When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
Julie Andrews (in The Sound Of Music)
Norwich City has been making me feel sad for quite a while now.
But stepping out of Carrow Road last Saturday, my son and I unwittingly and simultaneously offered up exactly the same three word match summary:
“That was fun”.
Not the sort of punditry that would grace Match Of The Day but a fair assessment nevertheless.
Whilst Saturday’s match was by no means a classic, it was sprinkled with some of the things that can light up a football match. Small moments that we value as supporters because, after countless years and countless matches which blur and merge and fade in the memory, they provide a point of reference and something to talk about on the walk home beside managerial or boardroom incompetence.
Moments that remind us that football should be and occasionally is… fun!
For when it comes to football – and in the words of Mary Poppins – “these are a few of my favourite things”:
Long sliding tackles
If like me, your experience of ten-pin bowling is limited to the occasional team-building event with work colleagues, you’re probably equally as inept. So you may be familiar with that flutter of excitement on those rare occasions when the ball doesn’t go careering into the gutters but actually heads straight towards the pins.
I get the same feeling with a sliding tackle that’s launched from an unnatural and unhealthy distance. There’s a split second, where the brain has enough time to comprehend that something exciting is about to happen as you wait for the inevitable clattering of the pins – whether those pins are skittles or someone’s legs.
So it was with Robbie Brady’s 35-yard* slide (*estimate) that saw him miss absolutely everything and yet still manage to wipe-out the Wolves winger.
The fact that we won a throw-in just added to the merriment.
Hitting the woodwork
There is something oddly satisfying about a shot that hits the goal frame. So much so, it forms the basis of a half-time challenge. But I don’t mean ‘clipped’ or ‘brushed’ – that’s just not the same. I mean a full-blooded ‘smack’ that leaves the post or bar shuddering and sends the ball pinging back into play.
Both Jonny Howson and Cameron Jerome rattled the woodwork on Saturday and ‘our Jonny’ can also lay claim to my favourite bar-hitting experience since the pub crawl on my stag weekend.
I remember nothing of value about the match in question. I couldn’t tell you the score or even the opposition. All I remember was Jonny sending a screamer from well out-side the box towards the River End goal. It struck the bar with such venom and at an angle that launched the ball back a full five yards behind where he’s struck it from.
It was a thing of beauty and wonder.
The internal recognition that ‘he’s given a penno!’ as the referee points in the vague direction of the spot always sends a wave of anticipation and excitement – regardless of whether it’s been given to us or our opponents.
The award of a spot-kick creates a heightened sense of drama and a cocktail of nail-biting hope and fear. The inevitable delay before the kick is actually taken just serves to prolong and build that excitement.
Penalties are football’s tantric goals and on Saturday we had two!
Penalties are great. Penalties that result in an opponent being sent off are even better.
Despite Darwin’s theories, anyone who has been to a football match would struggle to accept the notion that mankind has evolved much since the days of Roman amphitheatres and their baying crowds that smelled blood – or ‘red’.
“Off, off, off, off” we shout – demanding a damning sentence to be delivered.
When the red card comes out it’s met with the same frenzied delight as an Emperor’s downward thumb all those centuries ago.
Outfield players in goal
Penalties are great. Penalties that result in an opponent being sent off are even better. Penalties that result in the goalkeeper being sent off when there are no more substitutions left, are the Holy Grail.
Since the change in rules to allow three substitutions, it’s a rare occurrence to see an outfield player having to put on the gloves. We must be grateful that there are still managers around who like to swap things round before the hour mark.
It’s wonderfully chaotic scene watching a team deal with the situation – vaguely reminiscent of the school playground where the last kid to lay claim to a hand injury is forced to go between the posts (or the jumpers). Standing with slumped shoulders and an expression that shows a genuine sense of grievance that they’re being constrained and not ‘playing football’ with the rest of them coupled with an underlying fear of getting hit by the ball.
With one flash of a red card, the self-assured, over-paid right-back with the sleeve-tattoo is forced to put on a shirt and gloves (that are usually way too big for him) and instantly regresses into his insecure and uncertain inner child. Whilst we the supporters shout ‘shoooooooooooot’ every time we sense a chance to fix him in our proverbial headlights.
So there they are – a ‘few of my favourite things’ that make football just that little bit more fun.
Some that didn’t feature on Saturday but deserve an honourable mention are…
– A horribly sliced goal-kick.
– A referee falling over.
– A defensive ‘hoof’ that clears the stand.
– A player gets sent sprawling over the advertising hoardings.
– A glaring miss from the opposition’s striker.
(NB: all of the above to be accompanied by a cry of ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy’).
Anything I’ve missed?
Steve posts on Twitter @stevocook
My son, who has been feeling quite disappointed with Norwich this year (haven’t we all) also was bouncing up Carrow Hill describing the game as great fun. I think it’s not just that Norwich won but that it was a contest, the other side might have triumphed. The incident packed second half was full of passion, real feeling. For me that’s what really set it apart.
The other thing he always likes, and very seldom happens but he remembers it, is when a ball is cleared into the stands, or a shot goes wide and the ball disappears down the exit into the (as he seems to think) stall selling coffee and pies. I think he has visions of all the hot drink and sausage rolls begging splattered everywhere!
Now I’ve written it I can’t help but reflect that if this is a memorable moment we’ve had a bad season!
martin penney says
I can think of a few others Steve!
– the keeper ending up on his butt after aforementioned horribly sliced goal kick.
– an opposition striker being booked for simulation after a dive in the box.
– a goal off an unexpected part of the player’s anatomy (Dean Coney, Simeon Jackson, a Paul McVeigh header).
– seeing the visitors celebrate like crazy, only for a very late offside flag to be raised.
– absolutely any goal against Ipswich!
There must be loads more!
Stewart Lewis says
What a treat! Not many Norwich City articles in recent months have put a smile on the face. Thank you, Steve.
All of the above ‘favourite things’ are excellent. A nice variation of Martin’s late offside flag is to see opposition fans celebrating, only to realise their ‘goal’ was side netting.
A horribly sliced own goal by an opponent is definitely fun (I remember Vinny Jones doing a classic at Carrow Road). As is the misplaced back pass that gives us a corner or more.
Another personal favourite is a linesman waving so vigorously that the flag flies out of his hand.
Apart from the things afflicting refs and linesmen, which everyone in the ground can enjoy, many of the rest of course become ‘least favourite things’ when we’re on the receiving end. If any Ipswich fan is reading, I’m sure they’ll be happy to remind us of a couple of incidents….
Chris K says
A good read but those of us of a certain age will know the quote is from The Sound of Music, not Mary Poppins!
Gary Gowers says
Cheers Chris K 🙂
A few more spring to mind: A prolonged frantic goalmouth scramble with the ball pinging everywhere, Opposition players winding up the supporters (anyone remember Eric Gates when taking a corner stealing a chocolate bar from the pitchside refreshment trolley?), Floodlights cutting out (but only if temporarily), Streakers or animals of any kind on the pitch.
Ben K says
How about when a defender shoves an opposing player into a photographer’s pit, with the opposing manager claiming he could’ve been killed?
Fair enough, you don’t see that very often. Ditto for the screamer-volley. I was lucky enough to be behind the goal at the River End when Tettey sent one in from 25 yards plus. I was actually yelling at him not to shoot when it was coming down and he was lining it up, expecting it to go into the car park, but my God, I can still remember the elation, the pure thrill of seeing it fly off his boot and into the corner.
The something about seeing a ‘keeper take a throw-in, too. How about a mass brawl? We used to have a habit of having those against Arsenal. The last one I can remember is when Leroy Fer tried to score when he was supposed to be passing it back to Cardiff’s ‘keeper after they had knocked it out for an injury. Cue hysterical handbags.
I also have to second Martin’s vote for when the visitors celebrate like crazy, only for a very late offside flag to be raised, or, when a penalty is given to the opposition, only for the linesman to withdraw it due to an earlier infringement or offside. I can only remember that happening once, but it was against 1p5wich when we were 2-1 up, so it may well be my favourite moment at Carrow Road ever.
Don Harold says
Fun is when you are meeting up with two opposing fans after the game to take them round the pubs of Norwich just after you’ve beaten them 3-1 and they’re convinced their goalkeeper shouldn’t have been sent off and that it was never a penalty. More fun than you can shake a stick at!
Catching the ball when it’s been kicked into the stand is pretty good too.
Stewart Lewis says
Combining a couple of our ideas, a real collector’s item is the sliding tackle that takes out both an opponent and the linesman. Seen a couple.
I know we’re not supposed to call them linesmen any more, but for the purposes of this discussion….
Don (8): I caught one once. Very satisfying
Gary Gowers says
How about when the ball gets hoofed into the crowd (oddly usually in the ‘Jarrold’) and instead of catching it someone headers it back onto the pitch? Is on my bucket but sadly even Redmond’s crosses never made it to row S of the River End!
Stewart Lewis says
Gary (10): In Row S of the River End, you were surely more likely to find a Bradley Johnson shot coming your way?
That changed for just one season, of course.
Gary Gowers says
Stew, I’m in row S, not row Z 😉 (one season aside of course)
(6) pab – Thank god someone else remembers it!! Corner of the South Stand and River End in the early to mid eighties. I thought the old lady with the trolley was going to kill him!! Great article but I must admit I enjoyed Derby more, actually felt entertained for the first time this season