Can Kei Kamara join Norwich City’s elite group of genuine cult heroes?
- Credit: PA
After little more than five minutes in a Norwich City shirt Kei Kamara is already being described as the latest Carrow Road cult hero. That’s quick work from a striker whose feet have barely touched the ground over the last month.
Jet lag is a term which will probably not do justice to a man who has gone from Sporting Kansas City to a Premier League cameo against Fulham and then warm weather training in Abu Dhabi in little more than a fortnight before returning to attempt to settle in Norfolk.
What impact he will actually have on Norwich City between now and the end of his loan spell on May 6 remains to be seen, but that is what makes it so exciting. Football is such an all-consuming global spectacle now that is highly unusual for a player to arrive that nobody knows anything about. There was a real sense of anticipation against Fulham when Kamara started taking his tracksuit off and the crowd gradually realised they were going to see his Premier League bow just three days after he flew into the country. Even Chris Hughton must have sent the 28-year-old onto the pitch unsure of exactly what he was unleashing on English football.
Over the next few minutes Kamara would nearly score, get unfairly penalised for leaving Fulham’s experienced goalkeeper Mark Scwarzer in a heap with a strong challenge and win an important tackle in his own penalty area. It was enough to light up an uninspiring game of football and one reporter, grasping for a talking point, suggested he had seen shades of the Tottenham striker Emmanual Adebayor in that brief run-out. Let’s not get too carried away just yet, but it is going to be enthralling to watch Kamara build on those promising early signs.
Carrow Road, like most grounds, is a place which has had its fair share of cult heroes in recent years. To be clear, my understanding of the term ‘cult hero’ would be someone who becomes a favourite with the supporters without ever actually being the best football player in the team or someone who has a brief, but spectacular, impact on a team – so you can forget people like Bryan Gunn, Duncan Forbes, Robert Fleck, Darren Huckerby or Grant Holt. They are five examples of players whose contribution to the Canary cause means they achieved far beyond the status of cult hero.
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Kamara arrives with one of the key elements that makes a cult hero, a good background story. The idea that his roundabout route to Carrow Road took him from war-torn Sierra Leone via the United States has quickly captured the imagination.
Cody McDonald achieved similar status when he raced onto a through ball to score on his Norwich debut against Cardiff City in 2009.
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The fact he had been working as a scaffolder on the London Underground little more than a month earlier was a Roy of the Rovers story which meant everybody wanted him to succeed.
An element of unpredictability also makes a good cult hero. Marc Libbra’s debut goal less than 20 seconds after coming on as substitute under Nigel Worthington in 2001 preluded a Norwich City career from the French striker which ranged from Eric Cantona to Eric Morecambe in terms of its footballing brilliance.
Then there was Oli Johnson, a little-known striker plucked from Stockport County by Paul Lambert who had fans already chanting his name within moments of making his debut as a substitute in 2010 as he skated round a series of defenders.
The other quality which guarantees cult hero status is commitment. That’s why Simon Lappin was so fondly waved off by Norwich fans last month when it was announced that his six-year spell with the club was at an end.
His time with City included a relegation and two promotions as well as a sustained period frozen out of the first team picture when Glenn Roeder was manager. Yet he hung around to graduate from being forced to train with the youth team to play a part in the Premier League campaign last season.
MacDonald, Libbra, Johnson and Lappin. Four musketeers who would never threaten a greatest ever Norwich players list and would probably mean very little to anyone who doesn’t support the Canaries. But mention their names to a Norwich fan and they will have thrilling tales of life affirming derring-do.
Kei Kamara is already mixing it in that sort of company, having made it as a poster star in the EDP this week, but will he have what it takes to go the next step, lose the word ‘cult’ from his repuation and become a genuine Norwich City hero?
No-one can answer that question at the moment, but it is going to be a lot of fun watching him try.
• SO MANY POSSIBILITIES FOR THE SCOREBOARD LAUREATE
Thanks to everyone who responded to the homage I wrote to the old Carrow Road scoreboard last week.
After the modern day screens gave up the ghost during the 0-0 draw with Fulham, it reminded me of the fun the one which used to reside on the roof of the old single-tier Barclay would have whenever Norwich City scored a goal in the 80s and early 90s.
While unable to pin down the ultimate fate of the old scoreboard, it seems many fans have memories of it which are just as fond and a lot less sketchy than mine.
Graham Murfitt sent an e-mail with some admirable detail of the messages which used to accompany the little animations which would greet every Canary goal. I had not realised that, for a while, each player had his own catchphrase loaded into the scoreboard. So if John Deehan scored, the crowd would see ‘It’s Dixie Deehan... goal scoring machine’ typed up in big orange letters.
Graham also recalls Mick Channon strikes being heralded by ‘A cannon from Channon’ while ‘Blaster Barham strikes again’ celebrated each Mark Barham goal. It wasn’t all rib-tickling word play. A cannon from Channon is all very well, but it was not so easy to be poetic when Keith Bertschin got a goal. My correspondent remembers his slogan as ‘Keith Bertschin strikes faster than lightning’, which, try as I might, I have not been able to make rhyme even in the thickest of Norfolk accents.
It would be lovely to see some electronic poetry added to the modern scoreboard, assuming it is repaired in time for Saturday’s game. There would be no better way of rubbing salt in Everton’s wounds than having ‘Another lightning bolt from Holt’, ‘More class from Snodgrass’ or ‘A belter from Becchio’ spelt out in huge letters to greet a much-needed Norwich City goal.
Mind you, goals have been few and far between for the Canaries just lately so perhaps I’m setting my sights a little high. On current form I’d settle for a ‘Tap in from Tettey’.