2006 seems like a life-time ago now. So much has happened to all us – both personally and professionally – since then.
It was, however, a memorable year in many ways – not least for the fact that it was the first year that Kevin Baldwin started writing his monthly columns for this website.
Through initial thick and then financial thin, Kevin has continued to weave his wonderful prose around the fortunes of his beloved football club and now they are all housed together in one volume – ‘Yellow Lines: The Norwich City Columns 2006-2012’.
Following the Canaries over the last six years has given all of us moments of high drama; there is never a dull moment on the City beat.
Be it those of us who watch for a web living from the Press Box – or those of us that squeeze our Norwich in and around the day job.
Or rather, in Kevin’s case, those of us that squeeze the day job in and around following Norwich. There’s never been much doubt as to where his priorities lie.
Nor has there ever been any doubt that he can write; which is why I was so delighted to secure his services six years ago. He has never disappointed.
The book is full of gentle gems.
To squeeze nigh-on 30 George Michael song titles into one piece (Peter Grant, By George: March 07) was typical genius; but equally it demonstrated the thought and the craft that you sense always goes into Kevin’s writing.
It is always carefully measured; simply and gracefully constructed. Flick through the pages and the themes chime with all of us; the ever-doubtful wife; the children needing to be reared in Canary ways.
And, of course, the tribal opinion reserved for them down the road.
He has, as mentioned, had plenty of material to work with. The arrival of Paul Lambert clearly sparked a revolution in Norwich’s fortunes; arguably City fans have never, ever had it so good.
But credit where credit is due; the club now possess a quick-witted board who act decisively in moments of managerial distress – a feat they repeated again this summer with the arrival of Chris Hughton, whipped out Lambert-like, from Birmingham.
The way that Kevin actually portrays McNally’s ruthless recruitment policy illustrates his craft; the image of a club careering off the rails at the foot of League One takes him to Carlisle railway station.
“Sitting in the waiting room at Carlisle rail station a few months back… I noticed a plaque honouring a signaller ‘whose quick thinking saved this station from a serious mishap in 1984’. Perhaps a similarly-worded plaque should be put up outside David McNally’s office at Carrow Road…”
That’s lovely. Simple; observant; and bang on the money.
There is, however, another side to the story; one that takes courage to write – as it did Darren Eadie this week in The Independent.
It is the column that stands out for me. Because it’s brave; it looks the ‘black dog’ that stalks so many us firmly in the eye… and touches on the redemptive powers of football; the feeling of togetherness, of normality, of well-being that comes with being wholly immersed in 90 minutes of Norfolk football.
“Much has been written about the loss of identity of the individual within a crowd – but I’d argue that, on occasion, it’s where you can find it again…”
That, for me, sums up Kevin’s writing; he’s human – and it’s the frailty and the humility of the man, as much as the gloriously gentle humour, that stands out time and time again.
All I can really do is thank him for gracing these pages for the last six years and urge you all to buy the book. He gets as close as anyone I know to touching the soul of this football club.
Keep your eyes peeled for a great pre-season competition to win three, signed copies of ‘Yellow Lines’…