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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Footballers often talk about ‘the gaffer’. It is a term of great respect and mystique in the game used by players so in awe of a manager that they dare not use his real name.
To a footballer the gaffer is someone with the power to make or break a career. It is just as important a word to commentators, too. In our world it is not a term of endearment reserved for the boss, it is the most important piece of equipment in any commentary kit bag. It is a brave broadcaster who turns up to cover a game without a roll of gaffer tape.
Press boxes at football grounds tend to be designed to cram in as many people into as small a space as possible. It’s perfectly understandable; why would any club waste valuable seating areas on those who do not have to pay for a ticket? This brings its own challenges.
Quite often the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary team finds itself sitting some distance away from where the broadcasting equipment needs to be plugged in.
A veritable spaghetti junction of microphones, headphones and wires generally ensues as we work out the most efficient way of getting everything connected without either strangling ourselves or causing a trip hazard that would cause any health and safety inspector to swoon.
The game at West Ham on New Year’s Day was a good example. I had to carefully stretch the lead for our broadcast line so that it could be plugged in under one of the desks in the row in front of the one we were actually sitting in. It meant there was a very real risk that whoever would be sitting in the seat in front would accidentally kick the plug out of the socket if the game got too exciting.
I reached for my trusty roll of black gaffer tape and set about trying to secure our bright green wire to Upton Park’s stone steps to lessen the risk of us being literally kicked off air.
Never have I been so thankful to a few yards of very sticky tape. It turned out the seat in front belonged to the former West Ham left back Julian Dicks, a man just as well known for kicking other players as he was footballs during his career.
Dicks hasn’t changed a bit since retiring. The shaven head and bulging eyes appear to have even scared off the ageing process. It’s as if Father Time knows this is one challenge he cannot win.
Without the gaffer tape in place there was a very real risk that at some point I would have been tapping Julian Dicks on the shoulder and asking if he’d mind if I crawled down under his seat to plug everything back in. Having seen him eat wingers for breakfast on a regular basis during an uncompromising playing career there was a genuine fear he might have fancied commentator pie with his half-time cuppa.
In the end my own gaffer proved to possess the qualities of Sven Goran Eriksson.
It held its position, refusing to jump up and staying stuck down no matter what happened during the 90 minutes. It was the sort of solid, reliable performance executed with the minimum of fuss of which Chris Hughton would have approved.
I was able to do my job without dropping off air or being kicked from pillar to post by Julian Dicks so, as a footballer would say in such circumstances, “Fair play to the gaffer.”
• CANARIES WINGER IS REALLY SHOWING HIS TRUE COLOURS
The common perception at the start of 2013 is that the FA Cup is not as shiny as it once was. That is not a dig at the Football Association’s polisher-in-chief, more at the reputation of the world’s most famous knockout competition.
The magic of third round day seemed in plentiful supply at five to three on Saturday at London Road. The presence of five thousand Norwich fans and the optimism of the home supporters that an upset could be in the air made for a traditional cup tie atmosphere.
In the end it was all rather straightforward for Norwich City, who produced a performance so professional against a feeble Peterborough team that the game ended up feeling less like a rare competitive fixture between the sides and more like the sort of pre-season friendly they have played on many occasions.
David Fox, Elliott Bennett and Simeon Jackson were among the players who tugged Chris Hughton’s tracksuit top and said, “look what we can do, boss” as they were given rare starts for the Canaries, but the overriding impression from the game was that Robert Snodgrass really is becoming an important player for City.
His effortless second-half finish to make it 3-0 means he is now Norwich’s top scorer and how he managed to thread a pass through Peterborough’s packed defence for Bennett to open the scoring would baffle Professor Brian Cox. Snodgrass managed to find space where there was none.
The former Leeds player nearly added another of his regular party pieces, a Beckhamesque free-kick –Posh’s goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik tipped one over the bar right at the end of the first half.
It’s debatable whether Norwich have ever had a more reliable free-kick taker. City fans have been frustrated at their side’s apparent lack of threat from set-pieces over the years, with the top tier of the Barclay stand and any defensive wall often under more pressure than the goal when the Canaries get a free kick within shooting distance, but ‘Snoddy’, as he is becoming affectionately known, is changing that.
The only thing that is missing from Snodgrass’ impressive first-half season as a Norwich player is a goal at Carrow Road.
All five of his strikes so far have come away at Spurs, Southampton, Swansea, West Brom and Peterborough but it can’t be long before the home supporters are treated to a Snoddy Special.