I took the lad to watch Jamie’s Game on Tuesday evening. He loved it.
As an eight year-old whose name is yet to rise to the top of the season-ticket waiting list, his visits to the nirvana of Norfolk are rarer than both of us would like. Therefore Tuesday night presented an ideal opportunity for dad to take son to sample the Carrow Road atmosphere again, this time minus the stresses and strains that accompany the quest for three Premier League points.
The evening itself was a triumph for all concerned, not least the Community Sports Foundation’s Sporting Light Appeal which will have benefited handsomely from an excellent crowd of 7,155. The hero was fittingly Jamie Abbott – a 16-year-old City-supporting footballer with Down’s Syndrome after whom the game was named – who brought the house down by scoring the winning penalty in a late cameo.
While the game itself was as competitive as Darren Eadie had promised – at least until those beautifully staged closing minutes – there were also a surprising number of celebrities who displayed flashes of footballing talent. The lad from Eastenders (Jamie Borthwich, aka ‘Jay’ apparently) was particularly impressive, along with McFly’s finest, Danny Jones.
But in reality there was only one star of the show – at least in a footballing sense.
I’ve spent many an hour regaling my son with tales of a bloke called Huckerby who used to whizz down the left wing leaving defenders in his wake and, given that he was just three years-old when Glen Roeder deemed him no longer fit for purpose, he’s had no option but to rely on dad’s dewy-eyed descriptions.
Not any more.
Thankfully Hucks didn’t let me (or him) down. His performance – whilst against opposition of indifferent quality – was reminiscent of him in his pomp when it was Premier League defenders, as opposed to TV and pop stars, who would catch the faintest glimpse of the number ‘6’ as he left them for dust.
To this day, there is no greater sight than seeing the great man, ears pinned back, turning on the after-burners to fly past a floundering defender. Whether said defender is Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville or Tubes (from Soccer AM) matters little; the end result is invariably the same.
“That Huckleberry bloke is even better than you said dad”.
That’s my boy.
Alas for Gowers Junior, he was to pay a heavy price for his increased interest in Hucks, the journey home to Lowestoft affording me another chance to reminisce about the good times.
Taking pride of place in my repertoire was the day ‘Huckleberry’ tore Cardiff City apart single-handedly on what we all assumed, at the time, to be his Norwich City finale.
The game in question – as if anyone needs reminding – was on 13 December 2003 when second-placed City played host to Cardiff, themselves hovering around the play-off places, in what was scheduled to be his final game in the most thrilling three-month loan spell of all time.
What followed was surely – in my mind at least – the greatest individual performance ever seen in the yellow shirt. To this day it’s unclear whether it was inspired by a final ‘come and get me’ plea or a wish to leave the Yellow Army with something to remember him by, but either way the result was one of sheer brilliance.
‘Thrilling’… ‘breathtaking’… ‘awesome’. All adjectives used by friends and colleagues to describe Hucks’ performance that afternoon.
City won 4-1 – the result never in doubt – with our man setting the tone for the afternoon with a fine solo effort, in front of the River End, that saw him cut in from his left wing leaving three defenders in his wake, before burying it past the Cardiff keeper.
But never one to rest on his laurels, he proceeded to torment the visitors for the full ninety minutes in the most electrifying fashion imaginable – Cardiff mere lambs to the slaughter, akin to the hapless, comedic opposition once put before the Harlem Globetrotters.
For the record, Hucks – despite his brilliance – had to settle for just the one goal, although he did put another ‘on a plate’ for another ex-Canary to appear in Jamie’s Game, Iwan Roberts. Typical of the man, I can recall him post-match commenting ‘it was good to return the favour’ having been a frequent recipient of the big man’s knock-downs and lay-offs.
The statisticians may be interested to know Craig Fleming (yes, Craig Fleming) was also a scorer that day, with the fourth City goal being an OG from Cardiff’s Tony Vidmar.
While the remainder of his Norwich career was to become the stuff of legend, there was an agonising 13 day wait – after the Cardiff game – before Hucks was confirmed as a bona-fide Canary; Boxing Day 2003 affording us one of the great moments of Carrow Road theatre.
Luckily for us all, it did eventually happen, even though – during the aforementioned 13 days – it did look increasingly unlikely that our prayers were going to be answered.
But there is a god – and the rest is history.
While the term ‘Canary legend’ is bandied around far too freely, Huckerby is undoubtedly one in every sense of the word; always has been, always will be. And, thanks to Tuesday night, he can now add one more to his fan club.
IF YOU HAVE AN INDIVIDUAL CITY PERFORMANCE THAT STANDS OUT ABOVE ALL OTHERS, PLEASE LET US KNOW…