The last time Danny Welbeck scored a Premier League goal, he was still an Arsenal player and Boris Johnson was a backbench MP. What a way to emerge from a 23-month hibernation; a sensational overhead kick lighting up a drab game and securing Watford, the team he joined on a free transfer last August, all three points.
It may prove the goal that keeps Waford in the Premier League.
Project Restart has not been kind to Nigel Pearson's team. Heading into this match, they had picked up just one point from four games. This crucial win lifted them four points clear of Aston Villa and Bournemouth in the relegation zone, albeit having played a game more than their two nearest rivals.
But more than that, it breathed new life and hope into their season. This was a must-win game for Watford, at home against a Norwich team whose heads have long since dropped.
They made very heavy weather of it. For much of the first half, as Onel Hernández ran at the Watford back four and Emiliano Buendia buzzed about Vicarage Road, Norwich looked the more fluid side, like they were playing with less pressure on their shoulders. Which they were.
It took the visitors just four minutes to add to Watford’s recent misery; Kiko Femenia bullied off the ball by Hernández who advanced to the edge of the area and slipped a pass across to Buendia on the right.
The Argentine still had plenty to do, but he checked back on to his left foot and sent the ball arcing past the despairing dive of Ben Foster.
Watford got back into the game a few minutes later, when Craig Dawson was allowed to ghost in at the far post and meet an Etienne Capoue free kick.
But while that gave Watford parity, the identity of the goalscorer also summed up their deficiencies. Dawson, a centre back, was also the scorer of Waford’s only other ‘post-lockdown’ goal until this game, against Leicester last month (discounting an own goal from Southampton defender Jan Bednarek).
No wonder Pearson looked so pleased by Welbeck’s contribution at the end. It was not just the winner - spectacular though that was - it was his athleticism in general. His willingness to drive at Norwich’s defenders. A fit-again Welbeck could be a real boost for the run-in.
A scorer of brilliant goals for Manchester United and for Arsenal (and 16 for England in 42 appearances), Welbeck has never been a prolific goalscorer. And, yes, this was his first Premier League goal for 23 months, since scoring for Arsenal against West Ham back in August 2018.
But that can be largely attributed to the fact that Welbeck has hardly played since then. A broken ankle ruined his final season with Arsenal and this was only his fifth start for Watford.
But he remains only 29. And with Gerard Deulofeu out for the remainder of the campaign, he offers Watford something different up front.
With Troy Deeney still labouring post-lockdown, Welbeck certainly looked like the man most likely to score for the hosts. Twice in the first half he went close with headers. And a few minutes before his goal he drove at the heart of the Norwich defence and drew a foul on the edge of the area.
His eventual winner owed much to Norwich’s sloppy defending; Ismailia Sarr outmuscling Kenny McLean far too easily on the right and Max Aarons fluffing a clearance. But the 29 year-old’s strike was sensational. "It means a lot to me and means a lot to the whole team,” he told Sky Sports afterwards adding that he had “done it a few times in training”.
“It is one that puts us on our way now. We will give it our all from now, but I am speechless after the goal. I knew I had caught it, kept my eye on the ball and it went in the top bins.”
How Watford needed it. They have four games remaining and two wins could well be enough to keep them up. They may need to get them against Newcastle (h) and West Ham, with Manchester City (h) and Arsenal (a) their last two opponents. “No this does not give us breathing space,” Pearson admitted: “We do not have an opportunity to not stay focused.”