Whittaker strike could prove the turning point for Norwich City

PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 December 2014

Steven Whittaker of Norwich (partially hidden) scores his sides equalising goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Ipro Stadium, Derby
. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Steven Whittaker of Norwich (partially hidden) scores his sides equalising goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Ipro Stadium, Derby . Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

It would be wrong to describe Steven Whittaker as the new Simeon Jackson.

Never miss jumping on a bandwagon

I am never one to miss the opportunity to jump on a sporting bandwagon, particularly where there’s a sniff of Norfolk success.

That’s why I’m now claiming that I’ve always been a big fan of both Darren Webster and Caroline Flack.

Webster will spend Christmas preparing for a tilt at the second round of the PDC World Darts Championship after a sensational win over former finalist Simon Whitlock on Saturday night at Alexandra Palace. Those sessions on the dartboard he has on the wall of his little insurance office in Earlham and all that practise between clients is clearly paying off.

Since it became clear that Caroline Flack might win Strictly Come Dancing I’ve been telling anyone who will listen about the time I spotted her at Corley Services on the M6 on the way to a Norwich City away game about three years ago.

It’s a true story that should not be lessened by the fact that I wouldn’t have known her unless my co-commentator for that trip Paul McVeigh, a keener connoisseur of all things Heat magazine than I am, hadn’t been so eagle-eyed. The other truth is that I haven’t seen a single second of this year’s Strictly. My commitment to places like Corley services on a Saturday night runs deeper than Caroline Flack’s, with all the motorway miles involved in covering the Canaries.

In fact my grasp of Saturday night light entertainment is so poor that when this newspaper started its ‘Back Flack’ campaign in support of Norfolk’s great hope for some celebrity TV success I misread it and was expecting to see ex-Norwich striker Robert Fleck lining up on stage alongside Brucie.

What do you mean Brucie doesn’t do it anymore? Okay, so I have gaps in my knowledge when it comes to popular culture but how many people know which is the slow petrol pump that’s best avoided at Norton Canes Services on the M6 Toll Road? That’s what Saturday night entertainment is like for me.

There are several reasons why those two couldn’t be more different, but when it comes to dramatic late goals against Derby County they have plenty in common.

Jackson’s stoppage time goal which clinched a 3-2 victory for the Canaries on Easter Monday 2011 put Norwich City on the verge of a much anticipated Premier League return.

If I had a pound for each time the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary of that goal has been replayed since then I would be in for a very good Christmas.

It’s worth noting that after getting perhaps a little too carried away on the microphone about a late goal one of two things can happen to your career.

In the three-and-a-half years since I shared that emotional Carrow Road moment with Neil Adams one of us has progressed to be given the responsibility of managing the very football team we were covering that day. The other is barely trusted to pour his own cup of tea in the press room for fear that he might get carried away and spill it.

This may be connected to the time I accidentally dropped a used tea bag into a photographer’s kit bag. It wasn’t my fault, he’d put it where the bin usually stood, so it could have happened to anyone. It took an age for him to turn away for long enough for me to fish the soggy old thing out without him seeing.

The Jackson winner has gone into Norwich City folklore to the extent that it was the first thing that Derby County’s affable head of communications Colin Gibson mentioned when we met at what is now called the Ipro Stadium on Saturday morning.

His memories were less of a pulsating and life affirming match-winner and more of one of those goals that bursts the balloon inside your stomach and makes you say “I can’t believe we’ve come all this way for that”.

He may have experienced a similar punctured feeling on Saturday when Steven Whittaker expertly applied the vital touch to a corner that hadn’t been properly dealt with by the Derby defence.

It was a finish of some finesse and while it’s no good even pretending that goal will live as long in the memory as the Canaries’ previous late show against Derby it felt like a potentially significant moment in City’s season.

Without it the previous two wins against Huddersfield and Wigan would have been a false dawn and we would have been instantly transported back in time about a month when the hit single ‘We Deserved More From That Game’ was the stuck record of choice at Carrow Road and getting more airtime than Noddy Holder in December. I bet Noddy gets a few pence for every time Slade gets played at this time of year which is a few pence more than Neil and I get when that much-repeated commentary clip gets an outing! I shouted just as loud as Noddy’s screeching “it’s Christmas!”

As it is, seven points from a possible nine, including a hard earned one at a Derby County side who have been going very well this season, finally feels like something to build on as 2014 fades away.

Norwich will spend Christmas outside the top six which underlines that plenty of work still needs to be done if the Canaries are to stick to that prematurely set new year’s resolution from the board room of returning to the Premier League at the earliest possible opportunity. However, at least City fans now have a little more reason to believe that a proper bolt of Simeon Jackson shaped lightning could strike again in spring 2015.

Hopefully I’ll be there to commentate on it but I need a rest after having to cope with Derby taking the lead twice on Saturday with goals from Russell and Martin against a Norwich defence which included Russell Martin.

It’s no wonder Neil headed for the touchline at the earliest opportunity.

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