From Bordeaux to Sheringham: the adventures of former Norwich City midfielder Cedric Anselin
PUBLISHED: 12:39 14 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:49 14 November 2016
There can't be many footballers who have played alongside Zinedine Zidane and also turned out at Bradenham Wanderers in a league fixture.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say Cedric Anselin claimed a first when he made his debut for Sheringham in Division One of the Anglian Combination on Saturday.
The French winger’s nomadic story is well known in Norfolk. From the day Bruce Rioch signed him to play for Norwich City in 1999 we were all told about an illustrious history which included substitute appearances in both legs of the 1996 UEFA Cup final when a Bordeaux team including Zidane, Bixente Lizarazu and Christophe Dugarry who would all go to win the World Cup two years later, was beaten by Bayern Munich.
Anselin made just 29 appearances for the Canaries but, like many before and since who stumble across Carrow Road on their career paths, he has made Norfolk his home and has stayed involved with the game locally. The news that he had agreed to turn out for Sheringham made me pine for the days when a spell at a non-league club would be a common way for a top flight player to wind down.
There was a buzz about going to watch Fakenham Town play in the mid-1990s when they pulled off the coup of signing former England and AC Milan striker Luther Blissett. To put that into context try to imagine one of the current crop of Three Lions forwards, Harry Kane for example, being tempted into a spell at Clipbush Park when he’s finished playing.
I don’t want to fall into the same trap that Gary Lineker did when he promised to present Match of the Day in his pants, but if Kane ever does play for Fakenham I promise to turn up with a white sheet over my head and spend the day being a mascot in keeping with the club’s nickname of ‘the Ghosts’.
Luther Blissett wasn’t alone. Canaries Milk Cup winner Peter Mendham helped Diss Town to FA Vase glory at Wembley in 1994 before winning a series of trophies with the Wroxham side that dominated the Eastern Counties League. Early in my BBC Radio Norfolk reporting days I remember being dispatched to Gorleston’s Emerald Park with a mobile phone the size of Wes Hoolahan to cover a game which saw Norwich City greats Dale Gordon and Robert Fleck reunited to play for the Greens. They were following in the footsteps of a World Cup winner. Gorleston proudly boast that Martin Peters had a spell with them at the end of his wonderful career.
There are countless other examples but it seems a shame they are all from so long ago.
It must have been incredible for all those amateur players who got to test themselves against or learn from playing alongside people who had been there and done that not to mention the welcome boost to the club coffers from supporters who might be tempted to take in a local game by the promise of a big name.
Maybe I’m being naïve and over-romantic to hope that for some the hunger and joy of playing a game of football on a Saturday will be enough to tempt them onto the boggy pitches of non-league Norfolk during the winter months.
They may even get something out of it. Anselin tweeted: “I’m still buzzing after winning 2-0 yesterday. I missed that feeling about winning and be part of dressing room banter.” From Bayern Munich to Bradenham, Cedric’s story will be all the richer for the variety when he finally does call it a day.
Norwich City’s approach to Checkatrade Trophy is fair enough
There is a world in which Norwich City is a team going great guns. They have scored 15 goals in three matches and could be on course for a Wembley final. It feels a far cry from the plight of the first team who are without a win in five matches.
The trouble is the Canaries are standing out in the Checkatrade Trophy. The reinvention of the old Johnstone’s Paint Trophy appears to be causing more controversy than it’s solving, with the second round draw pitting Norwich City Under-21s against their counterparts from Swansea.
Norwich City’s approach to the Checkatrade Trophy can’t be faulted. They have despatched Peterborough, Barnet and MK Dons in the group stages with a ruthless efficiency that is within the rules.
The new-fangled tournament was supposed to promote the growth of young English talent so the fact that six of City’s 15 goals so far have been shared between Tony Andreu, a 28-year old Frenchman, and Portugal international striker Nelson Oliveira only draws more attention to the bizarre idea of a level playing field that has been created.
Should the Canaries make it all the way to Wembley, I’m sure there will be no shortage of fans ready to make the trip, and why not? These things don’t come around very often. But if the competition survives for a second season in this format we’ll know once and for all that the Football League watches a different game to the fans.