OPINION: Changes all round for Norfolk's top football team

 Ron Saunders on the slopes of Mousehold encouraging his Norwich City players to head for the top in the early 1970s.

“Welcome to the summit, lads!” Hard man Ron Saunders on the slopes of Mousehold encouraging his Norwich City players to head for the top in the early 1970s. His tough training schedules could find echoes at Celandine Meadow when the new season starts - Credit: Archant

Heady times beckon for Stannickle Beck Wanderers. One of the oldest junior soccer clubs in our area limbers up for a new season with genuine hopes of flattening all before them.

Fresh faces and bubbling ideas all along the touchline on Celandine Meadow point to dramatic improvements on best achievements so far in their history.

They were quarter-finalists in the Guzunder Cottage Hospital Trophy in 1926 when there was a record entry of eight clubs, and runners-up in Division Four of the Muckwash and District Minor League at the time it was disbanded on the eve of war in 1939.

Now they’re starting to talk about employing their own silver engraver after a revolution in club policy. A manager and assistant have been appointed for the first time, setting a five-year target to “do the business” after extensive advertising in the Puckaterry Parva Bugle sporting section.

“We’ll be in senior football before Ipswich Town get back into Europe, that’s for sure” trumpeted-manager Dipper Dodds, renowned for his dead-ball deliveries and sergeant-major approach to training.

Hard man Ron Saunders, who barked Norwich City into top-flight football for the first time in the early 1970s, remains Dipper’s role model. He has already pinned photos of him stripped to the waist on the Wanderers’ dressing-toom wall. “A stare from him will be worth a thousand words from me ..”.

His assistant, Silky Savage, freely admits to preferring the adventurous style of John Bond, who took over from Saunders at Carrow Road and then followed him to Manchester City with a reputation for allowing players full freedom of expression. Silky was a quicksilver inside-forward back in the old Norfolk & Suffolk League days.

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These two characters at the helm refute suggestions their contrasting philosophies could cause confusion among players at Celandine Meadow and spell friction before a ball is kicked.

“On the contrary, it is our opponents – and we fear no-one – who should do the worrying. If we don’t know exactly what we’re up to, surely they won’t be able to read us at all” hinted Dodds during a brief break from a rigorous all-day training beat.

The new committee agreed to do away with the club’s oldest rule that all players and officials had to be born in the village or within a five-mile radius. “We must bang shut the creaking door of dusty history and let in the light of ambition and adventure” said newly-elected president , garage owner Harold Hutkin

New club chairman is Mr Hurst. Efforts are being made to discover his first name, or at least his initials, for use in match programmes and on the new website. He lives 45 miles away and would not have been eligible for office under old rules.

Mr Hurst takes a keen interest in village activities. He hopes to obtain planning permission to build an estate for first-team buyers on a plot behind Celandine Meadow where the Wesleyan Reform Chapel used to stand.

He has pledged four-figure sponsorship for the senior side with an option to renew and increase in the event of promotion or useful cup runs – or to pull out altogether should he fail to win planning permission.

A dug-out for the new management duo, already dubbed “Tigers in Tandem” by local correspondent Mrs Wolstenholme, is being built. They hope to provide similar facilities for visitors at a peppercorn rent.

Last week’s pre-season press conference was postponed because Mrs Wolstenholme had a funeral, a flower show and a puncture all on the same day. She was free yesterday to lead searching questions. Mr Hurst sent a prepared statement about sponsorship plans for referees.

It read: “We hope to find a way of supporting all match officials on a regular and lucrative basis without risking allegations of seeking preferential treatment. We seek no more than a level playing field”.

Dipper Dodds was asked about measures being taken to get rid of the club’s “bad boys” image. He replied they had slapped a ban on drinking before and during matches, an obvious reference to the notorious Real Ale Incident of the 2001-02 campaign when six home players were breathalysed and booked before start of the second half against Bosky Bohemians.

Mrs Wolstenholme queried why supporters should believe success was on the way. “Because I only back winners” said Mr Hurst in another prepared statement.

“They think it’s all clover” … sighed our probing correspondent.

PeopleActor James Stewart at Tibenham to open the Norfolk Gliding Clubs AirshowDated -- 14 S

Actor James Stewart at Tibenham to open the Norfolk Gliding Clubs Airshow in 1975

Skip's Aside: It was my turn to be James Stewart, a part more worthy of my talents despite a vociferous playground lobby to saddle me with grizzled veteran Gabby Hayes

I didn’t mind a stint as George Formby , although it has to be one of few impressions where the Lancashire comedian got by with a broad Norfolk accent and without a ukulele. My toothy grin and bold experiments with Brylcreem were compensatory factors.

A week as Humphrey Bogart ended in some disarray over the length of my raincoat – it hardly covered by weather-lashed knees - the angle of my hat and lack of a convincing world-weary look.

I had worked overtime on mannerisms and speech patterns. But when I called a girl my shweetheart behind the bikeshed she landed me a shtinging shidewinder and told me not to be so shtupid.

So the James Stewart role came as timely relief. We had so much in common. It took a lot to get us riled. We betrayed single-minded integrity that had to become the envy of friend and foe alike

He was stationed as an airman in Norfolk during the war. I arrived towards the end of hostilities to take over runway watch when he went home.

I can still break into a respectful impression of that wonderful delivery, sort of shy but sincere, emotional but never weak, slow on the drawl as he galloped on to our aerodrome in cowboy gear to inspire countless playtime repeats from Where The River Bends, The Man From Laramie and Broken Arrow.

We made most of our own entertainment in those days before television took a firm hold on family life. The man came round with moving pictures on a Friday night, setting his projector whirring and our imaginations spinning in the Nissen hut that was our village hall.

A varied diet but only the cowboys could ensure an orderly retreat across the old aerodrome concrete paths as we hit the darkness. A smart slap on the thigh (your own) and a whispered “giddyup!” signalled the youthful posse’s instant acceptance of law enforcement.