Iwelumo: I feared being thrown to the Wolves on my return to Molineux after THAT miss but instead of mockery and taunts I got sympathy

Chris Iwelumo arrived at the Sir Jack Hayward training ground on Monday expecting a
torrid reception from mocking team-mates.

Replays of a cataclysmic miss against Norway on the striker’s Scotland debut had been beamed around the world and shown ad nauseum in teasing terms.

There was no gunshot at Hampden on Saturday, no grassy knoll and no conspiracy at play.

Chris Iwelumo

Scotland's Chris Iwelumo is shocked as he misses from three yards against Norway in their World Cup qualifier at Hampden

In football terms, however, this was a bona fide JFK moment and the 30-year-old expected a savaging at the hands of his primarily English Wolves club-mates.

That he was met only with sympathetic looks and muted awkwardness from the men who, in normal circumstances, show precious little mercy, served only to emphasise the meteoric nature of the striker’s elevation into the hall of infamy.

‘I couldn’t wait to get back into training,’ said Iwelumo yesterday, as the consequences of his faux pas continued to reverberate through George Burley/Kris Boyd fall-out.

‘I woke up on Sunday morning and just wished it was Monday so I could get back with the boys again and get into the banter.

‘To be fair, it was quite low key when I got back - everyone must have been feeling sorry for me.

‘I knew they would be great, as they are such a good bunch of lads. There were a few little comments, but nothing too bad or too harsh.’

It might have been easier all round if the men Iwelumo trusts with his life had indulged in mass mockery and rampant buffoonery.

The true reaction, however, proved that some things go beyond satire.

The look of horror on Iwelumo’s face as his wrong-footed thump at a Gary Naysmith cross soared wide of the post from three yards was captured brilliantly by [hotographers behind the goal.

This could have been a stunning introduction to the international scene. A moment which would have rendered George Burley as an astute tactical judge and Rangers
striker Boyd an irrelevance.

Chris Iwelumo

Chris Iwelumo coudn't believe his memorable miss

That Iwelumo, a former St Mirren striker, knows this, yet still refuses to hide from the glare of a ferocious media, makes this particular footballer’s failings somehow forgivable.

To some, if not all.

Barring a hat-trick against Argentina next month, this is a player destined to be an eternal nearly man, yet one who accepts his potential fate with good grace.

Iwelumo said: ‘It wasn’t to be and I was two centimetres away from being a national hero. That might be a selfish way to look at it, but that’s how close it was.

‘I was delighted to be involved but obviously I’m gutted with the chance I missed.

‘It was a big chance and I missed it - that’s what everybody’s going to be talking about.

‘I have to weather the storm and bounce back - and I will. It’s part and parcel of football. There are many highs and lows and you have to take them on the
chin. If that’s all I’m to be remembered for, then so be it.

‘The fans have been awesome. A lot of them e-mailed Sky when I was doing an interview on S u n d a y - both Wolves and Scotland fans - and they were making some nice comments.

'There were also one or two the other way, but that’s fair enough. What happened on
Saturday got me down but it’s gone now and I can’t do anything to change it.

'People know what I’m about, so we’ll just get on with it.’

Returning to the changing room at Hampden, the second-half substitute offered team-mates a fulsome apology.

Yet the men at the sharp end of the professional game refused to countenance any self-conscious acts of penance.

Time and perspective bring only sympathy and empathy for Iwelumo rather than condemnation.

Inevitably, there was also humour to be had at the striker’s expense yesterday, one newspaper lining up a West Highland terrier, a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler, a
grandmother and a schoolboy in a public park to show that anyone should be able to score from three yards out. For the record, the dog scored with its nose.

Iwelumo himself had taken heart from his two young daughters after the miss of the decade, not to mention words of consolation from club team-mates.

‘The Scottish lads were great with me,’ he said. ‘There were a few who came up that maybe I would not have expected to, telling me to keep my chin up and so on.

‘And the gaffer, Mick McCarthy, phoned me afterwards, as well.

‘My two girls are my pride and joy and so it was hard for me not to smile when I saw them at Hampden after the match.

‘I still enjoy scoring goals and that’s not going to change. I just have to move on - I had a good chat with the missus about it before coming back to training and it was just one of those things.


Iwelumo wants to help Wolves back to winning ways in the Championship

‘If it’s all people want to talk about, then so be it - it’s just something I’ll have to take.’

It remains impossible to escape the fact that the introduction of Boyd, rather than the otherwise lively and inventive Iwelumo, might have done everyone a favour.

Bewildered by the news of his erstwhile international team-mate’s post-match huff, the Wolves star expressed regret.

‘It’s a big loss,’ he said. ‘Kris brings goals and his goalscoring tally is unbelievable.

‘It’s disappointing he has come to that decision, but each to their own. I had a look at his goal tally and I was shocked. The guy is a goal machine.

‘He’s a good lad to have around for banter, too, and it’s a big loss.’

Overlooked in the great Boyd debate is the fact that on Iwelumo’s last appearance for
Wolves at Preston, the striker scored a hat-trick.

That he subsequently earned a red card and served a suspension may have dulled his scoring sharpness to some degree.

But in an admirable show of stiff upper lip defiance, he insisted: ‘I felt good for the 35 minutes on Saturday, so there are no excuses.

‘There’s nothing to worry about, there’s nothing to hold me back and I’m feeling good and feeling fit.

‘I’m sitting top scorer at Wolves and we’re sitting second in the Championship table. We’ve had a blip in the last two matches, but we’re coming back together this week and just need to get back to winning ways. I want to pick up where I left off.’

For his own good, it’s to be hoped that Iwelumo picks up from his last club game rather than the moment which set his name in stone on Saturday.