MyFootballWriter’s ‘cup draw’ to designate the match previews across the team, handed me Burton at home.
‘That’s a good one’, I thought to myself; but like so many of City’s recent cup ties, it turned out to be far harder than it looked on paper.
Tracking down a Burton fan who was prepared to ‘sign up’ for a chat proved tricky and gave me new-found respect and sympathy for City’s scouting and recruitment teams; coming close to getting one or two over the line, only for the deals to collapse at the last minute.
However, with my own deadline day fast approaching, I finally landed my man – Burton fan and ‘mate of a mate’, Brendan. Or ‘Big Bren’ as he likes to be known:
SC: Thanks for doing this buddy. You Burton fans are an elusive bunch.
BB: We’re an endangered species mate. You can donate £5 a month to the WWF to help protect our natural habitat and keep me in beer.
SC: Or I could just buy you a pint after the game? Are you expecting many to make the trip to Carrow Road?
BB: We’ll take a few. There’s still a novelty in visiting some of the bigger grounds. Trips to Leeds, Villa, Forest and Newcastle last year, plus Sunderland and Boro this season. Carrow Road looks a decent stadium.
SC: Big grounds don’t always make for the best atmospheres though. There’s been a lot of talk about the fans’ role in improving the atmosphere at Norwich.
BB: I think the fans from some sides – those who have been caught up in the hype surrounding the Premier League – have forgotten that it’s meant to be fun and it’s a choice. You don’t have to go. You could spend your money and your time doing all sorts of other things, but who wouldn’t want to have a few beers, watch your team play and shout at a man with a whistle? You pay your money and you’ve got the right to sing, or moan or just go to sleep – depends how your team is playing. Many of us are still buzzing from seeing the likes of Derby and Forest at the Pirelli [Pirelli stadium – Burton’s home since 2005]. Of course, it helps having a couple of ‘Ultras’ like me and my mate Tel, with a couple of mini-rockets and a flag we made from one of our lasses’ tea-towels. But we’ll have to see how our fans react this year. We know it’s going to be tough and we need to remember where we’ve come from and what we’re up against.
SC: Any chance of ‘second season syndrome’? You often see a promoted side bring a bit of momentum into the new season and then struggle the year after.
BB: Winning – and losing – can become a habit. There’s a mindset that seems to set in from both the players and the fans. The aim for this year has to be trying to stay up again and then hopefully over time establish ourselves in this league. We’ll need to string a few results together and try to build some momentum and confidence. Before the hammering at Leeds, we’d gone three games unbeaten but there’s a few tricky looking games coming up, including a trip to Old Trafford [in the EFL cup], so we could quickly find ourselves on a losing streak. Last year we went on a bit of a run around February which ultimately kept us up. It started when we beat you 2-1 at home, so thanks for that.
SC: Norwich City: helping out other teams since 1902. I should get a job in marketing.
BB: You’d never replace whoever is doing it there now. I hear you’ve got a third kit? How are they justifying that? You do realise that we’re basically two of the only clubs who play in yellow, right? We barely need an away kit let alone a third kit. You’ll be launching a new kit for Cup matches too, I guess?
SC: They’d be one-offs. We consider it a cup-run if a match goes to extra-time. At least this season’s third kit is a different colour [purple]. Our first attempt at a third-shirt was basically yellow. I read that Nigel Clough wants to do away with the transfer window. How was the window and deadline day for you?
BB: Busy. We brought three in and lost a couple on deadline day alone. But I’m with Cloughie; I’d like to do away with the windows completely. If not, then the summer window should shut before the season starts. All the fuss and speculation unsettles everything. Irvine [last season’s player of the year] was left out of the squad for our last home match against Wednesday and all the talk was about why and where he was off to rather than the match itself. [Jackson Irvine was subsequently sold to Hull and Burton gained a creditable draw against Wednesday]. I just think that clubs – especially those with smaller squads – should be allowed to trade as they need to. A couple of injuries can leave you screwed.
SC: I guess it’s designed to stop club’s from buying their way out of trouble? But then the Financial Fair Play rules are meant to prevent that – for what they’re worth.
BB: When you’ve got countries owning clubs like PSG and spending £200 million on a player, the whole thing has gone crazy. Our stadium cost about £7 million to build. Neymar probably earns that in a week now. There will always be other clubs with more money but the gulf is massive now. People moan about parachute payments in the Championship and how that’s unfair. But that’s life. Besides, money doesn’t guarantee success – as you know.
SC: So, if FFP rules don’t work, what new rules and regulations would you bring in to specifically benefit your team? I’d ban all players over the height of five foot seven and watch Wes and Pritch tear apart their pint-sized opponents.
BB: Like at the fun fair? Anyone over this height isn’t allowed on the bouncy castle? I’d make all games non-competitive with no points for the winners and the league to be settled alphabetically.
[After consulting the table, Brendan realises that under his new system Burton narrowly miss out on the play-offs and we decide that we should change our clubs’ names to AFC Norwich and AFC Burton]
SC: Football managers are always only a few poor results away from the sack – unless you’re Arsene Wenger. Some City fans were even questioning our new Head Coach after only 4 games. Bearing in mind that Nigel Clough got you into the Championship and then kept you up last year, will he be given a bit more time and patience if or when things get difficult?
BB: I like Cloughie, but I preferred Jimmy [Floyd Hasselbaink] and a lot of what’s happened is down to him. Jimmy took over from Gary Rowett and got us promoted from League Two before being nabbed by QPR with us sitting top of League One. Cloughie finished the job and did really well last year but I miss Jimmy. He looks and sounds like a porn star and I like that in a manager. Cloughie looks like someone who should be working in the Council processing parking permits.
SC: So he’ll be ‘parking the bus’ at Carrow Road? What are your thoughts on Norwich and the match itself?
BB: I saw us beat you last year. You looked like a load of individuals, rather than a team. No confidence; loads of mistakes. I wasn’t surprised to hear that you had sacked the manager and it was probably the right decision to shake things up. I guess it depends on how quickly your new players settle in and whether the new manager is given time? But I reckon it will come good for you. You’ve got some decent players; they just need to play like a team. Hopefully this game has come around early enough that you’re still sorting things out and we’ll nick a result. If your manager can get them playing, it could be messy like at Elland Road. Leeds tore us apart. We’d made a few changes to the team and switched to a 4-5-1 but they were just too strong. Best team I’ve seen us come up against for a long time. Hopefully we’ll see a reaction to that and hopefully you’re not as good as Leeds. Whatever happens, we’ll enjoy it and have a few beers and if we win, keep an eye out for the mini-rockets.