Chris Goreham: Wembley dream is still alive for Norwich City ... it’s not just a Blur
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When Norwich City held their open top bus parade on that memorable Bank Holiday Monday morning last year there was a running joke about how great it would be if we could all do it again in May 2020.
It was funny because we all knew how unlikely it was. To be able to park the bus in the city centre again the Canaries were going to have to either win the Premier League or end the season with another trophy. Perhaps that far off dream is still just about alive.
The Saturday and Sunday just gone should have been FA Cup semi-final weekend. As it stands, Norwich City are still officially in the cup, so it’s okay to fill some of these endless hours in isolation by day dreaming about what it would have been like to turn one end of Wembley yellow and green again.
I know we still had the small matter of a quarter-final against Manchester United to play when the football season was rudely but correctly interrupted so you’ll have to accept the dramatic licence that Norwich City would have triumphed in a Carrow Road classic against United with Tim Krul’s water bottle helping him to make at least two saves in a penalty shoot-out in front of The Barclay. The benefit of not having any new matches to watch at the moment is that reality can’t get in the way and spoil fantasy football.
Returning to Wembley to commentate on the Canaries would have been wonderful. Perhaps it still will be. For all the old place’s shortcomings I suffer from a touch of Ossie Ardiles Syndrome in my knees whenever it gets mentioned. Younger readers might like to study the work of the classical composers Chas and Dave during this week’s home schooling and see if they can find a better rhyming couplet anywhere in pop music than ‘Wembley’ and ‘trembly’.
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The romance of the stadium has always been enough for me to see beyond the fact that the ground is difficult to get to, takes even longer to get out of and, until a bit of money was spent on the surrounding areas in recent years, didn’t really offer much in terms of places to eat or drink nearby in order to enhance the match day experience after the breathtaking first glimpse from the end of Wembley Way.
No true Norfolk person has ever been to Wembley, or indeed any other big tourist attraction, without returning home bursting to ask the first person they see, “Do you how much they wanted for a cup of tea?”.
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The Twin Towers and now the big arch have always had enough majesty for me. I was too young to go to the Milk Cup Final in 1985 and so hadn’t seen Norwich City play there until they beat Middlesbrough in 2015.
Not being part of the yellow and green army that day was both the best and the worst part of the experience. It was great because commentating on a City win there will always be a career highlight and it meant getting the perfect view of all those brightly-coloured Norwich fans. It did mean that I wasn’t able to share the day with my dad or brother who were in the crowd and had been with me on my first trip to Wembley in 1991.
On that occasion England drew 2-2 with Argentina in what I thought was a friendly, but having looked it up I know now was part of something called ‘The England Challenge Cup’ which also featured the Soviet Union. There’s another idea for home schooling. England threw away a 2-0 lead given to them by Gary Lineker and David Platt by conceding two terrible headed goals from corners. I found the highlights of what I recall as one of my most exciting formative football experiences on YouTube. It was an England team that included Geoff Thomas, David Batty and Mark Wright which underlines how the Wembley factor can be a very effective airbrush for the memory.
Until Norwich City stormed past Boro in 2015 the most impressive Wembley performance I’d ever seen was probably Blur at the nearby Arena in the late 1990s. You should have seen how much they wanted for a cup of tea in there.
Sign of the times
My son recently celebrated his second birthday. He is of course a Junior Canary and has been for two years. These are the sort of big life decisions that need to be taken early.
One of the benefits of belonging to the club has always been the birthday card. Each year you get a card from your favourite team with the player’s signatures printed inside.
It’s the sort of thing that would usually go up on the mantel piece or windowsill to add a lovely splash of yellow and green to proceedings.
With plenty of time on my hands this year I have been a little more forensic and have studied the autographs more closely than would usually be the case.
Traditionally, it is doctors who fill the stereotypical shortcut for having poor handwriting, but I think they might be off the hook. If GPs get a lasting tribute once the current tradition for clapping on our doorsteps for them and their NHS colleagues on Thursday evenings fades away it should be that we should stop laughing at their handwriting.
I am not sure I could have recognised any of the current Norwich City squad from their squiggles alone and without the names handily printed underneath. Adam Idah’s is just a zigzag while Josip Drmic seems to have written some form of Morse code.
We only have ourselves to blame for this drop in standards. It must be down to the arrival of the selfie. I don’t very often see players being troubled for their autographs now. A hefty book of signatures was an essential part of the young football fan’s kit when I first started going, now it’s all about who you can get to appear on your social media channels.