What the Carrow Road pitch saw: From Hoolahan to Howson, Gunn to Klinsmann ... and a bit of Suarez
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It was back in 2004, with Norwich City heading to the Premier League, that the new Desso pitch was installed at Carrow Road – it’s seen plenty of ups and downs since then but is currently being ripped up and replaced. CHRIS LAKEY looks at some of its best and worst moments...in no particular order
1 Wes’ penalty v Ipswich: Never mind the pitch, what about the roof? More than three-quarters of the ground shook to the rafters on May 16, 2015. Any City goal in a derby has that effect – but this was special. This was the Championship play-off semi-final and, after a 1-1 draw at Portman Road, City had home advantage. The turning point came just five minutes into the second half when Wes Hoolahan scored from the penalty spot after Christophe Berra had been sent off for using his hand to keep out Nathan Redmond’s shot. While Tommy Smith pulled one back on the hour, Redmond and Cameron Jerome sealed a City win.
2 Simeon Jackson’s hat-trick goal v Derby: Robbie Savage was never quick, but his slow, slow walk off the Carrow Road pitch led to one of the great City comebacks. The April, 2011 match was poised at 2-2 with only three minutes left when Savage was replaced by Jeff Hendrick, taking an eternity to leave the field. Simeon Jackson had scored both City goals... but something special was about to happen in City’s quest for automatic promotion to the top flight. A stoppage-time corner bounced around the penalty area before Jackson poked it home. “The place is going bananas,” said then radio summariser Neil Adams. It was certainly a sea of yellow.
3 Adam Drury testimonial v Celtic: “It’s a bit surreal, just standing in the centre circle with everyone chanting your name” – Adam Drury sums up what it felt to have his 11 years of service to Norwich City recognised with a testimonial match in May, 2012. And against one of the world’s best supported teams, Glasgow Celtic. The visiting fans invaded the city – a swim in the River Wensum proved popular for some, but not quite as popular as the nearby pubs and bars. The ground itself was a riot of colour – this is the way loyal club servants should be rewarded.
4 Chris Martin diving header v Leeds: Not too long after that awful relegation to League One, City fans were, like their team, in better spirits. Paul Lambert had taken over from Bryan Gunn and breathed new life into the Canaries who quickly made their way up the table and became involved in a cracking battle with Leeds for the title. It was March, 2010 and Norwich were, league-wise, in the ascendancy. Leeds came to Carrow Road needing the win more than City, and there was nothing in it until the very end when Chris Martin settled a fairly average affair, flinging himself to glance in Stephen Hughes’ cross from the right. There was a little more drama as Leeds sub Trésor Kandol got himself sent off in less than a minute after tangling with an innocent Darel Russell. The win took City 11 points clear of Leeds with eight games left – the title was theirs.
5 RvW debut goal v Everton: Much – no, make that ‘a lot’ – was expected of Ricky van Wolfswinkel following his club record £8.5m move from Sporting Lisbon in 2013. The signing was announced in March, made official in July, and his debut made in August - that long wait hadn’t lightened the weight of expectation. The Wolf scored on his debut, against Everton, making it 2-2 in the 71st minute when he headed in Steven Whittaker’s sliced cross. Sadly it was RvW’s only league goal for City and, three years later, he was sold for a knockdown price to Vitesse Arnhem.
6 FA Cup defeat at home to Luton: City have an unwanted place in the history books after losing 1-0 at home to the Hatters in January, 2013. Scott Rendell got the goal, with 10 minutes remaining, which settled the fourth round tie as City became the first top-flight side in the Premier League era to be beaten by a non-league team – and the first time since Altrincham beat Birmingham City in 1986 that the feat was achieved at the home of the top-flight team. Norwich were 85 places above the Blue Square Premier team in the English football ladder. Humiliation was hardly the right word.
7 Luis Suarez - various: Sometimes you get bogey teams. The Uruguayan was a bogey player. In his first game against City he failed to score in a 1-1 draw at Anfield (October, 2011). Then things changed - he played four more games, scoring two hat-tricks, then four and then one... 11 goals in four games. The one that stands out will be the one at Carrow Road when he chipped goalkeeper John Ruddy from distance. It was April;, 2012, and completed his hat-trick in a 3-0 Reds win. It was stunning. The pitch has witnessed many great goals and many great performances, but Suarez has arguably done more damage to City than any other visiting player.
8 Bryan Gunn and the season tickets: It can’t be ignored. It was an unseemly, unsightly act of protest against a club legend. As Colchester bulldozered City on their way to a 7-1 win on the opening day of the League One campaign in 2009, Bryan Gunn stood, bravely, on the touchline. Many managers would have been seated in the dug-out, trying to hide from view. When Colchester went 4-0 up, it proved all too much for two fans, who ran down the side of the pitch towards the City boss and threw their season tickets at him. A week later, Gunn was gone...
9 Jonny Howson v Nottingham Forest: Howson’s stunning goal against Forest in February last year was notable for two things: one, it was such an absolutely superb goal and, two, it put into the shade (a little) a stunner by Wes Hoolahan... both in the space of the opening 18 minutes. Howson set the ball rolling after 10 minutes: a Hoolahan corner from the right, in front of the Barclay, was headed out by the defence. Howson was waiting, some 25 yards out. He watched the ball drop and connected perfectly with his right foot. The ball flew into the nestled top right-hand corner. It was magnificent. Josh Murphy got the second before Hoolahan’s piece of magic when he picked up a header from Murphy from a little further out, on the right, took one touch and smashed it home with that trusty left foot. Job done, game over... but never forgotten.
10 Legends game v Inter Forever: It is perhaps fitting that the last game on the surface should remember, if not exactly feature, some of Norwich City’s greatest players. A quarter of a century after losing to Inter in their Uefa Cup run, City asked them back – all in aid of a charitable cause. A crowd of more than 18,000 – which put to shame many of their Championship rivals’ league attendances – saw the likes of Bryan Gunn, Darren Eadie, Grant Holt, Iwan Roberts, Phil Mulryne, Rob Newman and Mark Bowen line up against Francesco Toldo, Javier Zanetti, Nicola Berti and Marco Materazzi, with a bit of Jurgen Klinsmann thrown in for good measure. Inter won 2-1, World Cup winner Materazzi on the scoresheet, with Paul McVeigh scoring for the Canaries... the last goal scored on the 2004 pitch.
So that’s one top 10 of ‘moments’ on that pitch; there were many, many more candidates for inclusion... feel free to leave your own!