Chris Lakey: Will it be hair today gone tomorrow for Norwich City star Todd Cantwell?

Todd Cantwell gets a sympathetic handshake from West Ham manager David Moyes Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Todd Cantwell gets a sympathetic handshake from West Ham manager David Moyes Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

A few years ago I remember watching Ian Henderson bag a couple of goals in Norwich City’s 3-1 home win over Millwall and thinking the club had ‘a player’ on their hands.

Todd Cantwell - sporting a hairstyle whic seemed to upset a lot of fans - after the defeat to West Ham 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdTodd Cantwell - sporting a hairstyle whic seemed to upset a lot of fans - after the defeat to West Ham Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I’d seen a bit of Henderson in the youth team and reserves, and was pleased to see him get a few Championship (then First Division) games in 2002-03.

Born in Thetford, Henderson was a bit of a cheeky one: you could see that on the pitch just by watching him. No harm in that.

But 26 starts and 46 from the bench with half a dozen goals in six and a half years wasn’t a great return. Fortunately, he found a home at Rochdale and became a local hero up there – something you feel it is sometimes hard to achieve in Norwich.

I always felt Henderson got more stick from fans than he deserved, especially as he was trying to break through. Ditto a few other local players: Ryan and Rossi Jarvis, Chris Martin. It’s not necessarily the number of games they play, it’s the way some local fans react to them. It isn’t always good, which is surprising considering most fans are local.

The latest to feel the wrath is Todd Cantwell, whose solitary on-pitch reflection after the home defeat by Brighton and then his corn row hairstyle which he sported for the home game against West Ham on Saturday, didn’t sit well with some people.

Let’s start with that post-match image of the Dereham-born midfielder. He wasn’t the only one who looked dejected: Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons weren’t best chuffed either. One thing they have in common: they’re young lads who have cut their first team teeth at City. So they care.

Cantwell’s actions did get a mention from sporting director Stuart Webber, perhaps ‘accidentally’ if you like, when he spoke to the media a couple of days after relegation was confirmed.

In insisting he took the rap for relegation, Webber said: “It doesn’t bother me. It won’t affect me. I don’t have an ego. Now it is about moving forward. I got it badly wrong. I am not ashamed to admit that. But I am not sulking or lying on a football pitch hoping someone takes a picture of me. What is the best way to fix this? By putting it right.”

Why what appears to be a direct reference to Cantwell arose is anyone’s guess. To start guessing the thought process is unfair – who can accurately second guess someone else?

Cantwell’s response on social media was: “I stayed on the pitch because it hurts me. I didn’t want to act like I was okay in the changing room so I removed myself and reflected.”

So Cantwell obviously thinks it was about him...

But at least Webber added context, even if it had a perhaps unnecessary ‘personal touch’ as well. Fans want to see unity in their club, even in such difficult times. This doesn’t appear to be particularly harmonious. Unless of course, Webber was being non-specific and rather more generic.

But frankly it was the stuff that followed his change of hairstyle was much worse.

That was a vilification of Cantwell that carries on that tradition of dumping on your own doorstep.

Apparently, his change of hairstyle had no place on a day when City were facing a make or break game. In the end, they broke, big time. And Cantwell became an easy target. Absolutely ridiculous.

What on earth has his hair got to do with anything? If you don’t like it, lump it. There are some opinions that are valid, but ones about someone’s hairstyle are most definitely not.

Presumably some people thought it was a frivolous act ahead of what was such an important time for the team. Again, that is beyond my ken.

It is ludicrous to suggest that someone capable of playing Premier League football would disrespect his club and his team-mates by the way he chose to style his hair.

I guess the problem is that Cantwell became an easy target for fans frustrated at City’s performances, but if that is the case, why pick on him? I’m not advocating you pick on anyone at all, but if you get your kicks that way, isn’t it logical that your target is someone who has let you down by not putting in sufficient effort rather than someone who decides on a hairstyle that isn’t to your liking?

Leave the old-fashioned “back on my day” criticism to Graeme Souness and Roy Keane, whose views on ‘maverick’ footballers often seem to complement perfectly their own hatchet-men images - just ask some of their many ‘victims’.

In difficult times for players and fans it seems unnecessary to start poking each other with sharp sticks. Especially one that could end up driving a perfectly good footballer away.

Words don’t come easy

Football commentary can be very hit and miss, but the job of expert summariser makes you even more of a target for viewers and listeners.

The man commentator can be pretty much anonymous – it’s hard to put a face to many of the names, brilliant though they may be, which helps keep them pout of the firing line I guess. The analysts are usually ex-players so we know them all and those of a certain disposition can come up with some fairly strident criticism, most of it unwarranted.

We all have our favourites, but a ‘new’ name has been added to my particular list: Efan Ekoku. I hadn’t heard Ekoku too often but the former City striker has popped up a lot more during Project restart and I think he’s as good as they come.

I don’t want to be told what I have just seen. I want to be told why I have just seen it. Ekoku does just that – really impressed with him.

Shame ITV aren’t as impressed with Clive Tyldesley, who has lost his job as lead commentator and been moved to a role as number two commentator.

Clive was a bit non-plussed and went public with his thoughts, which elicited varying degrees of sympathy and, well, lack of sympathy.

Then there was the reaction of Richard Keys, who was sacked by Sky Sports a few years back for sexist remarks and now works for beIN Sports. Seems like he’s just the sort of pal you need, judging by his blog.

“Just for a minute I thought something really serious had happened.... Was somebody in the family a Covid victim? Did he have a terminal illness? No. It was worse than that – he was being replaced as ITV’s lead commentator. Not sacked. Replaced. Kept on as No. 2 – a job he’s previously had. No one was trashing him – his work or his reputation. Replaced. And replaced by a dammed good operator.”

Then it became about Keys: “Of course I know how you feel. It hurts. But it happens,”. Or “Try leaving a company for good – watching them drip feed nonsense into the media.” Or “He cares about so many people and he’s always the first to show if you’ve got a problem – although I haven’t heard anything from him these past five years. I don’t know why?”

Me, me, me, me, me.

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