Michail Antonio revealed the inspiration behind his carboard cut-out celebration and issued a challenge to his rivals for the Golden Boot.
Antonio became table-topping West Ham’s all-time Premier League goalscorer as his double helped the Hammers thrash 10-man Leicester 4-1 at the London Stadium.
The newly-crowned Hammers No 9 took centre stage for himself late on to become the club’s record Premier League scorer, first holding off Caglar Soyuncu to power home his 48th league goal for the club, breaking Paolo Di Canio’s record. He celebrated in hilarious fashion by kissing a life-size cardboard cut-out of himself.
And he moved within one of his half century four minutes later, taking one touch from Vladimir Coufal’s cross to take the ball away from his man, and beating Kasper Schmeichel with a second.
His double salvo puts him top of the goalscoring charts in the Premier League with three goals, albeit only after two games.
When asked if he can stay top in the race for the Golden Boot, Antonio, with his smile beaming out, replied: “Obviously! And I’m going to put a big distance between us so no-one can catch me!”
And what was the thinking behind the celebration?
He said: “I thought, I’m making history, I’ve got to do something special. Did any of you get what celebration it was?
“Save the Last Dance [sic: Dirty Dancing] – the lift from the end!
“It was an amazing night. The fans enjoyed it, we enjoyed it. There’s nothing better than scoring a goal and hearing a roar from the fans.”
Antonio admitted that the Di Canio’s record was playing on his mind in the first half, where he snatched at a couple of half chances.
His manager David Moyes noticed and said he was unhappy with his striker’s performance in the first 45 minutes but heaped praise on his shoulders for his contribution after the break.
He said: “I didn’t think he’d made the right choices with the ball in the first half a few times, but he was a different class after half-time, with his link-up play and positioning.
“His goals are typical Mich. He can score so many. I didn’t think he made the right choices in the first half but in the second half he was different class.
“He’s only been at centre-forward for the last 18 months or two years. He’s gone on from there and he’s looking a real handful. His all-round play has improved so much.”
Carra: He just makes me smile
Antonio landed the man-of-the-match award for his performance through the middle and drew plenty of praise from the Monday Night Football pundits in the studio.
Jamie Carragher said: “You can’t not like him. His personality. His celebrations. The carboard cut-out, brilliant.
“We talk about him as a personality, we all like him. But what should not be lost is his absolute quality as a player. If West Ham do bring in a centre-forward, he would be back-up and he would have to know he is back-up, because this fella is that good. He is not this big signing, he didn’t have that big name, he came as a right-back or a right-winger, but he is a special player and if he cost West Ham £50m or £60m, they would be raving about what they had done in the transfer market.”
Gary Neville said: “The hardest positions to play in football are in goal and when playing up front on your own. Antonio is absolutely brilliant at it. He occupies defenders, is a nightmare to play against, he’s a goal threat and has really refined his game and become more polished. I remember when I was with England with Roy Hodgson we were looking at him as a right-back with West Ham. I never thought he’d end up as this presence he is in the Premier League as a forward. He’s absolutely brilliant.”