Norwich City players' generosity is just the ticket for good causes

PUBLISHED: 14:04 28 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:04 28 December 2017

Jonny Howson - a good gesture from a former player. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Jonny Howson - a good gesture from a former player. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

Footballer - and those who play it in particular - often get a bit of roasting in these pages.

The sport does often bring it upon itself – Liverpool paying an inordinate amount of money on a player springs to mind. And who knows what bad news next summer’s World Cup in Russia will bring?

So, credit where credit it due: here follows a heart-warming story about a few footballers with whom we are very familiar – Jonny Howson, Josh Murphy and Wes Hoolahan.

The origins of the story are back in 1996, when the Ambassadors Club at Carrow Road, under the chairmanship of Colin Tovell, formed the 250 Club to help bolster the academy department’s finances.

Colin managed to get 250 members, as the name suggests, who pay a tenner a month and have their name put in a monthly raffle.

City players have always been involved and in September this year, Jonny Howson’s number was pulled out of the hat as a £500 winner. Coincidentally, it was just before City’s trip to the Riverside, where Howson now plies his trade, so Colin – having forgotten his cheque book – collared young Jonny and told him the good news.

“He just said to forget the cheque and to put the money back into the academy, because they were important for all young players,” said Colin.

Howson then had another touch, this time £100, and again asked for the money to be ‘put back in’.

Ditto Josh Murphy who could have been £500 better off in October.

“He told me he wouldn’t be where he was today without the academy,” said Colin.

December’s draw saw £1,000 go to one Wesley Hoolahan – and he is donating to a children’s charity. Russell Martin has also had a couple of £100 wins which he has donated to the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation.

I don’t think I am writing out of turn here by revealing what City players do with their raffle winnings – and I have no doubt that right now a few people reading this will say “well, they’re on thousands a week, they can afford it”.

That is not the point and it simply implies they are greedy just because they earn a lot of money. The act of giving the money is what needs to be remarked upon, not how much they already have.

Another thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is the role of Colin Tovell. When Gordon Bennett, the club’s chief executive in 1996, asked him to help raise funds for the academy he was left scratching his head.

The Ambassadors Club hierarchy met and discussed it and a monthly raffle was suggested. But it wasn’t until a trip to Manchester City for a game that the 250 Club idea was conceived.

That day, Colin noticed the hosts had a 200 club, acquired an application form – and the rest is history... to the tune of £350,000 raised for Norwich City’s academy set-up.

Colin’s generosity and the generosity of thoughtfulness of players shouldn’t go unremarked.

One can only hope...

New Year’s resolutions – you can love them or hate them.

As far as I am concerned my only personal vow involves not using the exercise bike as something on which to hang clothes and instead get the pedals turning and returning to fitness. It’s a hollow promise/threat/resolution, as has been proved over several years.

So hate it is then. Which leaves me with some hopes of 2018.

I do hope the only incident football has to deal with at the World Cup is the surprise package that is England. I am conditioned to international failure, although I am definitely not one of those who claim they would rather watch Mrs Brown’s Boys than an England game. I am the last person to wave a St George’s flag, but I always want England to do well. And always end up disappointed.

And I do hope that football fans engage their brains before letting loose on their keyboards. Social media is wonderful, but it has exposed the foolish. Just recently we had a story about ex-City player Robbie Brady suffering a serious injury. Not nice for the lad. But some of the responses were amazing: “Who cares? Don’t care if he’s injured, he isn’t a Norwich player.”

Really, that’s the only constructive thing you have to say?

And safe standing: a bit of common sense needs to be applied to find a compromise which is, as it suggests, safe, and allows more people to enjoy what remains the beautiful game.

Sticky business

King’s Lynn Town boss Ian Culverhouse is always a reluctant talker to the media – he’s always nice and friendly, but much prefers his players to do the talking.

But Cully was happy enough to stand in the cold and let off a bit of steam about what he saw as the reason Lynn had failed to get more than a point from their game against struggling St Ives on Boxing Day... the pitch.

It was a gluepot. It won’t be the only non-league gluepot at this time, but when you have built a team to play good football, this sort of surface is not really what you wan.

Good football is the Culverhouse brand: the diamond formation is there to pick pockets, as he said, to provide strength in numbers in attack. And it works: Lynn’s early-season games were a joy to watch, fantastic stuff, the wide men doing great work, the strikers finishing it all off. And that’s why they are top of the league.

Lynn’s goal came from Simon Lappin’s superbly-struck free-kick, but the fact the ball didn’t touch the ground between leaving that trusty left boot and hitting the back of the net, simply illustrated what Culverhouse was saying.

The Linnets are top of a league which has just one automatic promotion spot and the play-off lottery, and it would be an awful waste were the pitch to cost the club valuable points.

I wouldn’t run a football club for all the tea in China, but owner Stephen Cleeve needs to have a look at some remedial work as soon as possible. The pitch won’t have a bowling green surface for a while, but the better it is, the more chance Lynn have.

On the same subject, it perhaps ought to be mentioned that among the playing ranks there is someone whose contribution has gone under the radar. Ryan Jarvis is one of four players to have started all 25 league games – keeper Alex Street, Cameron Norman and Craig Parker the others – and the ex-Norwich man has been excellent. In his early days he was a striker, nowadays the 31-year-old operates from the base of the diamond. He is always available, has a terrific brain, always finds his man, tracks back – the lot. Definitely my player of the season so far.

Follow Chris Lakey on Twitter

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