After the entertainment of the Tiny Totts featuring Adebayor’s Scooby-Doo impression, and following on from the Meerkat’s tears over Arshavin and his imminent departure, we have a football match to contemplate. Norwich City will be making the journey through the desolate flat Anglian wastelands, down the M11 and into the big smoke. I have mixed memories of Norwich, both the city and the football club. A friend of mine went to university there , fell in love, married and never came home. My wife and I went to visit him and his spouse but they made us play Trivial Pursuit so we never went back. To be fair, it is a five hour drive as well, so I think I can be forgiven. A happier memory was my visit to the Coleman’s Mustard museum which really was surprisingly interesting. I strongly suspect a love of mustard is a prerequisite to finding anything at all to fascinate the casual visitor to Norwich’s premier tourist attraction but it is surely better to be famous for a fiery yellow condiment that Sale Of The Century.
More recently I have had occasion to visit Carrow Road, home of this afternoon’s match day visitors. It is a splendid little stadium, really quite chic and situated within sight of the Cathedral rather than in some hideous shopping complex next to a phalanx of roundabouts and bypasses. Yes Reading we’re all looking at you. Unusually I hadn’t made the long and incredible tedious drive from Somerset to the home of Norwich to watch them play. I’d have been bloody disappointed if I had as they were actually away from home that day beating Swansea in what was by all accounts a thrilling seven goal stonker in which Norwich were 0 – 3 up at half time and ended up 3 – 4 winners. This game was the tenth in a very useful unbeaten run and I’m sure none of you will need reminding that in their previous fixture Swansea had beaten us two nil so for the Canaries to go and turn over an in form team in their own back yard was no mean feat.
Included in that run Norwich had racked up victories against us, Man U, The Tiny Totts (league cup), and an away draw at Goodison so I think it’s fair to suggest that they were in a fine run of form. Things never really got that good again for them and, neatly underlining how important consistency is to any side, they come to the Emirates today after a mish mash of some truly horrible defeats mixed in with some low scoring draws. They are a team that you simply cannot predict.
For me Norwich isn’t just synonymous with Mustard, Nicholas Parsons,Delia and Stephen Fry. It holds, footballistically, some great memories. Does anyone recall their improbable march into Europe in the early days of the Premier League? I’m not saying it was my Kennedy Assassination moment or anything but the unlikely match up of Norwich City and Bayern Munich is one of those non Arsenal football events that has always stayed with me.Of course those were more innocent days. We used to support any British team taking on continental opposition and the more David and Goliath like the encounter the better. Norwich of course didn’t have a hope in hell. Unlike when we went on our own jaunt to Germany recently when I was telling anyone who would listen that we would win, it was just a matter of by how many, I honestly didn’t give the plucky young pretenders from the far East a cats chance. Well they went on to surprise me and just about everyone else except their manager Mike Walker. Matt (or Luke – I forget which) Goss scored a hell of a goal, Bryan Gunn performed heroics in the Norwich goal and they took a 2 – 1 lead back to blighty for the home leg which they drew and thus booted out one of the favourites to win the competition. Sadly for our visitors that was as good as it got Internatzionale beat them in the next round and went on to win the cup and Norwich were relegated from the Prem the following season.
The other football memory I have of Norwich was a rare televised live match on a beautiful bank holiday weekend which I watched in a caravan on the cliffs above Durdle Door in Dorset. It was that season. Hillsborough was still a raw and shocking news story only two weeks old, and we were three points clear of Liverpool who had a game in hand. Norwich were third and as such this was a vital must win game. That we won with aplomb by five clear goals wasn’t quite as important to me as it ought to have been. The fact was that I was blissfully in love with a young and staggeringly beautiful woman who not only bore more than a passing resemblance to Debby Harry but had agreed to come with me to the Dorset Coast for a weekend of wild romance and caravan based abandon. I don’t think she’d bargained for Arsenal versus Norwich but whenever we play them I am always reminded of lust and love among the surf and pebbles and the tune of Sunday Girl.
Anyway before I’m crippled by nostalgia, I ought maybe to explain just why I was at Carrow Road last December. My band had been hired to play at a surprise 40th birthday party for a Norwich season ticket holder and we were set up in one of their swanky and frankly over priced bars. It wasn’t Delia’s restaurant but for a boy brought up on the piss soaked terraces of Eastville it was still an eye opener. I suppose I’d spontaneously combust on entering the Emirates, how you lucky people who go there regularly cope with it I’ll never know. The mistake the very nice people at Carrow Road made was giving us a directors box to use as a changing room. You just don’t let musicians anywhere other than on the stage, and certainly not in any area out of your eyesight. We of course made full use of the facilities and had a good wander around the stadium, easily accessed from our lofty vantage point.
That’s me at the back buggering the sax player. Well it turned out to be our last ever gig together for reasons into which I shall not go, but suffice it to say having a Spud as lead singer didn’t help. Arsenal beat West Brom 2 – 0 on that December day and went on to win their following three league matches adding 13 to their ‘goals for’ column in the process. A repeat over the next three matches would be very welcome.
Anyhow, as we look forward to Cup Final Number Four, I’m going to go and stick on a Blondie album and remember past glories. I might even think about football.