We’ve had false starts, new starts – what will the latest Gunn bring to Norwich City?
I’ve been privy to Norwich City’s opening game at close quarters for the last decade or so – but I’ll be damned if I can remember too many of them.
Maybe it is because that first flush of footballing frolics comes after a summer in which our hopes have been built higher and higher, only to dissolve in an ugly mix of over-confidence and sunny lethargy.
Since a personal return to these shores on the eve of the noughties, City have won two opening day fixtures. Two. As a certain local politician once said: that is a disgrace.
Well, actually, it isn’t, but that line always makes me laugh.
There are a few games that come to mind in sharper focus than others.
Paul McVeigh snapping back at a question about why City conceded a two-goal lead in the final six minutes at Bradford was interesting: it was hot out there, he said. It certainly was. I was dripping just sitting in the stands. But so were 21 others on the pitch, so that didn’t cut much in the way of mustard.
Crystal Palace in 2004, if only because Darren Huckerby’s fine goal is immortalised in a fabulous photograph up in the South Stand at Carrow Road.
Clearly the biggest of all was Colchester at home in 2009. A day I still can’t quite believe turned out as it did.
The story around it – and the ensuing week – was an incredible one.
Nothing was supposed to go wrong for Bryan Gunn, but even club legends aren’t immune from the fickleness of inattentive footballers. A 7-1 home defeat by Colchester United – and two weeks later the Us manager is in charge as Gunn is dismissed… after a 4-0 away win as it happens.
Gunn survived through it all – his name is etched so deeply into the history books that his reputation barely tarnished.
I certainly hope a dark cloud doesn’t blight his son’s possible first senior start, on the opening day at Fulham in August – if only because it needs City to win, and young Gunn to be a hero, to continue this amazing story.
We mustn’t forget that Gunn senior was between the sticks in 1992 when on opening day, City went to Arsenal ready for a whipping and came from two down at half-time to win 4-2.
It was sensational stuff – the Gunn family like it that way!
With Declan Rudd now at Preston the odds are that Gunn will start the season for City. Are we due another sensational story?
Just going back to the new season’s fixtures, I find it hard to believe the compilers could not devise a way to ensure City’s away games at Sunderland and Middlesbrough were on Saturdays.
Midweek trips to the north-east are extremely difficult for some supporters but every year it happens. Last season City had midweek league trips to Newcastle, Southampton, Wigan, Bristol City, Huddersfield and Preston (a Bank Holiday Monday).
The Football League’s fixtures’ guru, Paul Snellgrove said: “We try and ensure that most clubs have their local, well attended games on a Saturday to maximise the game for them.”
I translate that as “they are not expecting big crowds for those games so make them midweek anyway,” forgetting/ignoring the fans.
“We have a reporting tool that will list each club’s away midweek fixtures and home midweek fixtures, and we compare the mileage over those fixtures against the average mileage for the whole division, so the aim is to make sure that a club isn’t doing higher than its average overall mileage midweek.
“That said, we also have to consider derbies and the more well attended fixtures and play these on a weekend.”
Away fans do literally go that extra yard and I know from experience that it isn’t always a jolly boys outing to some places. The last thing they need is obstacles.
CRYING FOUL OVER VAR
The video replay system in use at the Confederation Cup is of great use – unless the referee is out of his depth.
The general idea - it is actually called the Video Assistant Referee - is laudable enough, but it will take time for officials, players and supporters to get used to it.
Most I have seen have been correct.
However, the drawback comes when the VAR gets things wrong.
In the New Zealand v Mexico game on Wednesday there was an almighty brawl. I lost count at four players who could easily have seen red.
Presumably the VAR (there is a qualified ref up in a box reviewing incidents) didn’t see anything untoward and the Gambian referee Bakary Gassama, having reviewed the incident, unbelievably issued only three yellow cards. It made a complete mockery of the system and will only encourage players to believe they can get away with foul play.