Travelling travails set to do little for the waistlines of Norwich City faithful

Chris Hughton could not be accused of trying to mix it up at Hull City.

Chris Hughton could not be accused of trying to mix it up at Hull City. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Saturday was a day to forget. Nothing summed it up better than when we stopped on the way back from Hull at a well-known roadside café. When following your team away from home, the stop for refreshment is a big part of the experience.

Norwich supporters have more than 7,000 miles ahead of them this season if they want to go to all their Premier League away games. It is impossible to travel such distances without acquiring a working knowledge of the country's service stations.

It has been known for one member of the BBC Radio Norfolk travelling squad to be appointed 'service station scout' on the way to a game, with his job to keep an eye on what's available on the opposite carriageway to give ourselves something to look forward to on the inescapable long pull back to Norfolk.

These places are your only option for toasting a hard fought away win and perfect for comfort eating after seeing your team lose to a newly promoted outfit, despite playing against 10 men for more than an hour.

So Saturday was definitely a burger and chips occasion.


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Unfortunately the place we chose for our consolation calorie consumption had a TV in the corner showing BBC1's Saturday night prime time line-up. With perfect timing, just as the waitress slapped the plate on the table in front of me, still noisily reeling from her failure to win the National Lottery again, Casualty's titles began.

I didn't think anything could put me off my dinner but if ever there was a programme capable of getting families back round the table together and away from the lap trays in the lounge, then this is it. My tomato ketchup remained untouched.

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Choosing when and where to stop for a stretch of the legs and an overpriced refuel of both car and passengers is what counts as tactics away from home to those of us not actually managing a football team. Thankfully they do not come under such close scrutiny as those that come from the dugout.

Failing to break down a defence so new to the Premier League quickly extinguished much of the early season optimism. Chris Hughton's alarm at his team's inability to turn shed-loads of possession into a clear cut chance was obvious when he spoke to us after the game.

Hughton did attempt to affect change. He was quicker to make substitutions than last season. He sent for Snodgrass at half-time. That seemed like a significant moment because even in losing causes last term, it is hard to remember the City manager making that sort of move so early. Perhaps we can draw the conclusion that this was due to a lack of confidence in the attacking subs available to him at the time.

Having spent so heavily in the summer, particularly on players to liven Norwich up in the final third, he has given himself ample options and opportunity to mix things up when games are not going to plan.

It is early days and Manchester City found on Sunday that being the opponents for a newly-promoted club's first home game brings its own challenges. Far better to play them in November once the bruising Premier League reality has set in. But those loyal thousands who follow Norwich away will not want to see many more days like Saturday.

If the Canaries' away form does not improve it could have a devastating effect on the waistlines of those who clock up the motorway miles more in hope than expectation.

• FORMER FAVOURITES SHOWING CANARIES' RISE WAS NO FREAK OCCURENCE

One the unsung heroes of the season for me is a chap called Greg Tunmore.

He's never scored a Premier League goal, unless there's something he's not telling us, but he is one of the lynchpins of BBC Radio Norfolk's coverage. One of his jobs is to answer the calls coming in to our Canary Call phone-in. You can imagine what that is like after a game like Hull. During the matches he has access to a special button, which means he can talk directly to us without anyone else hearing. Don't ask me how it works, I'm just glad it does.

Greg feeds me the other scores from Premier League and Championship fixtures so I can keep everyone up to date. I noticed on Saturday he was telling me about an awful lot of goals from former City players in the Championship. It was the same last week. So I've had my abacus out and done some maths that it is much easier to do now, after four games, than in a month's time.

So far the Championship has seen 126 goals, if you include the four scored by Charlton and Doncaster in their abandoned game on Saturday. Of those, 21 have been scored by players who have appeared in first team games for Norwich City. That means ex-Canaries are responsible for one sixth (just under 17pc) of goals scored in that division this season. An impressive return. Now there's a reason these players were not picked up by Premier League clubs on leaving Carrow Road, but it does show City's dramatic rise through the divisions under Paul Lambert was no fluke.

It is good to see players who served City with such commitment, getting their just rewards elsewhere. I wonder which ex-Canaries Greg will whisper in my ear on Saturday?

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