Norwich City’s opening Premier League fixture triggers memories for Reeves
Norwich City have been given a warm welcome back to the Premier League by the club's first �1m export – especially after he saw the fixture list for the opening day of the season.
Former England striker Kevin Reeves is chief scout at Wigan Athletic, where Paul Lambert's men kick off their new top-flight campaign on August 13.
Reeves, part of the management team that experienced Wigan's dramatic escape from relegation on the final day of last season, could not resist a wry smile when the fixture computer paired the Latics with two of his former clubs in the first two games.
'It is ironic, really. Three of our first four games are against teams I was heavily involved in,' he said. 'First we have Norwich at home, then Swansea away – where I was assistant manager and chief scout – and then Manchester City away in the fourth match.'
Reeves is well aware that the opening day can throw up some bizarre scorelines, as Wigan found out at the DW Stadium last August.
'The first game of the season is always a great day, no matter who you play. But we had a really bad result, losing 4-0 at home to Blackpool on the opening day last year, and we will be looking to do better than that.'
Reeves, the first of the Canaries' long list of seven-figure departures when he joined Manchester City in March 1980, has never lost his affection for the club and is pleased to see them rubbing shoulders with the country's top sides once again.
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'I'm delighted for Norwich. I think it's marvellous what they have achieved,' he said. 'Most people would probably have accepted them holding their own in the Championship last season but teams who come up carry that bit of momentum with them. They are very strong at home, it's always a difficult place to go.
'Some people expected them to tail off after a good start but it never happened and they played good stuff, too, to go up. It's great to see them back where they belong.
'I think all three promoted sides are capable of holding their own next season.'
Reeves joined John Bond's Norwich from Bournemouth as a 19-year-old in 1977, initially on loan before completing a �50,000 move, scored 42 goals in 133 games and won the first of two England caps before moving to Maine Road.
He said: 'I had a fantastic time at Norwich, it was just right for me. I left Bournemouth, I was a home boy, but just went to a club that was so friendly and gave me my chance in the first division and I loved my three years there.
'I was not keen to leave but it was felt it was right for everybody at the time.'
The Premier League, more than three decades later, is a very different world to the old Division One that Reeves experienced with Norwich and Manchester City.
'The money is massively different, the expectations of supporters have changed a lot, the coverage and scrutiny is vastly different,' he said.
'Everything is more intense now. The benefits make it that way but it increases the pressure on players and managers. Supporters are aware of that, they know the massive amounts of money players are paid and the fans expect a bit more.
'Having said that, Norwich fans have always been a really fair crowd. They never really criticised us. We were a solid first division side, never really in danger of going down, sometimes getting nearer the top. It was just such an enjoyable time to play football.'
Wigan preserved their Premier League status last month with a 1-0 win at Stoke in their final fixture, and the club received a further boost when manager Roberto Martinez turned down a move to Aston Villa and signed a new contract.
'We played well in the last few weeks and finished the season in good form,' said Reeves. 'We had a really difficult game at Stoke but went into it with form on our side. It was an incredible last day and I don't think there will be many to match the drama of that occasion.
'You wouldn't want to go through it again because 42 points was a lot needed to stay up – the previous season we survived with 36.'
Reeves and Martinez have enjoyed a long association since the Spaniard arrived at Swansea as a player in 2003.
'I've been with Rob for years. Brian Flynn and I signed him as captain at Swansea and he's a fantastic character and manager,' said Reeves.
'In my opinion he has everything you need to succeed at the very top. Although it was a fantastic opportunity at Villa, the chairman here backed him when there was speculation about his future and said that even if we were relegated he would still be manager. I think Rob felt he needed to repay that loyalty.'
While Wigan's summer recruitment is largely on hold – much depends on whether �10m-rated French star Charles N'Zogbia gets his desired move – City have wasted no time in bringing in four new faces.
'Paul knows his squad very well, knows his strengths, but I think you need to add every season. Everyone gets a little bit of a lift with new players coming in,' said Reeves, who is likely to be away on scouting duties when the Canaries roll into town.
'I tend to see our games towards the end of the season, but I will be busy watching somewhere else, I expect. I'm not great watching my own team. Unless you are a coach or manager, you can't influence anything and I don't enjoy it.'