A case of billionaires’ row versus Norwich City’s Penny Lane

Norwich City skipper Grant Holt celebrates in his now traditional style after scoring at Stamford Bridge at the weekend. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images Norwich City skipper Grant Holt celebrates in his now traditional style after scoring at Stamford Bridge at the weekend. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Chris Goreham
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
3:44 PM

Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles first single ‘Love Me Do’. The occasion was celebrated by enough TV channels and radio stations to mean most of the country will have woken up on Saturday morning with a Beatles song going round and round in their head. My particular earworm was ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, although by the end of the day there was a stark reminder that, while the sentiment of the song is admirable, money can buy Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Fernando Torres. Chelsea’s own fab four combined in formidable fashion to inflict a predictable Premier League defeat on Norwich City.

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The only real chance of seeing a Canaries’ victory at Stamford Bridge was if any of the young fans playing on the four X-box consoles which are set up like arcade games within sight of the pitch had run into some luck after deciding to take on the role of a virtual Grant Holt. It was curious to see these systems being used during the game. A couple of Chelsea’s younger fans were playing a keenly fought game of computerised football, their thumbs going 10 to the dozen, oblivious to the actual real-life Premier League match featuring some of the world’s top stars which was going on behind them. I’m sure whoever had forked out Chelsea prices for them to go the match will have been delighted. Let’s assume they are the sort of people who will be able to afford to get the name of the Blues new defender Cesar Azpilicueta printed on the back of the same youngster’s brand new replica shirt.

That’s the thing about spending an afternoon at what used to be Stamford Bridge but is now a billionaire’s playground. It is not just the standard of the play on the pitch which has you regularly shaking your head in a mixture of admiration, surprise and jealousy, there a constant reminders that you have stepped into a world far removed from Carrow Road and what you and I would know as ’normal football’.

Chelsea is one of the places talked about in hushed tones by reporters as one of the best for catering in the business. I won’t bang on about the quality of the grub in the press room, no one wants to hear about a group of spoilt football reporters with their snouts in the trough – we know we are lucky to get anything. It was rather heartbreaking, though, to see the terrible waste which was a plate of perfectly good cheese scones (with a bit of parma ham and cream cheese in) swept straight into the bin by one of the staff during Chris Hughton’s post-match press conference. I have a suspicion that at most grounds they would have been simply polished on the chef’s apron and served up again at the next home game.

This particular 4-1 defeat was easier to stomach than it would usually have been and not because of the food, just the fact that it didn‘t feel like a level playing field. Sure, the defending for at least a couple of Chelsea’s goals left plenty to be desired, but Roberto Di Matteo’s team looked as though they were in the sort of mesmerizing form which meant they could have stepped up another gear or two if they’d needed to.

The big plusses for Norwich are that Grant Holt is running into the sort of form that we’ll need him to be in to drag us out of the bottom three and we will not have to go to Stamford Bridge again this season in the league.

It’s now all about making sure we can have another Magical Mystery Tour to the Oligarch’s garden next season.

• HOW FANS’ FORUM BOMBSHELL BOWLED ME A GOOGLY

For the first time in my life I know how Mike Gatting must have felt when he was bowled by Shane Warne’s first ever delivery in an Ashes Test Match in 1993. ‘The Ball of the Century’, as it became known, deviated off the Old Trafford pitch to such an extent that it tied one of England’s most experienced batsmen in knots.

I was marking my own guard on Thursday night, hosting a fans’ forum at Carrow Road with the Canaries manager Chris Hughton, chief executive David McNally and chairman Alan Bowkett on a panel in front of 130 supporters. It was a sort of Canary Question Time only with less politics and more football, or so we all thought.

Just as I was settling into my role as a yellow and green David Dimbleby, Bowkett dropped the bombshell about Paul Lambert suing the club for up to £2m. Lost for words, if I could have tucked my bat under my arm and wandered back to the pavilion I would have done, but the show had to go on.

A few days on and with the dust settling on the latest Lambert revelation it’s clear that actually not much has changed. He’s no longer the Norwich City manager, despite what the graphics on Match of the Day said on Saturday evening, and the legal wrangling should have little effect on what the Canaries do on the pitch for the rest of the season.

It is a shame that a wonderful three years in our club’s history ended in such bitter fashion between Lambert and at least some members of the board.

For whatever reason, there is no way he was ever staying beyond the end of last season and if it hadn’t been Aston Villa it would have been somewhere else. Those ‘what if he’d stayed?’ hypothetical questions are totally null and void.

Whatever you think of the personalities involved, it’s clear that Norwich City’s fortunes on the pitch benefited from whatever brand of football dynamite was being let off behind the scenes. That rapid rise from League One to top flight will never be forgotten.

If the Lambert saga and a defeat by the money bags of Chelsea have left you feeling a bit downtrodden about the heady mixture of cash and bitterness which seems to fuel modern day football then let me point you in the direction of the new Mr and Mrs Dagless, Mark and Lynette, who married on Friday.

They both appeared on BBC Radio Norfolk’s breakfast show on the morning of their wedding to share the feel-good story of their first meeting in Carrow Road’s River End. It was the summer of 2010 and they had volunteered to help with the maintenance of the crowd. Love blossomed whilst they repainted one of the handrails in what we must now call the Norwich and Peterborough Stand.

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