I wrote a piece a while ago dissecting the cult of statues in and around football grounds. Many clubs already have one or, failing that, are in the process of adding one, or more in and around the stadium surrounds. These football as art shenanigans are particularly evident at The Emirates where there are currently three on display with plans, no doubt, for more.
The plinth that Pascal Cygan will precariously be balanced upon will be in the middle of the main concourse. That way everyone going into and out of the ground will, with little or no effort, be able to pass him easily and at will. Just as opposing strikers did. Fortunately, for now, the principle of ‘safe sex’, statue-wise, seems to be in vogue in and around Carrow Road.
There is certainly no shortage of Canary luminaries who are worth more than their weight in bronze; the worry that one of them might befall the same fate that befell Ted Bates at Southampton is enough for me to conclude that these heroes are better off as memories in our imagination rather than that of a sculptor.
There is, however, no reason at all for a statue at our, or any other football club when you consider that we are already oh-so-blessed (?) with individuals whose presence outside the ground is always guaranteed to draw an appreciative crowd.
The celebrity football fan.
Yes, who needs something bronzed and static when you can have your very own bronzed-as the exotically travelled Jake Humphrey certainly is-living and breathing celebrity prowling the stadium perimeter on a matchday. You lucky people!
Just think how particularly exciting it must be for West Brom fans this season for example. Not only are they rattling the cages of the perceived elite and sustaining their challenge for a top half place and possible European qualification-but there is more than that for the average Baggie who not only goes to the ground hoping for three points but also the opportunity to see, in person, either Frank Skinner or, on a good day (ie) he’s at the match so he can’t be presenting on TV anywhere, Adrian Chiles.
Its great isn’t it, you go along to the football and get a side helping of the entertainment industry. Who says a £52 ticket for a seat in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand at Old Trafford is pricing the average fan out of football-not only might he or she see RVP action on the pitch, they might catch a glimpse of Imogen Thomas off it. Okay, so no-one quite knows who she is or what she does, but hey she’s a celebrity, so its cameras, autograph books and glamour all round!
The celebrity fan is a must spot for any photographer or TV company covering the game. It seems to be a matter of professional pride for them as to how swiftly they can seek out, focus on and display them for all the world to see. We’re all used, of course, to the obligatory shot of Delia that accompanies any televising of a Norwich match-live or highlights-but she’s an easy target, especially at Carrow Road. She sits in the same place for every game, normally with Michael Wynn-Jones on one side and her Mother on the other. But at least she’s watching the game, and, more importantly, is as much a fan of the club as any of us. The difference is, she’s been able to live the dream and inject much of her personal fortune into the club. More to the point, she most definitely is not a ‘celebrity fan’. Far from it. She is, first and foremost, a fan. Just one who happens to be a celebrity.
The same cannot be said of other stars of stage and television. For many, football is a convenient wagon on which they can hitch their horses. It’s a tool of the trade, a way they can not only up their image but do so within an industry that is immensely popular, high profile, and, through the perceived association with the glamour clubs and their stars, gild them with some of that glamour. Take Charlize Theron for example. Described as an “actress and model” (she appeared in Children Of The Corn II so she must be good!) she announced herself to the world as a Chelsea fan a few years ago when she accepted a club shirt-in front of the worlds media, naturally-at a charity match in Los Angeles. Yes, THAT Los Angeles, airhead central, the place where showbiz agents send their clients to seen. “Hey Charlize, Chelsea are in town, you wanna go along…?”
Ker-chinggggg! Resultant photo op which costs Chelsea a shirt but does wonders for her profile and prominence.
Well that association clearly didn’t work because, a couple of years later, Charlize was “spotted” (ie) all of the worlds pap were told she was there and she dressed specially for the occasion, at the front of the VIP area in the Emirates cheering and clapping for all her flunkies were worth as her beloved Gunners beat Manchester United in the Premier League. Well, it was the hottest ticket in town; “…you just have to be there, darling. You’re an Arsenal fan now. Look, don’t worry, we’ll write it down so you can remember…”
No-one is quite sure who Charlize “supports” at the moment, but there is talk she may be interested in Manchester United-on the understanding they re-sign Ronaldo. She’d rather have her photo taken with her arms around him than Wayne Rooney. Image is everything after all-and she isn’t the only one. Ask golfer Colin Montgomerie. He was a passionate Leeds United fan. That is, until one of his ‘people’ had a word in his ear. He now supports Chelsea. Besides, Stamford Bridge is closer to Wentworth.
So yes, there are those that see football as something they should really rather have something to do with in some way. As we have seen with Ms Theron, Colin the grumpy golfer and many others.
Tony Blair is another example. After his team of spin doctors suggested to him that it might be a good move for him to be seen as a fan of the game, a “man of the people” so to speak, he spoke, misty eyed and with a lump in his throat, of his love for childhood team Newcastle United and how he sat in their Gallowgate End, watching Jackie Milburn*. Except for one problem. Even when Milburn made his final appearance for Newcastle, in 1957 (the man who had the unenviable task of replacing him at St James’ Park, Jimmy Hill, ultimately joined Norwich) Blair would have been just four years old-and living several thousand miles away, in Australia! But not only that, the fabled Gallowgate End where Blair claims to have sat was a steeply banked, open terrace with no seats in it, staying that way until 1994.Such can be the folly of attaching yourself to football for the wrong else woefully misguided reasons. Maybe he should have a word with Charlize? Fortunately, we do not seem to be afflicted in that unfortunate manner at Norwich.
Norwich City supporters who just happen to be in the public eye seem to be in it for the far more startling reason that we are their team. “Let’s look at the evidence” as David Frost would say. For him, it’s obvious enough. He attended Cambridge University before taking his first job in Norwich with Anglia TV. An adopted son of Norfolk and Norwich then, but one who has not forgotten his professional roots and defected to an Arsenal or Chelsea. Likewise Stephen Fry. Internationally known and renowned, a true world star and man of many talents one who could also have been of many football clubs. He moved to Norfolk as a child and has identified with the county and its premier football team ever since-and not only that, he is proud to let anyone who might be-or even may not be-aware of that fact. Fan first, celebrity second. As they all are. For the list goes ever on. Hugh Jackman? Mother is from Norfolk. Jake Humphrey?
Another who moved to Norfolk in his childhood. Simon Thomas? Born in Cromer. And what about traveller and writer extraordinary, Bill Bryson, resident in Norfolk for nearly a decade now? It’ll come. He just needs time to get that US obsession with Rounders out of his system.
So no. We don’t have a statue and we don’t have celebrity fans either; those types who would be seen at Carrow Road for any one of several reasons, none of them relating to the football. It doesn’t work like that at Norwich. We are all, regardless of our name and our fame, cut from that same piece of yellow and green cloth. A collective. We really are all in it together and for one reason alone: to ‘Cry God for Hughton, Norwich, and three points!’
*Jackie Milburn’s brother, John, made 15 appearances for Norwich in 1939.