May 24 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
There’s a banner at The Emirates Stadium which declares ‘We don’t need Batman. We’ve got Robin’ in tribute to Arsenal’s free-scoring Dutchman Robin Van Persie.
As clever as that may be, Norwich City fans have been able to put their comic books away this season. Saturday’s 3-3 draw with the Gunners was the latest exciting episode of a Premier League return which has contained more than enough real life derring-do to appeal to the imagination of anyone who seeks solace in science fiction.
Grant Holt, Norwich’s answer to Captain Marvel, added Arsenal to a list of teams – which already included Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United – he has scored against this season. Had Roy of the Rovers gone from tyre fitter to prolific scorer against the country’s top clubs in such a short space of time readers would have been complaining about the story being “a bit far fetched”.
Arsenal fans were aghast on Saturday, asking “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s John Ruddy coming out to catch another one of our corners”. Ruddy may not quite be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (yet, give him time) but he flew through the air to keep out a late Kieron Gibbs header, which seemed certain to make the score 4-3 to Arsenal, in such spectacular fashion that no-one would have batted an eyelid if he’d been wearing a pair of red underpants outside his shorts.
The Gunners were fortunate to be able to call on their own international man of mystery.
Van Persie’s 29th and 30th goals of an incredible Premier League campaign made him the one bit of kryptonite in an Arsenal shirt.
They may not need Batman, but for long periods of Saturday’s game the only character from that franchise who was being talked about by the home supporters was The Joker as they harangued Arsene Wenger for his refusal, until midway through the second half, to bring on their boy wonder, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain.
With a place in next season’s Champions League in the balance Arsenal could really have done with winning what was their final home match of the season. Norwich had other ideas and put in the sort of energetic display which has been a real hallmark of their season. I’m not sure that Wenger quite turned green, but the Canaries performance did make him angry enough to burst out of that blue puffer jacket he always looks so uncomfortable in, and Steve Morison’s late equaliser certainly seemed to send the Arsenal manager into an incredible sulk.
Every single Norwich player deserves credit for their part in one of the most pulsating matches of the season, but Ruddy and Holt, in particular, can only have enhanced their chances of a place at Euro 2012. If Roy Hodgson was watching events at the Emirates closely there must be a chance that an England call-up will come and Norwich City will be able to toast their capped crusaders.
The pair look likely to be the top two when the Canaries Player of the Season awards are handed out on Sunday. Which order will they be in? Stay tuned for the next episode to find out.
• SAME OLD STORY – IT’S A YOUNG MAN’S GAME NOWADAYS
It was my 30th birthday last week.
I think that’s why Norwich’s recent defeat to Liverpool hit me so hard. When your favourite football team loses the final match of your 20s by three goals to nil you begin to realise that the big 3-0 is something from which you just cannot escape.
However, it does mean I have reached that point in life where the vast majority of professional footballers are much younger than me.
While most of us contemplate the prospect of working well beyond our 65th birthdays, it is at around half that age that we are quite prepared to use the word ‘veteran’ to describe football players. The best thing a player in his mid-30s can do if he wants to feel better about himself is become a manager.
At 38 years of age Wigan’s Roberto Martinez is often described as a bright young manager and yet Norwich fans are getting ready to applaud their elder statesman Adam Drury at his testimonial at the grand old age of 33.
Celtic’s visit for Drury’s big night later this month is bound to be quite an occasion. Not many players clock up 11 years service anywhere in the modern game and with tickets so hard to come by for Premier League games at Carrow Road it provides the perfect opportunity for those who haven’t been lucky enough to catch any of the top flight action in the flesh to see what all the fuss is about.
As one of very few current Norwich players that I can justifiably call ’old-timer’ Drury is reaching that stage in life when only putting on a suit and climbing into the dug out will allow him to dip into football’s fountain of youth and reverse the ageing process.
Mind you, having been through so many ups and downs as a player at Carrow Road since 2001, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he has been put off the stresses and strains of management for life. I’m sure my above average share of grey hair for my age can be linked directly to the amount of time spent watching the Canaries, and I haven’t even had to take responsibility for any of it.
As another nerve-shredding relegation battle draws to a close it would be interesting to know whether Martinez feels like a bright young thing.