Feelgood story of a Norwich City history-maker
- Credit: David Glencross/Alloa Athletic FC
The last time I saw the young man in this picture, reeling away after scoring a goal, was at Waverley rail station in Edinburgh.
I was waiting for a train south, having spent a week at St Andrews watching Norwich City’s pre-season preparations for the 2009-10 season. He was with his folks.
Had things gone a lot better for the young man – Kris Renton – he might well have been one of those tasked with getting City out of League One that coming season.
Instead, Renton was going through the cycle that many young footballers are forced to experience.
At the age of 16 years and 276 days he had become the youngest player to pull on a Norwich shirt in a competitive game – in a 2-1 win at Leicester on April 14, 2007. Three days later he made his full debut at Burnley – a night when City lost Darren Huckerby to, if I recall, a back problem caused by spending endless hours on a bus journey north.
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But, not long into the 2007-08 season, Renton broke his leg in an Under 18s game and, frankly, not much went right for him after that. A couple of loans – to King’s Lynn and then Brechin City - didn’t really work out and he ended up returning to Scotland. For many, that was the last we heard of him.
When sport writer David Freezer tracked him down, he discovered that Renton has had to take two steps backwards to take one forward. While still on contract to the Canaries, he was playing in the Scottish non-league and having to find work alongside football. Fortunately, he finally got his footballing life together and is on the way back up, currently playing with Alloa in Scottish League One. He was teased with an SPL contract in the summer, which for one reason or another didn’t come about.
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Renton was always a good lad, so to see him making his way back after such a knock is heart-warming.
But for young players it is a salutary warning that decisions cannot be made lightly.
“I went out on loan a couple of times and it was really stupid to be fair, because I wasn’t fit,” Renton told our man in an interview for the new Pink Un Magazine. “So I wasn’t playing well and it knocked my confidence completely.
“I actually had six months left on my contract and I just couldn’t do it because my confidence was so low and I felt so bad.
“It’s the biggest regret of my life, how I did that, because if I was older and wiser I think I would have been able to go back to Norwich for six months, keep my head down and just get on with it.”
You see what I mean about that chance meeting at Waverley? Had things gone right, he’d have been wearing a Norwich tracksuit and preparing for what became an incredible period in the club’s history.
Needless to say, Kris’ story is one of many good bits in the latest Pink Un Mag, which is on sale now – you can also order at www.buyamag.co.uk/pink7
Back in the day (the mid-80s to be accurate) I was fortunate enough to watch Wisbech Town progress to the semi-finals of the FA Vase in consecutive seasons.
They were beaten by Halesowen in ‘85 and Southall the following year. It was exhilarating stuff that is still spoken of in reverential tones.
Fast forward and Gary Setchell’s excellent side are now in the last 32 and if they beat Bromsgrove Sporting, they will pick up the princely sum of £1,875 to add to the £3,675 already banked. Win at the same stage in the FA Cup and you get £90,000 (plus cash from previous rounds). Wisbech earned £1,925 for beating Spalding in the FA Cup preliminary round.
The difference is huge: no surprise there is a disparity given the FA Cup has some heavy hitters involved and it’s nice to see them handing out good money in the early stages – it’s money that is needed at grassroots level. Which is why they perhaps ought to look at increasing prize money in the Vase and taking a little off the cut the big boys get in the FA Cup. A more even distribution would move money where it is needed. Manchester United really don’t need more cash thrown their way – but the likes of Wisbech and Norwich CBS, who have done an amazing job to also reach the last 32, could certainly do with it.