Norwich City’s Dutch arrivals have me feeling like I’m stuck in a time warp

Ricky van Wolfswinkel showed exactly why City shelled out £8.5m for his services this summer against Everton.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel showed exactly why City shelled out £8.5m for his services this summer against Everton. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Before Saturday's match against Everton I caught up with a couple of old college mates.

It was the first time in more than ten years that Adam, Simmo and I had all been together. Leaving The Bell in the centre of Norwich at lunchtime after a couple of drinks (of coffee, obviously, nothing stronger before a big game) was like stepping through a time warp.

I was immediately confronted by a man wearing the old Colman's sponsored home shirt from the Brian Hamilton era.

This coupled with a morning of nostalgia about the corridors of City College circa 2000 made me wonder whether I had suddenly become Norwich's answer to Gary Sparrow.

You know, Gary Sparrow – Nicholas Lyndurst's character from the sitcom 'Goodnight Sweetheart'. He'd wander down a backstreet in the 1990's and end up in a pub during the Second World War. Believe it or not they got six full series out of that premise.

So when my retro-shirted Norwich City supporting friend talked of looking forward to seeing 'The new lads from Holland' on Saturday I was hesitant. Did he mean Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer or had I gone back in time to the Canaries' last bit of double Dutch dabbling?

Could he possibly be talking about Fernano Derveld and Raymond De Waard? Thankfully when his mate returned with their pre-match drinks he was wearing this season's shirt.

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Derveld and De Waard might have been from the same country as two of Chris Hughton's shiny new recruits but in football terms they were from a different planet.

One a left back, the other a left winger who were signed during one of those chaotic periods of recent Norwich City history when Carrow Road could have done with a revolving door to cope with the constant comings and goings of both players and managers.

When you think about it, it's surprising that Norwich haven't gone Dutch more often. There was Dennis Van Wyk who was part of the 1985 Milk Cup winning team. He gave away a penalty in that final but, as it was missed by Sunderland's Clive Walker, we can forgive him that. I'm struggling to think of any more Netherlands to Norwich action in the transfer market.

It's strange considering that as the canary flies Amsterdam is only about 150 miles from Norwich. Cardiff is 206 miles away and yet we have had no end of highly successful Welshmen pulling on the yellow and green over the years.

Geographically we should be the first to spot the bright orange glow being generated by Dutch football across the North Sea.

I hardly dare say this so early in a new season but Ipswich Town have a far better record when it comes to importing from Holland.

Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen were synonymous with the successful Town side of the late 70's and early 80's. Although that was so long ago that Nicholas Lyndhurst was only just starting out as young Rodney when Bobby Robson was working his magic at Portman Road.

In slightly more recent times Town had Martijn Reuser score a play-off final goal for them at Wembley in 2000 and then of course there was Matt Holland (I'm sorry).

Ironically Ricky van Wolfswinkel's route to Carrow Road has been via Lisbon but on Saturday we saw a man who could finally deliver a bit of long awaited Dutch mastery to Carrow Road.

His sublime header to make it 2-2 against Everton was the first flash of the sort brilliance that £8.5 million gets you.

At first glance his slight frame suggests a man who might struggle to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League but the way he chased around Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin at the weekend suggests his speed of thought and movement will keep many giant centre backs more than occupied between now and May.

Van Wolfswinkel oozes confidence too. I have interviewed him three times already and each time been impressed with the air of self-assurance that he portrays. It's not arrogance, but the relaxed nature of a man who genuinely thinks he is going to do well at Norwich City.

In fact his only complaint about Norfolk life so far has been the breakfasts. Baked beans first thing in the morning, he told us, is a British fad he cannot get his head round.

Perhaps that's why the Dutch have never flocked to Carrow Road in great numbers. They just don't share our love of a decent fry up.


For all the encouraging signs about the way that Norwich City played on Saturday, and there were many, even the most ardent City fan would have to concede that the best player on the pitch was wearing blue.

Everton's Ross Barkley would not have been high on the list of concerns for Norwich supporters when a team containing Baines, Fellaini, Osman and Jelavic was read out before kick-off but the 19-year-old's stunning goal capped an impressive all-round performance.

The youngster might well have made history on Saturday too. Unless anyone can tell me different, I think he might be the first ever Barkley to score at Carrow Road's Barclay End in a competitive match. These sort of land-marks ought to be marked in some way.

We're not far off completing the set now. When Mark Rivers memorably netted for City in the 2002 play-off semi-final against Wolves he did so at Carrow Road's River End. In fact I have a feeling he had already scored for Crewe against Norwich in the same goal in previous seasons.

Sky Sports reporter Stuart Jarrold regularly covers games from high up in the gantry of, you've guessed it, the Jarrold Stand.

It may be a while before anything similarly appropriate happens. Unless Chris Hughton's vast scouting network has uncovered an Ivan Snakepit playing in the Czech leagues.