City could do with bit of divine assistance

David Cuffley Norwich Cathedral has provided the backdrop for its fair share of well-known film and TV productions over the years. From The Go-Between to the recent Dean Spanley, from P D James' Death in Holy Orders to the M R James ghost story, The Stalls of Barchester - where an ambitious clergyman meets a grisly end - the cathedral and its idyllic surroundings have starred on the big and small screen with Julie Christie, Peter O'Toole and Robert Hardy.

David Cuffley

Norwich Cathedral has provided the backdrop for its fair share of well-known film and TV productions over the years.

From The Go-Between to the recent Dean Spanley, from P D James' Death in Holy Orders to the M R James ghost story, The Stalls of Barchester - where an ambitious clergyman meets a grisly end - the cathedral and its idyllic surroundings have starred on the big and small screen with Julie Christie, Peter O'Toole and Robert Hardy.

Later this summer, the spotlight will be on the stage when the cloisters provide the setting for open-air performances of two of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.


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And, of course, The Antiques Roadshow, where old relics are dusted down and presented in front of the cameras, has been staged beneath the famous spire.

Before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, this is not a reference to some of Norwich City's most senior squad members taking part in Wednesday's new away kit launch.

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There was certainly a surreal feel to the club's latest marketing initiative as the models emerged blinking into the sunlight, in a kind of arrow formation, resplendent in shirts and shorts so white that it could have been a washing powder commercial.

One half expected Danny Baker to stride on to the hallowed turf and offer a couple of his favourite Millwall players in exchange for the new, improved Gary Doherty - Daz, of course, having been released at the end of last season.

The choice of colour or, strictly speaking, lack of it, gave Bryan Gunn's players a faintly angelic look - I won't mention the red cards one or two of them have accumulated in recent seasons - almost as if it was a deliberate contrast to the severe black outfit introduced last summer under the previous regime.

Gunn talked of how great teams of the past such as Real Madrid and Leeds United had looked "intimidating" in all white and, determined to maintain his positive outlook, he said they hoped to intimidate teams when they wore it in the Championship next season.

Whether they have a chance of doing so was, of course, still to be decided going into the penultimate round of fixtures this weekend.

When the Canaries were facing relegation from the Premiership in 1995, church congregations in Norwich were encouraged to pray for the club's survival because its prosperity was important to the community as a whole, but there was no real suggestion that Wednesday's visit was a plea for divine assistance in the present team's relegation fight, even if their rivals at the foot of the table were struck down the very next day, even the Saints exposed as sinners.

The choice of venue was, it was stressed, linked purely to the fact that the spire features on the Aviva - formerly Norwich Union - logo.

The timing of the event was, perhaps, a little odd given the gravity of the club's current situation, and just how many of the current squad will be around to don their whites next season will depend greatly on whether City complete their survival mission in their remaining two games.

Depending on today's results, the Canaries may need to beat both Reading on Monday and Charlton a week tomorrow to avoid dropping into League One. The trouble is they have won two league games in a row only twice this season - and in both cases they were successive home matches, against Wolves and Doncaster in October, then Cardiff and Plymouth in March.

If City are looking for good omens, however, none of the five sides currently in the top six with Reading have won at Carrow Road this season, with Wolves, Sheffield United and Cardiff all beaten and Birmingham and Burnley escaping with a point.

City have also won both their live TV games this term and, after years of under-performing in televised matches, they seem to have developed a liking for the cameras and the bright lights.

But though Reading's play-off place is guaranteed after a 2-0 win at Derby on Tuesday, only their third victory in 15 Championship games, Gunn does not expect any lack of motivation on the part of the season's final visitors.

"Reading will come to Carrow Road well organised with good quality players, and are a strong physical side," he said in his Norwich Evening News column yesterday. "We are not guaranteed anything from Monday's game.

"Steve Coppell is a very professional manager. His team had a little slump and their results over the previous 10 games weren't as consistent as earlier in the season but they have got themselves into a play-off spot now - their goal difference guarantees them a place. But I don't think they will come here and relax in any way.

"Steve has too much pride in his own club for that. We know it's going to be a difficult game and we know we have to perform to the absolute best of our ability."

But City's need is greater than that of the Royals and they simply must take their fight into the final game, or the trip to Charlton will be no more than a grim moral obligation for those who have snapped up the club's entire allocation of tickets for The Valley.

There will be some celebration, then, if they complete the job in front of 3,300 travelling fans. Good reason, one would say, for trying to squeeze in an extra Shakespeare night in the cloisters - All's Well That Ends Well.

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