Nathan Redmond bringing order to the Colney classroom
06:30 17 December 2014
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It’s not every day you get told off by a footballer, but that’s what happened to me at Norwich City’s training ground last week.
Canaries are keeping us rather busy
Norwich City’s second-half blitz against Huddersfield was a rare joy for those of us used to seeing the Canaries struggle to swot pesky Championship flies this season – but it created an awful lot of work for some.
While I was merrily describing Bradley Johnson, Nathan Redmond and then Bradley Johnson again turn a 0-0 half-time score into a 3-0 lead after 51 minutes, there was steam rising off the computer keyboards back at Canary Call HQ.
A Norwich City goal is a precious thing. You never know quite how long you’re going to have to wait for the next one and so each time a Canaries player hits the back of the net our dedicated team in the studios at The Forum springs into action to save the commentary to keep for the ages and be played out again during our post-match phone-in.
The word ‘team’ might give an impression of a cast of thousands, but in reality they’re called Greg and Lucy.
A burst of three in six minutes meant the next goal was being scored before they’d finished clipping out the previous one. Don’t feel too sorry for them; they’ve had their fair share of quiet afternoons over the past couple of seasons.
Greg and Lucy are the modern equivalent of two long lost Carrow Road characters.
Before everything could be accessed by the wonder of technology, the correct Golden Goal times used to be paraded round the pitch by two old boys carrying a big old wooden sign with the time of the most recent goal pinned on for the crowd to compare their tickets to. It’s a long way round a football pitch when you’re carting something the size of a roadside billboard and their shoulders would visibly droop if another goal went in before they’d completed their lap of honour as the knowledge sunk in that there would be no sit-down once they got back to the halfway line. Round you go again, fellas.
If they’d been on duty at Carrow Road on Saturday our old friends would have clocked up their own marathon during that second half.
Each Thursday lunchtime those of us who earn a living covering the Canaries gather at Colney for what feels like a step back to our school days. We are herded into a portable building which immediately takes me back to maths lessons on cold winter mornings at Sprowston High School.
The shiver that goes down my spine is as much down to faded memories of algebra as the icy temperatures that supposedly helped us concentrate on what x must equal if y=3.
It’s a weekly assembly during which we sit cross-legged on the floor and listen to the latest messages from headmaster Neil Adams and whichever player has been appointed as media monitor for that week.
These weekly appointments are now sparsely populated. The bigger boys from places like Sky Sports and the national newspapers always seem to have a note from their mums. They are less inclined to show off their homework to Championship managers when opportunity exists to go and put an apple on the desks belonging to Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew or Harry Redknapp.
That leaves a hardcore of us from the local media, and naturally we’re quite excited to catch-up with our classmates as we unite in the common aim of putting our hands up and trying to think of a question which can’t be answered by saying “anyone can beat anyone in the Championship on their day”.
As we cheerfully greeted each other and started to discuss what we’d been up to during the previous week a stern face looked round the door and asked us to keep the noise down. It was the next sentence of this telling off which really stood out: “I’m trying to concentrate on my pilates session.” And that’s how I discovered the secret to Nathan Redmond’s success.
The City winger wasn’t alone. A sneaky peep through a crack in the door revealed several other first-team regulars carefully rolling mats onto the floor in a neighbouring mobile classroom. It was a rare glimpse into the inner workings of what the modern footballer goes through to keep in peak physical condition. Their PE lessons have changed since the so-called good old days when a couple of hours’ training used to be followed by an afternoon in the pub or down the bookies.
I didn’t take Redmond’s scalding particularly seriously. There was no detention and he seemed to have a smile on his face. It was refreshing to be allowed in on a nugget of what felt like classified training ground information. It was almost as exciting as discovering what your teacher’s real first name is when you’re 10 years old.
There was a time when Colney was not quite so sealed off to those of us in the media. As recently as during Nigel Worthington’s time as manager these weekly press briefings would take place in the manager’s office followed by a trip to the players’ canteen to gather interviews with whoever we fancied talking to. Gradually though, the media circus that surrounds football has increased and clubs like to manage who says what and when and safeguard the best access for their own websites.
It’s an inevitable conclusion of having their own outlets for news that they can run themselves. While I’ve been doing this job for BBC Radio Norfolk, I’ve seen the media move from the bosom of the manager’s office to the arm’s length of the car park.
Having seen Redmond’s sensational second-half display in the 5-0 win over Huddersfield I’m beginning to think it might be worth trying some of this pilates lark for myself.
At least that win means the mood will be good for this week’s Colney assembly.