If you still believe in Father Christmas, look away now.
Like every kid, my growing up was punctuated with traumatic discoveries and revelations.
Actually, I don’t recall the truth about Santa being a particular shock. Perhaps I had an inkling of it, even before my dad gave the game away by having a drink too many before his delivery to the bedrooms and falling down the stairs.
The real early-years trauma was my cat having to be put down after a fight. I loved that animal – known to everyone as Stewart’s cat, and called Patteson after the local brewery Steward & Patteson – with all my heart.
The next revelations were disturbing rather than traumatic: learning that appearance could be at odds with truth, that reality wasn’t always as it was supposed to be.
Examples include learning that Simon & Garfunkel weren’t close, while the Everly Brothers positively couldn’t stand each other. How could it be that such harmony in performance wasn’t a reflection of personal closeness?
Since they were Man United players, it amused rather than upset me to learn that Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham, while dovetailing beautifully on the pitch, had nothing but a seething animosity for each other off it.
I’m not sure we’ve had anything quite like that at Norwich. Ted MacDougall probably wasn’t close to anyone, but his relationship with Phil Boyer (one of the best I’ve ever seen on a field) was at least cordial. Stringer and Forbes were, and remain, close friends.
Craig Bellamy had his moments, of course. Nothing in his time at Norwich quite compares, though, with his falling out on a team bonding (!) trip with Liverpool. His dispute with John Arne Riise during a karaoke night reached the point of Bellars threatening his teammate with a golf club.
You couldn’t make it up.
(In passing, I’m happy to report a lately-discovered truth. For a long time I believed the conventional wisdom that Laurel and Hardy weren’t fond of each other; it turns out they were. On the other hand, I understand Abbott and Costello was a double-act of pure mutual dislike.)
I’ve also always been bothered – illogically but powerfully – by the disconnect between footballers’ playing styles and their characters.
Surely a Liam Brady, Ian Crook or Wes Hoolahan should be an intellectual, fluently quoting French philosophers and tossing us elegantly-worded insights into the game. Whereas a Iwan Roberts or Cameron Jerome should be monosyllabic and slightly Neanderthal.
The truth is often very, very different. Some of the most subtle and artistic players (Wes excepted) can barely string two words together, while Iwan is a fine communicator and Jerome one of the most thoughtful and articulate people at Carrow Road.
I don’t know too much about Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, but at this point it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Giroud is the philosopher.
Duncan Forbes – not actually six-foot-two but a truly imposing physical player – had a brilliantly sharp and retentive mind, adding to the sadness of his dementia.
At least on Strictly everyone really does become close (in some cases, allegedly, very close indeed).
I suppose we can’t avoid talking about Norwich entirely. Articles on this site over the last few days by Ed Couzens-Lake and Gary Gowers highlighted, from dfferent angles, an issue that’s about as bad as you can get: an apparent lack of hunger in the players wearing the yellow-and-green.
I missed the Leeds game but have seen the goals we conceded. Even on just those three clips, our players conspicuously failed to challenge and put their bodies on the line as we’d expect. However reasonable or unreasonable other expectations are, that one is non-negotiable.
Whether it was lack of commitment or lack of confidence – the results of the two things can look very similar – it’s not acceptable. In contrast to some fans, I anticipate more changes for QPR than we had for Leeds; Alex Neil gave some of his players a second chance, but I don’t see him giving them a third one.
Actually, I may be appearing on the Carrow Road pitch at the Brentford game on 3 December. Not, I hasten to add, because anyone’s decided I’d be a better central defender than our current ones. No, I may be one of the party presenting a cheque on behalf of the Canaries Trust.
That’s definitely the limit of my on-field contribution.