It was back in October that I made my first hesitant keyboard pokes in an effort to be vaguely interesting and entertaining on this website. I leave you, the jury, to pass sentence on whether my words have done their intended job.
Unlike some of the other columnists, I am very much an amateur as has probably been blatantly clear in the articles I’ve written.
I’ve tried to offer opinions and views, criticise where necessary and praise similarly, sometimes in a themed manner (fruit, 80s number ones, comet landings etc).
I doff the proverbial cap to those who can call themselves professional sport writers. Background research is time consuming and to strike a balance between dry factual accuracy and lively thought-provoking opinion is a skill not given to many… at least of those I’ve read (see further on for examples).
To do it week in week out is tough. To have the patience to plan and execute a book over the course of a year or more must take an author through the mill – but there are worse ways to earn a living.
My articles have primarily been immediate reactions to the club’s ups, downs and then ups again through a fascinating and unforgettable season. I apologise if the word ‘rollercoaster’ has sprung up too often.
I’ve also rambled on admittedly random topics such as the rise of the tattooed footballer, crop circles, the lack of statues at Carrow Road, and the odd character piece including the question on all Canaries’ fans lips: “Just who was Barry Simmonds?”
I’ve made some predictions, some of which I’ve been vindicated on but others that happily turned out to be well wide of the mark. For example… “The odds on Neil leading us to promotion after just 4 and a bit months in the job have to be very slim.” (Written on January 13).
I’ve managed to wind up Watford fans, not once but twice. The first time was totally unintentional, the second not so much. All good banter though… mostly.
Of course, nothing beats watching league football live or on the TV. Sadly, these long summer days do not satisfy on that front. The void must be filled in other ways.
As well as generating football-related words, I like to read them. In short I like words, although a few pictures also help the story.
Biographies of retired or soon-to-retire players and managers can be terrible sometimes, but now and again a corker comes along that gives the kind of insights all too sadly lacking in most.
I won’t be holding my breath for the forthcoming John Terry, Tim Cahill or Paul Sturrock releases but I do highly recommend the efforts on the page from different eras such as ‘I think, therefore I play’ by Andrea Pirlo, ‘The Binman Chronicles’ by Neville Southall and ‘One Hump or Two’ by Frank Worthington.
Some excellent Canaries biogs have also made their way to print including, ‘Hucks‘, ‘In Where it Hurts’, ‘All I Want For Christmas’ and the recent ‘Gossy: The Autobiography’, the brainchild of fellow MFW columnist Ed Couzens-Lake.
Sadly, many potentially absorbing first-hand tales from former City legends remain unwritten. I’m still waiting for the Robert Rosario story or the warts-and-all account from Mike Walker of his ‘from youth coach to Munich to Goodison nightmare and back again’ journey.
And there are other Norwich City-flavoured publications that are well worth adding to birthday or Christmas lists:
- ‘Got, not got – the lost world of Norwich City’ (Hammond & Silke – 2014) – A fascinating time capsule of bygone days when facial hair was almost compulsory on the field of battle and toggled-up duffle coats likewise off it.
- ‘Norfolk ‘n’ Good’ (Baldwin – 1993) – An ‘insider’s’ view, by recently retired MFW columnist Kevin Baldwin, from those heady days when the home team’s shirts looked like explosions in a paint factory and victory on German soil was a footballing achievement, not a military one.
- ‘When Football was Football…‘ (Dale – 2012) – A guide through the club’s history, development and highs and lows since its Edwardian inception.
- ‘Norwich City – the Seventies’ (Couzens-Lake – 2013) – Yep, it’s that man again (pop the cheque in the post Ed) with a rollicking account of a golden decade when ‘little old Norwich’ first graduated to big school to pick a fight with the head boys.
- ‘Norwich City – on this day’ (James – 2009) – A titbit of relevance for every day of the year.
- ‘Hall of Fame: Norwich City’s All Time Greats’ (Kemp – 2012) – Time travel mini-biography tour from Percy Varco to Bill Punton, from Ken Foggo to Dale Gordon, from Andy Townsend to Grant Holt.
Long may the printed word (book or website) continue to inform and entertain us about our favourite band of yellow and green heroes and villains.
Now… what the heck am I going to write about for next week?
Ben K says
Thanks, Russell. I might check one or two of those out. I’m more into fiction myself, but I can recommend two decent footballing reads: A Life Too Short, the tragic story of Robert Enke, the German ‘keeper who ultimately failed in his battle with depression; and Stillness and Speed, about the life and career of Denis Bergkamp. One to go alongside I Think Therefore I Play in the thinking man’s footballer section.
Russell S. says
Ben – cheers for the recommendations. Like yourself, I prefer the fiction but now and again a vaguely intelligent modern footballer comes along with a bit more to say than how many rounds of golf they squeeze in or what model Ferrari they’ve just acquired.
Particularly irksome is the publication of their story 10 years or more before retirement (yes Wayne, that means you).
Some of the old school players’ (such as Worthington) tales of drinking and womanising may be a little dated but very entertaining all the same.
‘The Unstoppable Keeper’ by Lutz Pfannenstiel is well worth dipping into too.
Flicky Licky says
I genuinely feel for you hacks. Like my own industry, journalism has been obliterated by the bloggers beyond the point of saturation, sifting the wheat from the chaff has become laborious to the point where people stop bothering, thereby missing the good work. I have been and continue to be, critical of writing on this site and have received stick in return. Deleted posts, hails of ‘if you don’t like it why read it…’ etc. Well I read it because there IS good stuff on here, clearly far more informed than most City info resources. But like 24 hour news channels, the ‘pressure’ to fill the gaps mean we end up with loads of dross and I see no reason not to point that out. Your last sentence Russell, sums it up perfectly, there lies your problem.
Russell S. says
Flicky – interesting comment. I genuinely have no problem at all if you or anyone else is critical or takes the opposite view to anything I write on here. I’m always up for a bit of lively and intelligent debate. I don’t think Gary applies the censor’s blade to much at all.
That last line is primarily because of the almost total dearth of action or news emanating from Carrow Road at this time of the year! It’s not a problem during the season.
Note – I meant Percy Varco (not Vargo) – apologies to any of his descendants who may have stumbled across this piece.
Gary Gowers says
Can concur with Russell’s assertion. The censor button is used *very* sparingly and only in the most deserving of instances.
Stewart Lewis says
Hey, Flicky (3) – harsh, to put it mildly. With a complete absence of news from Carrow Road, Russ has not only stepped up to the plate but found another worthwhile and informative topic (i.e. books). More than can be said for some of us…
I, for one, am looking forward to his next piece.
PS ‘Stewart Lewis’ is not a pseudonym for Russell Saunders.
Lewis Stewart says
5 biogs to stay at least 1 barge-pole’s length clear of;
1. Bend it like Bullard – J. Bullard
2. Savage – R. Savage
3. The Didi Man – D. Hamann
4. Hell Razor – N. Ruddock
5. Anything – D. Beckham
Heartily recommend Iwan Roberts account of the 03/04 promotion season, honest and very revealing in places (All I Want For Christmas).
Non-NCFC would include Simon Jordan’s account of his career, specifically the time he spent at Palace and Disrepute, an account of Don Revie’s time as England Manager.
All Played Out is, for me, a must read as well.
Andy W says
If you can’t get enough of football and want to read about it on holiday I recommend Eamon Dunphy’s classic ‘Only a Game’ and his biography of Matt Busby ‘A Strange Kind of Glory’ along with Leo McKinstry’s detailed biography of Ramsey, ‘Sir Alf.’
Cosmo P. says
..one more for the bedside table – ‘Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals (Jennings), written way back in 2007! Warning – you may not sleep easily afterwards.
Can’t wait for the Sepp Blatter biography. Possible titles?
‘I am Sepp!’
‘Add another zero on to that’
‘This Swiss doesn’t roll’
‘The father of the bribe’
Jim Davies says
Well, for those that like fiction with football flavour, try “They used to play on grass” by Terry Venables – years since I read it, but it wasn’t bad.
Russell S. says
Thanks everyone for the ‘books worth a read’ suggestions – I’ll be adding them to my Christmas list.
Dave Stringer’s story is another which must be written – the tales he could tell!