West Ham’s Premier League scorers – so it was fitting he danced with himself under the London Stadium lights on Monday.
After scoring his 48th top-flight goal for the Hammers in a 4-1 win over Leicester, the striker celebrated surpassing Paolo di Canio’s record by waltzing with, lifting and kissing a Michail Antonio cardboard cut-out.
It was a Hollywood moment for a player who took the number nine shirt this summer and will now go down in West Ham folklore for his scoring exploits.
“We were talking earlier in the week, and I said ‘you know what will be the best celebration? Save The Last Dance’,” said Antonio, who extended his record to 49 goals with his side’s fourth of the night.
“Maybe somebody could pick me up like Baby? But I got a cardboard cut-out and picked that up.”
In the delirium of becoming a record-breaker he can be forgiven some confusion, but Antonio may have been mixing up his dance-themed movies – Baby, and the iconic lift, are from 1980s blockbuster Dirty Dancing rather than 2001’s Save The Last Dance.
Whichever film provided the inspiration, his manager David Moyes was nonplussed by the celebrations.
“It’s not something I’m keen on,” he said.
|49 – Michail Antonio|
|47 – Paolo di Canio|
|46 – Mark Noble|
|41 – Carlton Cole|
|37 – Trevor Sinclair|
|33 – Andy Carroll|
|29 – Frederic Kanoute|
|24 – John Hartson|
|24 – Frank Lampard|
|23 – Tony Cottee|
But the former Manchester United boss was happier with Antonio’s performance.
“I’m really pleased,” said Moyes. “I was disappointed with the way he played in the first half but he did enough to shut the manager up after what I said to him at half-time.”
The 31-year-old’s two goals – which came in the final 10 minutes – were excellent. For the first he spun Caglar Soyuncu before slotting home, and for the second he flicked the ball over two defenders before stabbing home.
“Michail Antonio was unplayable,” said BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Chris Sutton, who was at London Stadium. “This was a masterclass. It was the perfect centre-forward performance.”
Antonio, who has had more shots (11) than anybody else in the Premier League this season, said: “It sounds beautiful to be called West Ham’s top Premier League scorer.
“I feel like in the first half it affected how I was playing but the gaffer caned me at half-time and I played normally and managed to get my goals.”
The ‘football did not begin in 1992’ crew will want us to point out Antonio’s record is for the Premier League era only. Vic Watson scored 298 league goals for West Ham between 1920 and 1935 (326 in all competitions).
Geoff Hurst managed 180 league goals (249 in all competitions) with several other players having passed the 100 mark. Antonio has 51 goals in all competitions for West Ham.
He has been West Ham’s top – or joint top – scorer in each of the past two seasons, and in 2016-17 as well.
In that time many strikers have come and gone, including Jordan Hugill, Albian Ajeti, Lucas Perez, Sebastien Haller, Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic.
Antonio’s achievements are even better when you look at his football journey.
He has never played international football at any level, and started his career with Tooting & Mitcham United in the Isthmian League Premier Division.
He joined West Ham as a winger from Nottingham Forest in 2015 – and finished his first season at the club as a right-back.
“I’m never happy getting just one goal,” he said. “I don’t want anyone catching me by the time I leave here. I want to be up there in folklore forever.”
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