You’ll have to take my word on this:
– The venue was Burnham Deepdale school playing field (the Camp Nou of North Norfolk)
– The time was summer of 1977
I was centre-forward for a neighbouring village’s primary school. I didn’t own a pair of football boots at the time so was playing in scuffed school shoes.
The second of three goals that day was a sublime back heel flick from inside the penalty area. My other two were more scrappy – a bit like Harry Kane’s against Leicester.
That memory had long been consigned to the recesses of my brain until Cameron Jerome’s glorious goal against Forest at the weekend brought those hazy days of a sweaty youth back to mind.
Of course the crowd that day back in 1977 was about 26,950 fewer than those worshipping at Carrow Road. Most of the onlookers – mainly parents and dogs – who witnessed my Messi-esque flick (Lionel was 10 years away from being born – maybe Dalglish-esque is more appropriate) probably aren’t around anymore to corroborate my account. Certainly not the dogs.
I’m not saying that my effort was quite of the same pedigree as ‘Big Cam’s’ but considering the state of the pitch I had to deal with and the nature of the footwear I was sporting it was not bad.
While Wes Hoolahan has quite rightly taken many of the plaudits for his man-of-the-match performance on Saturday, I’d like to focus on the contribution of our big Yorkshire-born number 10 who now has 18 Championship goals in the locker this season.
That tally – all from open play – is just behind the 19 of Rob Earnshaw in 2006-07 (of which four were penalties), the 19 of Iwan Roberts in 1998-99 and the 21 of Grant Holt in 2010-11 (of which three were pens).
With seven massive games to go, another three or four from Jerome would not only take him to the top of that list but more importantly potentially propel us into a top two spot come the end of the day on May 2nd.
And let’s not forget Jerome was a Neil Adams’ summer signing, and for that we owe him in the same way Bryan Gunn, despite a disastrous spell in charge, is owed an eternal thanks for signing Holty.
They are pointless questions but ones that always comes to mind: would either Alex Neil or Paul Lambert have signed their inherited strikers if fate and timing had been different? And how different would the club’s fortunes have been if they hadn’t?
The crowd scenes and players’ smiles after that Jerome goal sure made for a stark contrast with the away fans’ disgruntled looks and noises, and Jerome’s dejected demeanour after the corresponding fixture at the City Ground back in November. He was substituted that day.
That late capitulation at Forest was a season low for me, coming on the back of a hammering at Middlesbrough and in a month where we lost three of four games, and only scraped a point off Brighton at home.
But how times have changed, not least the fact that neither coach on that chilly November day subsequently survived the dreaded axe. Back then, which of us honestly had heard the name Alex Neil?
Much water has flowed under the metaphorical bridge since those dark early winter days and now with the latest international break upon us, it’s all to play for when the league action returns on April 3 – a visit to the South Coast and a re-acquaintance with a certain former Canary boss.
But to Cameron Jerome. Apart from ex-City loanee Harry Kane, which English striker is playing better at the moment?
Sturridge? Wellbeck? Austin? Rooney? Personally, no on all counts but then with Roy Hodgson’s selection blindness to outside the Premier League there was never a chance for a Deeney or a Wilson or a Jerome to figure.
Not since the glory days of Steve ‘Bully’ Bull has a lower league striker been picked for his country.
Jerome made ten appearances for the England Under-21s back in 2005 – 2007 when he was at Cardiff and Birmingham. Now at 28, he’s at his physical and footballing peak.
That deft back flick was sensational but only one of ten or so absolute stunners (Cardiff away, Bournemouth away etc) to have left the opposition keeper looking as bemused and frustrated as an overly-peckish Jeremy Clarkson.
With Lewis Grabban’s season looking over, Gary Hooper struggling to find form and consistency, and Kyle Lafferty topping up his tan in Turkey, the efforts of Jerome over the next few weeks will play a crucial role in deciding the Canaries’ fate and whether it will be the Etihad or Ewood next season.
While Hodgson will no doubt continue to take up the complimentary seats at the more fashionable of the Premier League’s glitzy stadia, he’d be well advised to expand his horizons to the Championship where a far more interesting and exciting top-of-the-table battle is about to go ballistic.
My glittering playing career? Like so many dreams, it was dashed on the rocks of reality. I did at least eventually get a pair of proper boots but never scored another back heel flick.
I swear there’s a moral there somewhere.