When I was around eight or nine one of my favourite attractions was Woolies in the High Street.
In my case, that was Ilford High Road but I guess for many MFW readers the equivalent would have been on Rampant Horse Street [which Mrs P remembers but I do not] and later St Stephens Street where I took my own kids in the 1990s.
And why? Because of the Pick ‘n’ Mix sweets of course. Staff would always turn a blind eye to littl’uns “sampling” the goods as long as we filled a gaudy paper bag and took it to the till at the exit. You knew what you were getting with shrimps, bananas, blackjacks, fruit salads and Quality Street misshapes but there’d always be something you’d never seen before that looked worth a try.
A bit like our pre-season mini-tour of Germany really.
I’ve never known anything quite like it.
Traditionally, I have always been to at least one pre-season fixture, be it at Carrow Road, Emerald Park, Kenilworth Road, or whatever Cambridge United call the Abbey Stadium these days. Not this time around of course.
But strangely I’ve seen more of us this pre-season than ever thanks to streaming and huge thanks are due to NCFC Official, our three German opponents and indeed the Pink Un for arranging/publicising this coverage without us having to over-actively seek it out for ourselves. I even managed to see four of our six goals against Russ Martin’s MK Dons.
SC Verl? Clean sheet, quite impressive and played in what seemed to be a great spirit by both sides. Not the most exciting match we will ever observe but a nice gentle start to the tour.
Thus on to Dynamo Dresden which gave us the satisfaction of seeing Teemu Pukki net in the first half and Jordan Hugill in the second. Daniel Farke has stressed the importance of his strikers conjuring 30 goals between them this season so that must have made him – and us supporters – extremely pleased bunny rabbits.
This particular game caused me to lose a kind of match experience virginity. I have sometimes listened to football commentary in Spanish, which I can just about keep up with during the slower passages of play, but never before in German. I know a few words of that language but nowhere near enough to understand much of what the guy was saying.
But moving on to SV Darmstadt [version one] I kept the sound on and, while I didn’t understand any more than against Dresden, you could feel the vibe of the commentator on this one. Obviously part of the Darmstadt set-up in some capacity, he was full of praise for us and I swear he was speaking more about our players than his own.
Then my cosy little bubble got to the point of bursting. Cruising at 3-0 in what was a more competitive game than I had expected and provided a brilliant dead ball strike from young Josh Martin, you guessed it. Along come Norwich.
A howler from Tim Krul was quickly followed by a typical Norwich moment. A cross from the right, Ben Godfrey and Alex Tettey are triple social distancing and there’s a free header at the near post.
One of my mates mailed to say *better for that to happen in pre-season* but it has been happening for so many active seasons now I doubt it will ever be eradicated in my lifetime, however long that might be.
The very low-key referee sort of reminded me of Eddie Howe in both looks and demeanour for what little that’s worth.
Darmstadt [mark II] was one of the most boring matches I have ever witnessed. Both sides were lucky to get nil, so I turned my eye to the surroundings.
The Darmstadt training ground looked absolutely beautiful with its low-level forest trees, intriguing arched-window building to the left side of the camera angle and those dotted around the perimeter who were obviously nothing to do with either football club.
There were no quadrants marked by the corner flags and the [I guess] aluminium goal frames looked a bit strange.
Herr Farke used a few choice words at times in both German and English. Nothing wrong with that of course.
And at tour’s end what can we conclude?
Josh Martin seems to have bulked up a bit and really looked good. Max Aarons might be on his way but if he is he didn’t show it and I’d say the same for Jamal Lewis and Godfrey. Todd Cantwell too would fall into that category.
Young keeper Daniel Barden seems cool, calm, collected and confident. And good with the ball at his feet too. Both Oliver Skipp and Kieran Dowell acquitted themselves very nicely thank you.
And after the Darmstadt double-header, Farke said that both Emi and Onel had very minor injuries and “should be back for Luton” in the League Cup, which with 16 players away on international duty we will surely treat as the last friendly of pre-season.
I’m sure all MFW readers will have their own ideas on but I’ll stick my neck out with a starting XI to face Huddersfield on September 12.
Krul, Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Lewis, Skipp, McLean, Dowell, Hernandez, Cantwell, Pukki.
That’s what I’ve put in my Woolworths pick ‘n mix bag folks. How about you?