My piece yesterday suggested that the collective hit, communal euphoria that can strike during a football match was a rare occurrence and one strictly restricted to the big names and the big games. I cited Thomas for Arsenal at Anfield and Aguero for Manchester City scoring that title winning goal last season. And there are others. Gascoigne’s free kick for Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final; Marco Tardelli’s second goal – and celebration – for Italy in the 1982 World Cup Final and David Beckham’s goal for England against Greece in 2001.
Defining footballing moments, ones that most people wouldn’t believe. Incident that will never be lost in time, celebrations in the midday sun, tears in rain. This is our game and these are amongst its most precious memories-even for the spectating non-believers. And, hyperbole or not (and it is), if you love the game, you understand what those instances mean – life defining for some, irrelevances for others. But that’s football. Polarising opinion like little else does or ever will.
The question was, of course, have we ever had such moments at our club? After all, the examples I cited yesterday and today all relate to the biggest games on the biggest stages. Superstars, massive audiences and exposure. Is it the exclusive right of the elite to have such moments, ones that we, mere simple country folk at the back end of the A11 can never hope to experience ourselves?
Of course not.
We have and we always will. In the world of football it matters not what level you play at or the status of your club and players. They may not be as earth shatteringly important as Aguero’s late strike or as iconic as Tardelli’s goal and moment of complete abandon against West Germany a little over three decades ago (still amazing to watch, see it here – now he was living in the moment!) but, to the clubs and the supporters involved, they are as important, maybe more important than anything the perceived great and the good may have performed before. And we are no exception to that. MFW readers have already contributed their own in legion. And, for every single one of them, if I hadn’t been there on the day myself then I’d happily trade a lifetime of non-Norwich City related footballing memories to have been there at each and every one of them.
That’s how important they are. Try explaining how it makes you feel, how it felt at the time to someone who doesn’t like football. You simply can’t. Their loss.
Here are five of mine – in no order whatsoever!
Matty Svensson’s opening goal in our 2-0 win over Wigan on April 9th 2004. Quite apart from the fact it was a great game, it was the lead and execution to this goal that had me transfixed. By the time Darren Huckerby had laid the ball off into Svensson’s path, he had four Wigan players trying to close him down – but to no avail. Svensson’s languid, perfect finish; a beautifully curled rising shot from the edge of the penalty area was a goal the moment he made contact, the arc of the ball as it made its way past John Filan permanently fixed in my memory and one I’ll never dislodge.
David Fox’s pass to Simeon Jackson that led to the latter scoring the goal at Fratton Park that sealed our promotion in 2011. A case of never mind the goal (sorry Jacko), look at the pass. Fox was in a footballing no-man’s land when he received the ball via Andrew Crofts, yet, after barely two short steps forward, he was able to make a pass that was so accurate and so absolutely bloody perfect in its path and delivery, the application of a laser guiding system would not and could not have improved it. Fox’s shape, his awareness, his delivery. We’ve all heard the sound Gary Neville made after Fernando Torres won the Champions League semi-final for Chelsea with his late goal at Barcelona. My Neville moment and a frighteningly similar sound was uttered in response to Fox’s part and pass for that goal. The highest praise I can give Fox for it was that it made me think of Ian Crook at his sublime best. It was that good. Class in a pass.
Elliott Bennett’s goal against Reading in April. Never have I felt so nervous before a game of football, so uptight, so nauseous, so not wanting to be there but absolutely having to be. How we sat, how we suffered for an age, how we all celebrated when Ryan Bennett put us ahead in that game. But that was, at least for me, a sense of relief. When Benno poked home that second just a few minutes later, it wasn’t so much relief that I felt as belief, belief that we would win and that we would stay up. And, amidst the haze of pulsating bodies and the blur of yellow and green around me I managed to yell, at the top of my voice at the dancing figure of the afore mentioned player who was celebrating the goal right in front of me. “Elliott Bennett” I shouted, “I bloody well love you”. And I did – a case, as Alan Partridge would have said, of ‘liquid football’. It felt damned good!
Clive Walker. Bless the ex-Chelsea man, he never played for Norwich but he still gave me a moment of unforgettable ecstasy. It’s the 1985 League Cup Final at Wembley and, packed tight behind Chris Turner’s Sunderland goal, we’re all in a state of excitement following Gordon Chisholm’s own goal that put us ahead – only for that collective bliss to be pulverised into cold turkey oblivion by Denis Van Wijk’s penalty area handball at the other end. Watch the clip of the moment in question and the reaction of Chris Woods who perfectly mirrored the instantaneous reactions of all the Norwich fans in the stadium at the time, he puts his head in his hands and almost sinks to the wet turf in despair as, away in his distance, 40,000 Norwich supporters, as one, think, “oh f**k!”. The rest, as they say. Walker confidently strode up to take the penalty – and, unbelievably, inconceivably, missed, placing his shot away to Woods’ left. It was only the second time a penalty had been missed in a major cup final at Wembley.
The first? Ten years earlier Ray Graydon had seen his penalty saved by Woods’ illustrious predecessor at Carrow Road, Kevin Keelan. Same end, same game, different result as Graydon managed to score from the rebound. So a bad memory purged and a new one forged all in one instant, all thanks to Clive Walker, the dream maker who never played for Norwich.
Jeremy Goss against Bayern Munich. But not that game and that goal. No, the priceless memory and accompanying yellow and green goose pimples here come from the return leg at Carrow Road. Bayern have come to town and are pounding us from the off, their sense of superiority over us has been fuelled by the big club ‘entitlement’ that surrounded them from the moment the draw was made. We became an inconvenience to them, an aside, a spot of footballing indigestion that a quick does of Lothar Matthaus would soon put right – he who had dismissed our City as a small town that made mustard. Had they continued in that game in the manner they had started it, with Adolfo Valencia scoring after just four minutes then I fear they might have put us to the sword in dramatic and emphatic fashion. Yet, after they had scored, they immediately backed off, they saw the game as one that was won already and started to show off, to indulge in a spot of footballing arrogance.
Norwich, their crampons fastened and ready, made a counter assault on the game and their opponents, the ecstatic conclusion being Goss finding himself, with all the timing of an atomic clock, in the right time and place, again, to bury the equaliser past Raimond Aumann to the sort of resultant scenes and noise that Carrow Road hadn’t heard in a very very long time. Gossy’s celebratory run had led him, completely unintentionally, towards the part of the ground where his Mum was sitting, an intimate and special moment for the two of them that was shared by 20,000 other Norwich supporters on the night. A goal and moment that, for me, defined that Mike Walker era and made you think that anything was possible. As things turned out – that wasn’t the case. But what a moment to briefly, gloriously, think that our time had arrived, as had we.
All too brief moments of pure joy, seconds that now last forever in our hearts and minds. These and so many others that have captured us all and are maybe all the more special because so many of them are ours and ours alone rather than ones that the whole world has enjoyed. Lets cherish them all – and look forward to some more.
Who needs an Aguero?