The most important thing is to hit the target: that’s what [Ian] Wrighty’s always telling me. What makes it much harder for the keeper, though, is if you aim for the bottom corners – which is something I practise in training every day. When practising, I make sure the ball’s fizzing about at match speed and then shoot. This makes it more realistic; like you’re in a game. It trains you to be a split-second quicker, which is crucial.
One of the best things you can do to beat the keeper is get your shot in early. It sounds simple but every keeper, just before he dives, will jump on the spot to set themselves. If you can get a shot in quickly, he won’t have time to set himself before the ball’s in the net. Another trick I have is if I’m standing in the middle of the goal, I’ll shift the ball one way and shoot the other because if I can move right and shoot left in one movement, the keeper will be wrong-footed and I’ll hopefully have a goal.
Beat the trap
One of the keys to staying onside is having good movement and dragging defenders out of position. Centre-backs don’t like having to come deep or go out wide; if you can move them by getting in behind it should be easier as they’re not in a straight back-line anymore. The other thing is to know your team-mates. When Tom [Huddlestone] gets the ball, I know he might be looking to put me through in positions other players might not. If he’s on the ball, I’m ready to run in behind.
You’ve got to be confident and stay calm. If you’re not, you might take a touch you wouldn’t normally or rush your shot. In terms of what you can do, you might want to give the keeper the eyes (look one way and play it another). What I try to do, though, is wait for him to make a move. This way, if he starts coming out to close you down or dives at your feet, you can react and take it around him or chip him. But to do that you need to stay calm and confident.
Convert a cross
It’s all about timing: that was key to my goal against Slovenia at the World Cup. You need to get into the right part of the box as the ball’s coming in. You need to know your player. I know that Aaron Lennon likes to hit it across the front post. So, it’s my job to get there. In the past I’ve said to him: “If you find the near post and I’m not there, hammer me!” It’s my mistake. Also, try to stand behind the defender just before the cross arrives. When the Slovenian defender looked back to see where I was, I was gone.
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