The new National Football Museum in Manchester hits the target, says GERARD HENDERSON
FOUR paces back, run in, head over the ball, bottom left-hand corner: Goal! And that, England's Ashley Young, is how you take a penalty. Granted, I didn't have all the pressure of a Euro 2012 quarter-final and the hopes of a nation on my back when I struck my spot-kick.
Instead I'm in the impressive new National Football Museum in central Manchester, a city that knows a thing or two about the beautiful game, taking part in its interactive penalty shoot-out with actual goalposts from Wembley.
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hands-(or feet) on elements to It's one of a fantastic range of hands- (or feet) on elements to the museum, which opened yesterday. You can also try being the next John Motson (Motty's famous sheepskin coat is an exhibit) in the Match of the Day Commentary Challenge, take home a photo of yourself lifting a major trophy and even be the ref.
There's the chance to try your hand at saving a "pen" and to showcase your best tricks and flicks. For younger children there's a story-telling corner and the chance to dress like the superstars.
Then there are the exhibits - around 140,000 objects, artworks and photographs that make up the greatest football memorabilia collection ever assembled. There's the first ever set of rules from 1863, a shirt from the first international in 1872, trophies galore and the strip worn by Maradona during the infamous 1986 "Hand of God" match between England and Argentina.
The wit of the game is much in evidence; Sir Matt Busby's talk to his Sixties Manchester United side was simply: "Whenever possible give the ball to George Best."
The Munich and Hillsborough disasters have their place in the story. So do the fans. Particularly in the stunning The museum doesn't shy away from sadder times. The Munich and Hillsborough disasters have their place in the story. So do the fans. Particularly in the stunning photography exhibition by Stuart Clarke, The Homes Of Football. His atmospheric images of the terraces evoke memories of the age before Premier League prima donnas and corporate hospitality. You can almost taste the Bovril.
The museum also hosts football's Hall Of Fame - names like Dixie Dean, the Charltons, Finney and Matthews, Best and Beckham.
Museum director Kevin Moore has overseen the move from its home at Preston's Deepdale ground. The self-confessed Tranmere fan says: "There is something for everyone here. You don't have to be mad about football to have fun and enjoy it."
His favourite exhibit? "It has to be the 1966 World Cup Final ball, the ball Sir Geoff Hurst put into the net for that fourth goal." Will future visitors be able to gaze on another icon of national triumph? It won't be England's Euro 2012 winning ball, but Brazil 2014 will soon be with us and we can all dream. In the meantime, head over the ball Ashley.
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National Football Museum (0161 605 8200/www.nationalfootballmuseum.com), admission free. Discovery Zone activities chargeable; Penalty Shootout £5. Visit Manchester: 0871 222 8223/ www.visitmanchester.com