Saturday, January 4, 2014
Having never been one for New Year’s resolutions or, in a Scrooge-like way, the festive season in general, it seems more pertinent to ask others what I expect from them, rather than what they expect of me. Therefore, not a single resolution will be made for the 2014 sporting year; I will not promise to give up smoking, drinking and gambling – pointless as I do none; I will not vow to lose weight, although I ought to. None of the myriad private promises will pass my lips, I promise …
This is what I want, what I believe I have every right to demand from my sports and their participants. There are plenty, so the only issue I have is where to start. The top might be a good idea.
The World Cup, and, in particular, England’s part in it. I believe it is time England delivered to me what it hasn’t since I was a six-year-old; success. Promise after promise has been made by way of unsubstantiated optimism over the years that perhaps Greg Dyke’s less than enthusiastic backing of England’s claims is, although annoyingly, the most realistic way of regarding our national football team. You will have noticed that when the draw was made, he not only provided a visual clue to his thoughts, by dragging his finger across his throat in a Captain Blackbeard style, but the response to England’s draw – pairing them with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica – was immediately met with a massive negative reaction. Somehow, it became the group of death. Why? Perhaps we are preparing ourselves for failure far better than we used to.
My request: You don’t have to win it, just go and make us proud, at least.
Norwich City in the Premier League in 12 months time. There are times when I think football fans don’t understand that a new relationship, between manager and club, is almost like starting over again. Chris Hughton’s task isn’t to go out and win the Premier League; it is to establish Norwich City’s place in the top flight, which in turns brings in more money, which in turns strengthens the squad and which in turn makes it ‘easier’ to stay there. That is the reality because if that happens, then you can ask him to go out and try and win it.
My request: Just make sure you are in it all year.
Local football: Wroxham and Lowestoft have been to FA Vas finals in the past few years, but are now out of the Eastern Counties League, their quality necessitating an inevitable move up the footballing ladder. Last season’s champions Dereham Town followed, as did Wisbech, although perhaps more for financial reasons. Big losses, but it has helped teams like Gorleston and Norwich United get a look-in. Gorleston have had big days in the past – the 70s and the first half of the 80s – and under Stewart Larter are flexing a few muscles again. Norwich United have never done better than an eighth-placed finish, but Damian Hilton has them firing as well, and they are in the last 32 of the FA Vase. Hilton, and some of his players, have experience of the big Vase stage when with Wroxham – a good run in a prestigious competition would give them and the league a huge boost.
My request: For a good FA Vase run for Norwich United.
The Winter Olympics: It’s always captured my imagination simply because of the visual brilliance of the sports, rather than an aficionado’s appreciate of their art. A local downhill skier, TJ Baldwin, could be there representing Team GB, if he qualifies next month – good luck to him. But the Game sis about more than the athletes this time: in Sochi, in Russia, is the venue for February two-week icy extravaganza – and the Russians have something to learn. They face the threat of boycotts because of their anti-gay laws. While sport doesn’t need this, more importantly, the citizens of Russia don’t need draconian laws. There are two clear arguments don’t give big sporting events to countries with poor human rights records, or, give them events to help persuade them of the wrongness of their ways. Apologies for the simplification, but …
My request: Let the Winter Games be a learning process for everyone.
Boxing: Will there be a Froch v Groves rematch? Have we seen the last of David Haye? And what will we make of Amir Khan? Boxing has plenty of promise in 2014, without any real answers. What we do know is that Cromer’s Liam Walsh fights Gary Sykes for the British super-featherweight title in February. This is a major achievement already: Norfolk doesn’t provide too many British title challengers, and as far as I am aware, only Herbie Hide and Jon Thaxton have ever worn the British title belt around their waists. Walsh is well equipped to join the club. He has conducted himself brilliantly inside and outside the ring and is a credit to his sport. His business is the fighting, that’s all. Walsh’s title fight is great reward for the work done in the small but perfectly-formed Kickstop Gym, under the guidance of trainer Graham Everett and Thaxton. The belt would be a fitting reward to them all
My request: For Liam Walsh to be rewarded for his efforts.
There are more, quite a lot more, things I would like to see: Posh winning promotion; King’s Lynn speedway winning the Elite League, Wes Hoolahan starting every game for Norwich, without fail; England’s cricketers displaying the same aggressive game-winning mentality as the Australians; me falling in love with fishing again.
Some will happen, some won’t. But if everyone at least tries in their attempts, we’re most of the way there.
Happy New Year.