Growing up in Forest Gate London E7, I had two uncles who would always be around my grandma’s house on a Saturday dinner time before they headed off to Upton Park.
A few times they took me with them except that actually meant that Pete accompanied me while Joe stayed in the Duke of Edinburgh (on Green Street) until well after closing time and rarely actually made a match.
On one of these occasions, I had been selected for my first game for my junior school and was told I would be playing at inside right. It was 53 years ago, and I was nine years old. I asked both Joe and Pete: what precisely does an inside-right do?
Pete said that when you’re running forward with the ball look to lay it off to somebody outside you, push it back if you’re blocked off or cross it if you can. If not, hit it towards the net and hope for the best.
Joey’s contribution was: ‘kick them before they kick you’.
That contrasting “advice” to a young boy kind of sums up our season to perfection.
Norwich City have had some extremes this season. We’ve faced teams who play occasionally wonderful, expansive football. We’ve also opposed quite a few kicking XIs. I’m not naming those because I don’t want to get MFW into libel territory.
But the last two fixtures we’ve had constituted Reading (let’s collectively forget about that one) and Wigan.
Neither of those teams fit into the picture I’ve painted above but bejasus they were/are fighting for their lives – without being dirty, overly aggressive or just plain downright nasty. A point from each of these fixtures? That’ll do for me.
We can call it fate, kismet or la caprice du chance but it was six of one and half a dozen of the other at the DW on Sunday. As in one dodgy penalty against us and an equally dubious assistant referee’s flag in our favour towards the death.
No complaints from me – Wigan well deserved their point. And they didn’t score from open play which will keep the morale of our back four solid.
We’ve now got Wednesday (probably out of the play-off picture) on Friday, then Stoke away followed by one of those kicking sides I alluded to earlier. No names, no pack drill. But they are safe in mid-table with zilch to play for. And as well as Stoke, Emi will be back for that one (if selected) although the full body armour required might weigh him down a little.
I am one of life’s great exponents of the art of panic. But that point at the DW means I can keep the beta blockers and other carefully-chosen sedatives in the bathroom cabinet.
Right now I see no reason to fret. Seven points clear of third with four to play? That’ll do for me.
Sure we’ve dropped off a bit but isn’t that natural at this stage of the season? Check it out with Mr Wilder if you don’t believe me.
Being a nice kind of guy I wouldn’t dream of mentioning the wreckage at a small, squalid town in Suffolk.
I’ll leave that to my long-departed Uncle Joe, who said after West Ham beat Arsenal with a Trevor Brooking header (!) in the FA Cup Final way back when:
“Ha ha ha. Ha ha f***inh ha. Ha ha!”
He didn’t like Ipswich either.
Now maths has never been my strong point (ask any poor sod of a schoolteacher who has been unfortunate enough to “educate” me in the subject) but I had a St Paul on the road to Damascus moment when I woke up yesterday.
While my maths is appalling, my arithmetic remains sound even if only from years of adding up rounds behind the bar in the days before the till did the job for you – and working in FW Jordan’s betting shop in London’s Commercial Road back in the 1970s.
It hit me like a Ben Godfrey tackle – we’re seven points away from third with four to play, yeah?
So if Sheffield United lose just one match and we win just one match during the final four games, we’re up!
I know their remaining fixtures look easy on paper, but so did Reading for us. Here’s hoping. Come on Forest.