Success of first legends game teed up chance of further Carrow Road fun for good causes
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Following the announcement of a celebration game for Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin at Carrow Road, David Freezer takes a closer look at the details of the big day – and the tantalising possibilities involved
The success of this year’s Carrow Road legends game against Inter Milan has played a big part in the charity match which has been announced to celebrate the Canaries careers of Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin.
Almost 18,000 fans enjoyed some fun in the sun back in May, as the likes of Bryan Gunn, Mark Bowen and Darren Eadie took on an Inter team including Jurgen Klinsmann, Marco Materazzi and Francesco Toldo. It marked this year’s 25th anniversary of City’s famous Uefa Cup run and raised funds for the Community Sports Foundation’s new hub, The Nest, near Norwich Airport.
So when it was confirmed that Hoolahan’s contract would not be renewed at the end of last season and Martin mutually agreed to end his contract in August, as the current team moved in a new direction, the possibility of a joint celebration was suggested by sporting director Stuart Webber.
“When I left Stuart said they wanted to do something because I left just shy of 10 seasons,” said Martin, who made 309 appearances for Norwich after initially joining on loan from Peterborough in November 2009.
“He said ‘we want to give you something, you deserve it for what you’ve done’ and he mentioned it first actually, that maybe me and Wes could do something together.
“It made sense really and for me it makes it a bit more special to celebrate it with Wes – he’s pretty much already had his testimonial against Leeds!”
It was that wonderful Hoolahan farewell which made a joint celebration more sensible, with an emotional 352nd appearance during the final home match of last season, starting and scoring in a 2-1 victory over Leeds.
The curtain came down on the Irish playmaker’s 10 years as tears flowed on and off the pitch when he was substituted to a memorable standing ovation in the 85th minute – making it immediately difficult to replicate such a moment in a testimonial.
“Russ came to me a couple of months ago and we decided that we wanted to have a testimonial together,” Hoolahan said. “What better way to give the fans a nice send off for me and Russ.
“We’ve been here a long time and it’s great to have the opportunity and for the club to give us this, so we’re looking forward to it.”
A third of the funds raised will again benefit The Nest, as CSF continue working to raise the final £2.5m they need to complete the total £10.9million project.
The £1.5m first phase was opened in September after the renovation of the clubhouse and seven grass pitches was completed, and the ‘bunk boxes’ for residential stays were opened.
However, to achieve the full dream of an indoor sports hall, gym, floodlit 3G pitch and classrooms, which will benefit an additional 12,000 people a year in Norfolk, a final £2.5m is needed.
Both players will also receive a third of the proceeds for chosen charities as well, with Hoolahan selecting Stepping Stones, a Norwich-based charity for adults with learning difficulties, and Temple Street Hospital in Dublin, where he was born.
While Martin has chosen the Russell Martin Foundation, a non-profit in his hometown of Brighton, and Crohn’s and Colitis UK, having spoken publicly about dealing with ulcerative colitis during his career.
City’s chief operating officer, Ben Kensell, explained: “This has actually come about effectively from straight after the legends game against Inter Milan, where over 17,000 people turned up, a fantastic day and celebration for the club.
“After that moment it became really clear that we wanted to celebrate again but perhaps in a different format. This is aimed as a celebration match for two fantastic players of our club over the last 10 years and it’s great to have Wes and Russ coming back to play in the match for us.
“We set about a date and it’s worth pointing out that the date is fixed, regardless of what’s happening with the first team currently. So play-offs, promotion, it doesn’t really matter from our perspective, this game will go ahead and the date is fixed and set.”
That date is the Bank Holiday on May 6 next year, the day after the Canaries’ final game of the season at Aston Villa – teeing up a tantalising possibility of an almighty day of celebrations, should Daniel Farke’s team manage to turn promotion potential into reality.
• Tickets and hospitality packages are on sale now, initially for the South Stand and City Stand, and can be purchased at canaries.co.uk, by calling 01603 721902 or by visiting the ticket offices at Carrow Road or Chapelfield. General admission will be priced at £10 for adults, £5 for ages 16-18 and £1 for under-16s.