This evening the MFW platform is handed over to ‘Percy Varco‘, of Twitter fame, who has guest-blogged us a piece that takes us from Gerry Harrison’s ‘Match of the Week’ to Arsene Wenger’s lofty frame being crammed into the City dugout. Enjoy…
Before Sky and BT Sport, way before the internet and mobile phones and live streaming, the only way to watch a Norwich City game was to actually attend it.
This was a problem if you were only six-years old and deemed not yet ready by overly worried parents to be subject to bad language, rampant hooliganism and ‘Dr Death’ pushing his cart around the perimeter of the Carrow Road pitch, dispensing Kit-Kats, Juicy Fruit chewing gum and halitosis.
Occasionally, there was an alternative. On some Sunday afternoons, there was Match of the Week with Gerry Harrison.
On rare and special occasions, Anglia Television would bundle their one and only outside broadcast camera into a van and set it up on a piece of rickety scaffolding at the top left corner of the River End terrace to provide an unusual perspective and shaky pictures of Kenny Foggo, Graham Paddon and David Cross bearing down on goal against Blackpool or somebody else in Division 2.
Sunday roast would be dispatched with unseemly haste, to make sure I was settled nicely in front of the telly (black and white, rented) in good time to watch my heroes’ efforts from the previous afternoon. Unfortunately, this usually meant sitting through the last 20 minutes of ‘Farming Diary’ in which the wonderfully named Dick Joice would sit behind a desk and opine about winter wheat, sugar beet yields and a nasty outbreak of swollen udder syndrome in West Winch.
It was, indeed, a different time.
Fast forward to now, and Norwich City are one of just 20 members of the ‘Barclays Premier League’ the biggest, most successful, incredibly marketed, globally watched domestic football league on the planet. Millions of kids in countries many of us have hardly heard of or could even pinpoint on a map with certainty will know the names of every member of the current Norwich City squad – simply because of the fact that we are a part of this incredible success story.
Everyone wants to watch it, everyone wants to be a part of it. Just ask our neighbours down the road, who are currently in their 217th consecutive season in English football’s second tier. They’d love a bit of this sparkle.
It can be argued that is harder to get into the Premier League these days than stay there. To get there, you have to be better than 21 other teams, some very good teams, over a gruelling 46 game season. To stay there, you just have to do better than three other teams. What a waste it would be if all the efforts of Alex Neil and his team last season to regain at the first attempt our place in the top flight (it is easy to forget that we have spent three of the last four seasons in the Premier League) is surrendered too easily.
So why am I so worried that this may indeed happen?
My concern is not with the manager, his staff and players. Yes, it is clear that the squad needs improving with at least three or four genuinely top class players. It should have happened in the summer, and it needs to happen in January.
My concerns are with the way the club is run off the pitch, and if everything possible is being done to support the manager and the playing staff to succeed on it, to be the very best they can be. In no way do I doubt the owners, the directors and the CEO’s intentions to do this, I just wonder sometimes if they realise that being a part of the Premier League is not solely about what happens on the pitch.
It is understandable that the Board are nervous about ever letting the club get into such a parlous financial state that saw us just days away from being extinct a few years ago. They deserve immense credit and thanks for turning that around (although, of course, the amazing rise from League 1 to Premier League in successive seasons engineered by Paul Lambert and his players, giving us access to enormous TV revenues again certainly helped ).
But now, as a club almost uniquely debt free, money must be spent. At the time of writing, we have slipped into the relegation zone. The two other promoted clubs have left us trailing, and although both have wealthy backers neither had the advantage of three years of Premier League monies and experience that we had. Again, it easy to forget that we are not a ‘newly promoted’ club tasting the top flight for the first time; we’d been in it for three years and dipped out for one season.
If we really want to be taken seriously as a Premier League club, on show to hundreds of millions of people around the globe every week, there are other concerns too.
These may seem small matters compared to investing in the playing squad, but am I the only one wincing with embarrassment at the sight of Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho and their staff crammed into what looks like a provincial bus shelter instead of a proper technical area?
When our manager gives his pre match press conferences, doesn’t he deserve better than sitting at a small table in a room that could pass for a low budget hotel conference room? Don’t the press deserve better than that?
When the TV cameras show the players in the tunnel before the match, shouldn’t they have a bit more room to collect their thoughts before going out onto the pitch instead of being crushed up together like shoppers on ‘Black Friday’ trying to get a 50” TV in ASDA?
I wouldn’t know what the dressing rooms are like, but my guess is they aren’t Premier League quality either.
Finally, what on earth are we doing having unguarded deep concrete photographer pits two yards away from the pitch? It provoked mirth at the time, but what if Sanchez had indeed broken both his legs or suffered a career ending injury? I notice they had been protected and cushioned for the Everton game – I can only assume our insurers weren’t too impressed.
It is a different world, and the Premier League is serious business. We mustn’t let it slip away, again.
Spend what it takes to get the quality we need to survive, and then, when we do, build a proper new City Stand, with all the facilities that top level players deserve, and make Carrow Road a much more enticing prospect for new signings in the future.
Many thanks to ‘Percy’. Hopefully you all enjoyed that whistle-stop tour from Gerry Harrison to Jose Mourinho via Kenny Foggo.