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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What an extraordinary Saturday evening for Norwich City.
It hung uncomfortably in the balance for 90 minutes, was virtually impossible to take your eyes off and went to the sort of great lengths rarely seen at Carrow Road. And that’s just Arsene Wenger’s coat.
The Arsenal manager was almost a constant presence by the touchline after Grant Holt had rebounded the Canaries into a 19th minute lead. His demeanour was that of a maths teacher who had been asked to take a PE lesson last thing on a Friday afternoon when he had been expecting a free period and an early start to the weekend. But the impact of Wenger’s furrowed brow was lost in amongst his astonishing choice of touchline attire.
The half coat, half sleeping bag made of that puffa jacket type material finished at shin level and was a surprising choice for a manager who takes such pride in producing some of the finest and most intricate football that this country has ever seen.
For all their attractiveness Arsenal are without a major trophy since 2005. Perhaps Wenger’s anorak started out as a waistcoat and a couple of inches are sewn on to the bottom for each cup-free year he has to endure.
If the Polish FA had been able to borrow it to put over their stadium in Warsaw last week, that England game would have gone ahead. It is difficult to do the jacket justice in print alone but sufficed to say Andrew Lloyd Webber has written musicals about less spectacular looking coats.
Norwich City’s ambitions are much more modest than those of The Gunners and for that reason few expected the Canaries sluggish campaign to suddenly burst into life at the weekend. Bookmakers around the ground were offering odds of 100-1 on Norwich City 1 Arsenal 0 with Grant Holt scoring.
If only I’d had the foresight to tell you that on Saturday morning and not a full three days after the event.
Saturday was that one in a hundred occasion when everything fell into place for the Canaries sharp suited and coat-free manager Chris Hughton.
At times over the opening couple of months of the season he must have felt like hiding in a massive padded jacket as he searched for that elusive winning formula.
The roar which greeted the final whistle on Saturday evening was that of a collective weight being lifted off 26,000 pairs of shoulders as Norwich’s fretting fan base finally saw their team win a Premier League game this season.
It was also a typical sort of Hughton display, built on grit, determination and meticulous organisation.
Given Norwich’s troubled start and the recent run of games against Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea and then Arsenal it is no mean feat to be clear of the relegation zone ahead of this weekend’s Friends Reunited special at Villa Park.
All may seem rosy in the Carrow Road garden for now but football supporters can always find something to complain about.
When your team has just beaten Arsenal in such deserved fashion it is not easy to come up with pressing matters that need getting off one’s chest which is why City fan Tom Turner deserves credit for his creative tweet addressed to the club’s chief executive David McNally on Sunday. He complained (with tongue firmly in cheek I am sure) that the club ought to do something about the boots being worn by popular mascot Captain Canary adding ‘They are looking a bit tatty from where I sit now’.
If Arsene Wenger hears this talk of the good Captain getting some new footwear he might well put in an offer for the old ones.
They are very him.
• ON A ROLL WITH INTERNATIONAL MANAGERS
I have been asked to host an event with the England manager Roy Hodgson at Carrow Road next month.
These things always come with a great deal of paranoia about being under prepared so I sat down with a sharp pencil and a notebook ready for England’s match in Poland last week. What followed was proof that ITV can do top class entertainment without the need for Louis Walsh.
The farcical sight of the referee paddling onto a waterlogged pitch to see if a ball would roll properly was nothing short of hilarious and was another reminder that, although the authorities and TV companies like everything to look nice and shiny and be planned to the last tiny detail, football is always at its best when chaos reigns and no-one really knows what is happening.
In a year’s time everyone who was watching will remember that ref splashing about in Warsaw while very few will be able to recall what happened the next day when the game eventually did go ahead.
Many will have missed all the water-based fun because the England game was due to clash with one of the other TV highlights of the year; the final of the Great British Bake Off on the BBC.
Battle lines were drawn in many households over the remote control as football supporters vied with family members who had invested weeks into the undoubted thrill of watching people make cakes and things on television.
There is a certain irony in forcing people to choose between watching England play a World Qualifier or a load of very rich tarts competing against each other. Sorry, just getting it all out of my system before Mr Hodgson comes.
I’m on a bit of a run when it comes to international managers having found myself behind a grey haired gentleman in the queue for a half-time coffee at Carrow Road on Saturday.
As we exchanged pleasantries over the milk jug I realised it was non-other than Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland’s manager.
He cannot fail to have been impressed by both of Norwich’s Irish international contenders Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington after their tireless displays against Arsenal.
It says a lot for the coffee at Carrow Road that such an experienced Italian was going back for a second cup.