April 21 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
How best to sum up Norwich City’s goalless draw with West Ham? Well, put it this way, I saw famous Hammers fan Kriss Akabusi at half-time and he was relatively subdued.
Since retiring from a successful career as a sprint hurdler Akabusi has become every television producer’s friend. His boundless energy, enthusiasm and trademark booming laugh make him the perfect guest to liven up a dry old chat show or add some chutzpah to any panel game. Akabusi seems to live constantly in the world of a six-year-old at his own birthday party, dosed up on cherryade. More power to him. As my more straight-laced spelling of the first name Chris suggests, I do not possess anything like the reserves of energy or fizzy pop required to keep up with the three-time Olympic medallist.
He was not like that on Saturday though as he watched from the Carrow Road Director’s Box, just behind the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary position. It was one of those rare occasions when being the last game shown on Match of the Day was met with a universal shrug and “fair enough, Gary” from all who had been there.
Those who were watching live on television were probably flicking around to see what they were cooking on Saturday Kitchen long before half-time but to anybody with an emotional investment in the game it was absolutely gripping. As a Premier League spectacle it may have been lacking, but the tension around Carrow Road was bordering on the unbearable.
It felt like a really big game for the Canaries. Defeat would have given newly-promoted West Ham a seven-point advantage over Norwich City. It may only be September, but Norwich can ill-afford to give those teams who share the priority of Premier League survival that sort of a head start.
With no league win on the board this season City fans’ index fingers were already quivering after they had been run down a fixture list which includes Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa as a rather daunting run of games between now and the start of November. When circumstances like that collide even a relatively uninspiring 0-0 draw can become edge of the seat stuff.
This is what it is going to be like from here on in, that knot in your stomach which lasts for 90 minutes each weekend is here to stay. It’s easy to forget just how hard won each Premier League point is when your aim is to collect enough to stay up.
Early indications are that Norwich may just gradually inch towards survival. This run of three straight draws suggests that Chris Hughton has assembled a team more difficult to beat than the Norwich City of last season.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy famously donates money to Help for Heroes each time he keeps a clean sheet. It looks as though that particular charity can budget for more than the three cash injections it received in total from that source last season. To look as untroubled from set-pieces against a team drilled by Sam Allardyce as the Canaries did on Saturday is an achievement which should not be underestimated.
The ‘goals for’ column is the obvious concern. Pointing out that scoring twice in the first four games is not what Hughton would have wanted is the sort of level of insight that might get one a place on the Match of the Day sofa the next time Alan Shearer’s on holiday.
The chances are coming, though, and if shooting practice on the training ground can bear fruit soon it already looks as if City will have enough to keep at least three teams below them for the remainder of the season, just as they have done so far.
It may feel like a long old season at times but it’ll be worth all the stress and worry when we’re cracking open lashings of cherryade to celebrate staying up again.
Don’t let me have any more than three glasses though or I might start spelling my first name with a ‘K’.
• HOW I CROSSED THE WHITE LINE ON HUMAN FALLIBILITY
Norfolk is not the easiest county in which to construct an argument about the wonders of modern technology. In this land that the mobile phone providers forgot the definition of a good 3G signal is anyone who can get a decent reception in all of Gorleston, Gayton and Great Massingham.
So it is at the risk of being cast as the stereotypical backwards looking yokel that I proffer the opinion that allowing TV replays to aid football referees may not be the great solution the game has been waiting for after all.
No, before you ask, I do not believe that showing an incident on a screen 30 seconds after it has happened is a form of witchcraft.
When Andrew Surman went crashing down in the West Ham area on Saturday afternoon I was immediately outraged to see the referee award a free-kick on the edge of the box and not the penalty I had been expecting. I looked to the magic box placed in our commentary position to see the foul again. A replay was shown which backed up my instinct. Norwich had been hard done by and should definitely have had a spot kick.
I was mid-rant about how being one letter short of becoming a six-time Olympic gold medal winning cyclist was the least of referee Chris Foy’s problems when a replay from a different angle was shown. Alas, he was right. Surman had been fouled just outside the box and the momentum of the challenge had taken him the other side of the line.
Even presented with the video evidence I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Here lies the problem. No matter how good the technology is, at some point an actual human being, sometimes a well-meaning berk like me, will have to interpret what is being shown into an actual decision.
It’s why the usefulness of video evidence to football begins and ends with goalline technology. It can easily be used to establish whether a ball has gone over a white line because it is a matter of fact, it either has or it hasn’t and it should already be in place for that. But many of the real game changing decisions, for example about whether somebody dived or was fouled, are subjective and radio phone-in programmes would live on fuelled by bitter complaints about hapless refs long after its introduction.
I have alerted the FA and FIFA to my concerns. Or at least I would have done but the Norfolk broadband network does not seem to be working. Has anyone got Sepp Blatter’s fax number?