You may have been vaguely aware (!) that my friend and fellow MyFootballWriter columnist Mick Dennis has just launched his latest book.
Tales From The City features eleven different stories, each of them very personal and honest recollections from people closely associated with the club we all love, including Bryan Gunn, Iwan Roberts, Michael Wynn Jones and, of course, Mick himself.
The book was officially launched at Open in Norwich on Sunday evening and was, for the 500 or so people who attended, a rare and special treat.
For some ticket holders, there was the opportunity, pre-event, to have their books signed by some of the guests present on the evening. This included Chris Goreham, Grant Holt, Bryan Gunn and Darren Eadie, as well as all-round wordsmith and entertainer Jon Rogers, one of the excellent writers behind the ever impressive Little Yellow Bird Project.
Jon had occasion to be rather more nervous than anyone else present on the night (except for Mick perhaps) as he was due to sing, live, two of the songs he has written and put together under his Big Grant Holt (BGH) pseudonym. He chose to regale us with the I Hate Alex Neil song as well as his rather more serious and wonderful post-Wembley tribute At The Game, both of which went down the proverbial storm with we yellow and green tinted supporters.
Respect to you Jon and thankyou.
One very welcome guest at the event was former Norwich goalkeeper Bryan Gunn. And I choose to describe Gunny here as a popular and admired former player – rather than referring to his short and ultimately disappointing period as the club’s manager – because, all too often, his achievements, presence and performances for the club as our undisputed number one from 1986 to 1998, during which time he made just under 500 senior appearances for the club, can be overlooked.
There will, of course, be many Canary fans abounding today who remember nothing of Gunny the keeper but only have those memories and associated thoughts of his time in charge, culminating, of course, in that disastrous 1-7 defeat at home to Colchester United. Fans such as myself and, I am sure, thousands of others who remember his tenure as both a player and manager will mostly choose to reflect on his time on the pitch rather than off it, time which proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, that he turned out to be one of the best signings the club ever made and a very credible contender, alongside the likes of Kevin Keelan and Chris Woods, to be the club’s finest ever exponent of the goalkeeping art.
His reception on Sunday and the very obvious respect and affection he continues to have amongst the supporters of the club was heart-warming, just as it was to hear from Gunny himself that he is more than welcome back at the club now and is a frequent guest at home matches where, as he said, he has even ‘made up’ with David McNally – the man who sacked him and sent him home, via the slow train from Exeter on that, for Gunny, dark footballing day back in 2009.
It was also good to see Grant Holt back in Norwich, as slightly bemused as always, it would seem, at the continuing adulation he has amongst the club’s support. Holty, it turned out, very nearly didn’t sign for us at all. At the time we were negotiating with Shrewsbury for his signature, it was alongside, according to Holty himself, “around thirty” other clubs who wanted him, one of which was Colchester United, then managed by both our and his future gaffer, Paul Lambert. Holt had been holed up at the Holiday Inn by the ground for a few days whist the club, not unreasonably, but, as far as he was concerned, unnecessarily, procrastinated over the medical that all player go through prior to signing for a new club.
Holt eventually admitted to Bryan Gunn that the whole affair was beginning to frustrate him, suggesting that the club make up their minds once and for all – either sign him or say he had failed the medical and call the whole thing off. Gunn spoke to Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones and persuaded the club owners to give the deal and the finance required the go ahead, assuming, in the process, that the two proverbial little issues that had shown up at the medical would not prove to be a problem.
Which, of course, they did not.
Holty chose the interview he had with City fan and Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas to confirm that he and his family are in the process of relocating back to Norwich to live on a permanent basis, although he did go on to add that “nothing should be read into it” with regard to a pending role back at the club and that his immediate priority is to carry on playing.
It would seem, therefore, that his dream of ending his playing days with Carlisle may now never become a reality although, who knows, maybe Colchester United may now, six years later, finally get their man?
The other guest who I would like to give a particular mention to is Iwan Roberts, he whose arrival on the Open stage was greeted with chants of “Iwannnn, Iwannnn” – and not only from the floor but up in the Balcony as well. It was a nostalgic flashpoint for those who remember him as the man who led the line so ably during his time at the club and who never, ever hid, even when things weren’t going his way.
This even extended to a time during his early days at the club when, after a particularly bad game, he emerged from the players entrance at the Barclay only to be confronted by a large group of Norwich fans who weren’t shy about letting him know what they had thought of him and his performances for the club thus far.
There are those who would, faced with such hostility, choose to retrace their footsteps and run for cover. But not Iwan. He walked ahead and through the jeering throng, aware and, no doubt, hurt by their taunts but determined, at the same time, to work even harder to make his time at the club successful and, ultimately, to turn those fans views of him around and from derision to hero worship.
And how he succeeded. He was, I noted, one of the last people to leave at the end of the evening and was still, as the Open staff politely attempted to clear the building of everyone, still sat upon the stage, signing books and posing for photographs with anyone and everyone who wanted one.
A proper gent.
I’ve already finished my copy of the book and I have to admit that I have done so with a tang of professional jealousy for a job that Mick has planned, edited and completed, as you would expect, to an exceptionally high standard.
Writing a book is not an easy task, indeed, it is one of the hardest, time consuming and most frustrating ways of making a living within the entire field of the creative arts and medium, one that rarely pays out a financial reward to match the hours, days and weeks of effort, hard work and late nights that go into it. Yet, when that box of pre-release copies arrives and you look at the finished result for the first time there is, certainly in my experience, little out there in the working world to match it.
I am sure that Mick had that feeling of pleasure and job satisfaction himself, the end game of seeing his book finished and, as from Sunday, in the hands of those who will be reading it, commenting upon it, and, I am sure, recommending it to others.
Something which I do with no hesitation at all. Get hold of a copy if you possibly can as it is a great read, or, rather, it is eleven great little reads; revelations and tales about our club and some of the people who have, one way or another, found themselves part of the Canary family, a special one that we all enjoy being part of.
I’m looking forward to Volume II already. Who, I wonder, will grace the pages of that one?
Thanks are therefore due to Mick and everyone involved with the creation and publication of this book, a fine addition to anyone’s Norwich City collection.
One which is going to be a very hard act to follow. But I, for one, will give it a go.