Apparently there are several dozen people dotted all around the world who are interested in finding out all they can about the daily life of something called Kim Kardashian.
And from what I can gather she has several things in common with the Premier League.
Shameless. Vulgar. A touch tawdry even. And coated, head to toe, in bling.
The trouble is, all Ms Kardashian has to do to get the paparazzi of the world worked up into a sweaty frenzy is coat her monumental derrière with oil and point it in the general direction of a few Nikons, all equipped with suitably adjusted wide angled lenses.
She’d be the perfect candidate to play the Premier League if it was ever made into a film. And most certainly a far less outrageous or ego driven choice than that which saw Tim Roth chosen to play Sepp Blatter in the recent film that had been made about FIFA. One that, I am very pleased to hear, has not so much bombed at the box office than sunk to the very bottom of the deepest part of the Marianas trench.
The film cost £19 million to make and, up to the middle of last month, had recouped £125,000 in cinema takings. Presumably that accounts for Sepp and all his family and friends seeing it several times a day, seven days a week? I can think of no other reason for anyone to want to see it.
The film, like Kardashian and Blatter, belongs in that dark and unexplored region of the Pacific Ocean. Unseen, unheard of, forgotten and gone.
But, as equally tasteless as it is, we’ll give the Premier League a second chance for now.
Because, despite all of its faults (of which there are many), it’s still the place that we and twenty-three other Championship clubs desperately want to be.
But really? Do we really want to go back there? Seriously?
Is this season truly and honestly all about dragging ourselves back to within touching distance of the Kardashian woman’s orange backside where we can look but not touch (one blessing)? And knowing that not only our place, last on Match of the Day most weeks, but also our football – no matter what formation we played or personnel we used – was never going to be good enough.
Remember last season? 7-0 at Man City? 5-1 at Liverpool? 4-0 at Man Utd? That hideous capitulation at Aston Villa – Lambert, Holty and all? Or the truly miserable 0-0 at home to Cardiff City?
There are others. You were there. I was there. We remember.
Do we really want to go through all that again when this season (back in the Championship), rather than Kardashian, we’re more like the friendly and immediately likeable brunette from next door?
Easy to get to know, comfortable company, intelligent, knows the game, the players and has some fun mates including a bloke who you used to know at school.
Football was going to be fun again. At least, that’s what we told ourselves over the summer. For a start, there was going to be a return of the ‘Norwich way’.
Now, bear in mind that, as far as the ‘Norwich way’ is concerned, it probably covers a period of time that commenced with the appointment of John Bond and lasted up until the last days of Mike Walker’s first stint in charge of the club. So from about 1973 to early 1994, around twenty years in other words.
The club itself, as if anyone needs reminding, was founded in 1902. So, next summer will see us celebrate our 113th ‘Birthday’.
Which, by my reckoning, means that for just over nine decades of our history, the ‘Norwich way’ has been anything but the ‘Norwich way’ that either the club or people not connected with it at all still talk about.
In fact the only people who don’t talk about the ‘Norwich way’ seem to be the fans of the club itself. Me, you, all of us.
Two questions then for you to consider this week.
Firstly, what is, or was, the ‘Norwich way’?
And, secondly, have we seen a return to it this season at all, or, indeed, have we even seen it at all in recent years?
Our reputation as a ‘good footballing side’ was certainly crafted under the management of John Bond. And that was no accident, for Bond himself was ingrained with that philosophy, brought up in a West Ham side that included the likes of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Johnny Sissons and Ronnie Boyce.
Footballers all. Players who were most comfortable with the ball at their feet and who played the game with it hardly ever going above knee height. Individuals like Sissons and Boyce would be considered luxuries in today’s game, an indulgence. They didn’t run the length of the pitch to cover their man, they didn’t get ‘stuck in’ or hoof the ball into Row Z when they could pass the ball to a team-mate in space.
Moore played at centre back for goodness sake – something you have to remind yourself whenever you see him play; his legendary dispossessing of Brazil’s Jairzinho (it was never ‘just’ a tackle) typifying both the sort of player he was and the way they did things at West Ham at the time.
Watch the clip, watch him tracking Jairzinho, tracking him right into his own penalty area before taking the ball off him with a beautiful mix of timing and precision. But he doesn’t just do that, he then elegantly strides out of defence with the ball at his feet before playing a pass to the feet of one of his teammates.
Utter class… and timeless.
That was the sort of football and the type of player that John Bond had around him in his playing days. No wonder he brought it to Norwich, he couldn’t help himself. He brought people of that ilk with him as well – Brown, Peters, Sissons.
He wanted Moore as well, not only when Moore left West Ham but when he left Fulham as well in 1977. He then recommended Moore to the Norwich board to be our next manager when he himself left for Manchester City three years later; a suggestion that the Norwich board were more than happy to follow up by inviting Moore for an interview with the suggestion that the job was his if he wanted it.
Moore had, by then, taken charge of non-league Oxford City and, a man of his word, turned down the offer from Carrow Road, explaining he didn’t want to walk out on his new club so soon after taking over.
One suspects he would, had he taken charge, have continued to commit Norwich to playing in the manner that Bond had soaked the club in. As things turned out, Ken Brown succeeded Bond and, as an old friend and member of his coaching team, the legacy was safe in his hands.
The Norwich way.
People describe it as a ‘passing game’. It’s more than that isn’t it? Every game that is, and has, ever been played, consisted of passes, of one player moving the ball onto another in the same shirt as him.
It goes back to the early days of international football, the very earliest in fact and the first meeting of that type in history, that between Scotland and England in 1872. England, reckoned to be by far the bigger and most physical of the two sides, were favourites to win not least because the fledgling game at the time was still played in much the same manner and spirit as one of its predecessors.
Mob football had been played by everyone gathering around the ball and having a bit of a bundle, a scrimmage (Noun: A rough or vigorous struggle) if you will, described by one writer as a ‘shapeless bustle’ with every man part of that vigorous crowd of twenty following both the ball and the man who had it at his feet around the pitch.
Dribbling was king in mob football, one for all and all for one was how the game had always been played, the inter-village matches of old of two hundred plus per side in the early examples.
How ironic that we, the team with an ancient song that exhorts the players to have a ‘little scrimmage’, are known as champions of the type of football that is as far away from being a scrimmage as possible.
England, back then, were reckoned to be the side that would come out on top. Bigger, stronger, faster. The Scots, it was declared, wouldn’t like it up ‘em. And they likely wouldn’t. Except that they had a different way.
They called it ‘combination’ football. It not only saw the benefits of the player who dribbled with the ball at his feet but it also called for players to find space, to find one another and distribute the ball between themselves, to negate the physicality of the English team by passing the ball around them.
It’s possession football at its very earliest. It’s 1872 and Scotland has invented tiki-taka.
A century later, John Bond brought it to Norwich. Ron Saunders hadn’t exactly espoused mob football during his time at Carrow Road, but his sides had hardly been pleasing to the football connoisseur’s eye either. They were typified by hard-running, hard-working players who got the ball forward as quickly and directly as possible and, when the chance to score came, made sure they made the most of it.
Not unlike the Norwich City of Paul Lambert in some ways. Fast, strong, direct and led by a big, no-nonsense centre-forward. For Grant Holt under Lambert, read David Cross under Saunders.
It wasn’t the ‘Norwich way’ – not then and not under Lambert. But it was effective, it got results and it saw goals. And it wasn’t, or isn’t, despite what people might say, backward. Yes, we looked a lot prettier under Bond, the football was more intricate and creative, the players more thoughtful in possession but it still won us nothing more than admiration for the way we went about it.
Saunders, meanwhile, took his methods to Aston Villa and won a League title there as well as laying the foundations for a team that went on to win the European Cup under Tony Barton.
Whereas John Bond, for all the good football and good practices that he brought to Norwich and to all of his clubs has, won no major honours in over a quarter of a century in club management; the peak of his managerial career being two losing cup finals at Wembley with Norwich in the League Cup in 1975 and with Manchester City in the FA Cup six years later.
So it may be nice, it may be easy on the eye, it may draw in the plaudits and the praise but, in the end, is it guaranteed to actually win you anything?
Not, it would seem, unless you are Barcelona. And they didn’t win anything other than praise last season either.
Little wonder then that so many Norwich fans, already disillusioned with both the football and the manager this season, are championing the cause of Tony Pulis; someone who not so long ago would have been considered the anti-Norwich way. A devil in a baseball cap.
And yet, and yet…
He’s a bit of a Ron Saunders, he is, or was, at Palace, dare I say it, a bit of a Paul Lambert even? Under him, Palace played fast, direct and very ‘in your face’ football. They got the ball forward quickly, they got it into the opposition’s penalty area as much as they could and however they could – long passes, short passes, set pieces, up and unders… you name it.
The Palace fans loved it. Yes, they’ve had their ‘footballing’ managers over the years – Terry Venables, Malcolm Allison, Steve Coppell and Peter Taylor – but they never achieved under any of them what they did under Pulis last season.
Palace went from relegation certainties to a few points off a top ten place (including a run of five wins in row); form that won Pulis the Manager of the Year award and, with a win-rate of 42.86 per cent, one of their most successful managers ever.
One of those with a slightly better record than him is one Dave Bassett, while the manager who guided them to a 3-1 thumping of Liverpool last weekend was one Neil Warnock. The same Warnock who claims that, when he had an interview for the managerial position at Carrow Road, was loftily dismissed for not knowing what the ‘Norwich way’ was – to which his reply was no, but he did know something about winning games and getting promotion.
Game, set and match Warnock.
Pulis, Bassett and Warnock: Managers cut from the same sort of rough cloth but managers who know what it takes to get results and win football matches – and if it isn’t always the ‘Norwich way’ then, well, so what?
Do we want to be known for our perceived footballing philosophy, this ‘Norwich way’ we keep hearing about?
Or do we want to be known for winning football matches?
Because if we want another dose of Kardashian next season, then we’re going to have to do the dirty and change our footballing ways a little bit. We’re going to have to fight and scrap our way out of this league, just as we did under Saunders and just as we prospered in our first season back in the Premier League under Lambert.
And let the ‘Norwich way’ mean winning football matches. Not by the way we play them.