Hopefully team spirit will help City thr

PUBLISHED: 17:52 19 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:32 10 September 2010

David Cuffley

Back in the 1980s when football fanzines were at their best, lampooning the decaying English game and providing a valuable voice for supporters on issues that the clubs and governing bodies preferred to ignore, one particular feature always made me laugh.

Back in the 1980s when football fanzines were at their best, lampooning the decaying English game and providing a valuable voice for supporters on issues that the clubs and governing bodies preferred to ignore, one particular feature always made me laugh.I can't recall which magazine was responsible, but “Tender Moments from the Lives of the Stars” used to dig out black and white pictures of the top players of yesteryear - usually in scenes of domestic bliss, or taking part in unusual activities, or caught in embarrassing poses.

So you might see Don Howe doing the decorating, Don Revie organising bingo and carpet bowls for his players on a Friday night before a match, Mike Summerbee opening his boutique or Peter Marinello posing for a mail order catalogue.

Unfortunately, I don't recall Norwich City players ever featuring in the series, but a few of them have had unusual spare time talents or interests.

Ron Davies was, by all accounts, a gifted cartoonist, Martin O'Neill studied law and is reputed to have fitted in visits to some of the country's most notorious, high-profile trials between his football duties, while Ashley Ward escaped the pressures of the game by keeping pot-bellied pigs.

Not all extra-curricular activities have proved beneficial. A watersports accident effectively ended Ian Butterworth's top-class career, while Mick McGuire once missed an entire season through an Achilles injury he is reported to have suffered playing tennis during the close season.

Current boss Glenn Roeder appears to have a collective approach to his players' spare time pursuits.

Roeder's Canaries are being encouraged - or perhaps more than encouraged - to spend more of their spare time together on a specific day each week.

He announced a month ago that he was cancelling conventional days off for the rest of the season because he wanted his players to stay together for longer between games.

The result has been a series of activity days designed to foster team spirit.

Tenpin bowling and golf have been on the timetable, and full-back Jon Otsemobor revealed at Colney yesterday that this week's focus had been the Sport of Kings, a pursuit close to the manager's heart.

“We went to Newmarket races. The gaffer's been doing this over the past couple of weeks,” said Otsemobor.

“We normally have a day off on a Wednesday, but rather than have a day off he decided to have us all in and have an activity day, which is good because the lads are all together.

“I don't gamble but Marshy and Pearcy got a few tips and won a few quid.

“Most of the lads just sit in and do nothing all day if they're not training. So we've been bowling, we've been to play pool, which is good and you have a good laugh. It's good team bonding.”

The bowling session came in the week before the Colchester game, while the golf buggies were out on the course in the days leading up to the Burnley home match. Logically, the horse racing trip should have come ahead of last week's derby, but perhaps Jimmy Fortune's four-timer at Headquarters will have given the squad some added inspiration for their remaining games.

Alf Ramsey used to take his players to the cinema - mostly westerns - but on the eve of the 1966 World Cup final, he took the England squad to see Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. They were applauded on their way out by the rest of the audience.

One hopes City will have put their season to bed well before the final Championship match at Hillsborough in a fortnight's time.

But if not, there's always the option of a trip to the Sheffield Odeon on the Saturday night. Or borrowing a DVD of Escape to Victory.

PROPAGANDA MACHINE WAS IN FULL SWING AGAIN

Some things never change. Ipswich Town's match programme last Sunday and at least one local TV channel the next day were busy perpetuating the myth that Danny Haynes scored the winning goal for Ipswich at Carrow Road two seasons ago.

That goal in 2006 was, of course, a Gary Doherty own goal, as credited by several official sources. It was clear from TV replays at the time that the only contact Haynes made with the ball was with his arm, before Doherty inadvertently knocked it over the line.

But, of course, that version knocks some of the gloss off the idea that Haynes has now scored four goals in Championship derby games against City. It's only three. Perhaps the Blue propaganda machine is happy to overlook the Hand of Dan if it makes for a better story.

But we all know Haynes didn't get the final touch, with his foot or his hand or any other part of his anatomy.

Sadly, he did last week.

EXCITEMENT ALL THE WAY IN CHAMPIONSHIP

The fact that the Championship has been such a tight division this season, with only 17 points between the play-off places and the bottom three before today's games, has generally been seen as a sign of mediocrity.

The fact that this morning's top two sides had both lost 11 games - and no team had lost fewer than nine - appears to back that argument.

But even some of the teams who have run away with promotion in previous years have still suffered a rude awakening in the Premier League and, for once, I believe it has been a fascinating battle at both ends of the Championship table.

It's hard to imagine another season reaching the final three weekends with probably 21 sides out of 24 in either the promotion or relegation shake-up.

It's a big contrast to the Premier League, where a different side breaking into the top four is a seismic event.

How many times in recent weeks have Sky Sports broadcast trailers for the next Liverpool or Everton game, trumpeting the fact that the battle for fourth place is hotting up? What a bore.

The only thing wrong with the Championship run-in is that Norwich City have been involved at the wrong end of it.

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