Chris Goreham: Have City got a new right back? Not quite...
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City supporters had been worried about losing Max Aarons this season and now they have.
Despite being linked with Barcelona, Manchester United and Tottenham the talented full back remained with the Canaries at the end of the last transfer window. Yet on Saturday morning we got the announcement that has felt inevitable for some time. Aarons would no longer be playing for Norwich City.
What we didn’t expect was that he would be immediately replaced by a similar looking and equally brilliant right back called Max ‘Air-rons’.
It’s a sure sign that all is going well at Carrow Road when the dominant talking point on a match day is the pronunciation of a player’s name.
It was big news from a commentary point of view. After 120 appearances and almost three years in the first team Aarons has revealed that most of us have been getting his name wrong.
Why is it always the ones you don’t think to check? Whenever Norwich sign a player whose name is any more exotic than Ben Gibson it’s not long before BBC Radio Norfolk gets a mention on social media. If I had a pound for every Tweet along the lines of ‘Good luck commentating on him, Chris’ or ‘They’ll have fun with that on Canary Call’ I could probably afford to sign Max Aarons.
We do take pride in at least trying to get the names right.
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When Przemyslaw Placheta and Dimitris Giannoulis arrived, a call went straight in to the media team at the club asking for some guidance.
There is a lot of agonising amongst commentators around how much names of foreign players should be anglicised. It has recently emerged that the correct way to say the surname of Manchester United’s star player Bruno Fernandez is actually ‘Fernansh’. Anyone calling him that on TV or radio then has to follow it up with an explanation as to why they are going against the grain. Once a name sticks in the public conscience and an accepted way of saying it takes hold it is very hard to change it.
The same standards are rarely applied to team names. You would struggle to find anyone in Norfolk who talks about the Jeremy Goss volley against ‘Bayern Munchen’.
My intention has always been to try to go with what the players themselves prefer. Over the years it has become clear that often the broadcasters worry more about this sort of thing than the people they are talking about. Teemu Pukki, for example, is ‘Tay-mo’ but when asked about it he said he didn’t mind which version of his name we used. Kenny McLean, on the other hand, was keen to let us know that his last name is definitely ‘McLayne’ and not ‘McCleen’.
The challenge really ramped up for us when the Webberlution thundered into Carrow Road in 2017. For the subsequent series of signings from German football it made sense to go with whatever Daniel Farke said for each player. Or so we thought. We never got to the bottom of whether it was Tom Try-bull or Tree-bull and Farke eventually admitted that he wasn’t sure how to say Dennis Srbeny’s name.
The head coach still often calls his young Irish striker Adam Idah ‘I-dah’. Which is what we all said when he was coming through the ranks. Moments before the FA Cup tie at Preston last season word reached us from the dressing room that he wanted to be called ‘E-dah’. This was only his second game for the club so he is clearly much more assertive than Max Aarons.
I remember asking Norwich City’s then record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel how he wanted his name pronounced. “Just call me Ricky,” was the reply in a manner that oozed confidence. Sadly it wasn’t a name that I needed to say in commentary very often.
It was sad to learn of Ian St John’s death last week.
My Saturdays in the early 1990s were all about formidable double acts. ‘Fleck and Rosario’, ‘Fish and Chips’ and ‘Saint and Greavsie’. No match day routine felt right unless all three had played their part.
Looking back, I didn’t understand all of the jokes that Jimmy Greaves used to get that infectious laugh out of Saint. Any opportunity to watch football on TV could not be turned down in the pre-internet days. The two of them were so entertaining to watch and so natural on screen that I was absolutely staggered when my dad told me they used to be actual footballers. Younger generations today must feel the same about Gary Lineker.
Many of their finest moments have reappeared online by way of a tribute since Ian St John’s death. What shines through is a genuine love and passion for football but with a healthy attitude. Much of the coverage now is deadly serious and treats matches as if they are as important as whatever is being discussed on the news channels. Football is meant to be fun. It is, for most people, a form of escapism at the end of a busy working week. It’s certainly been true over the past year.
For those 90 minutes we are all desperate for our team to win but when the final whistle blows it’s important to have some perspective.
In one clip we see Mike Trusson getting sent off in a match between Brighton and Crystal Palace. “He’s a bit fed up with that one, isn’t he?” says Greavsie, in a breezy manner that suggests watching a replay or questioning the referee is entirely pointless... “But there we are, that’s life.”
Give me that sort of analysis over all of the freeze frames and squiggly lines that get in the way of showing us the actual football.
Saint and Greavsie were proper trailblazers. They understood the way fans really talk about football. When their Saturday lunchtime fixture was postponed it was a gateway into fanzine culture and then shows like Baddiel and Skinner’s Fantasy Football League and Soccer AM for me.
It was the great sage Jimmy Greaves who taught me early on that “it’s a funny old game, Saint.” While Ian St John desperately fought to regain his composure and stop laughing in time to hand to the adverts.