My Favourite Game: Not what the Doc ordered

NCFC v Tranmere - Doherty, Hoolahan and MartinCopy: SportFor: ArchantArchant © 200901603 772

Wes Hoolahan and Gary Doherty - two players who fought their way back into the good books under Paul Lambert - Credit: Archant

It was a lovely, hot mid-September day – and the opportunity to wander close to pitchside to keep away from one of the worst press boxes around was irresistible. If the football was rubbish at least I’d get a tan. 

Clues there that this was no heavy duty game: it was Peterborough United Reserves versus Norwich City Reserves. 

I can’t remember whether it was a friendly or not, just that the game – and please, this isn’t heresy – was not uppermost in my thoughts. 

As a lifelong Posh fan, any excuse to visit London Road – as it was then properly named – had to be taken. After all, having watched home games on a regular basis through my late teens and early 20s, I’d then seen one game in the 12 years when it was too far away to travel. In the subsequent 22 years since moving to Norfolk, I have now seen them a grand total of three times. Lapsed fan. 

Covering Norwich City for a living had its advantages – pretty obvious ones – but the disadvantage, if you’re not a City fan, is you miss out on supporting your own team. 

Hence the jump at the chance for a trip into Cambridgeshire. 

The real reason, though, was because I was determined to speak to two players – Gary Doherty and/or Wes Hoolahan. 

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This is not as easy as it sounds. 

Wes is notoriously shy when it comes to talking to the media. It doesn’t appear to be anything personal – he just doesn’t like it. Doc? He was always fine, although he did hint one or twice that it had taken a shove in the back to get him in front of us. 

Why those two? Well, I’d been given a tip-off that both had been told by then manager Paul Lambert that they were free to find a new club. 

Norwich Manager Paul Lambert with Wes Hoolahan

Back in the good books - Norwich manager Paul Lambert began to appreciate Wes Hoolahan's qualities - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

This was a cracking story: both were popular players, although they’d had little time to prove it to Lambert who was by then only a month into the job. 

So, job number one was to sit through the friendly game – a labour interrupted a couple of times by my phone ringing, the first time to tell me I had been caught speeding in the company car on the way back from a game and the second one to say it wasn’t actually me, it was a colleague. That and the sunshine made the 90 minutes much more enjoyable. 

Job number two, while the players showered, was to grab Ian Crook after the game for a chat and to ask him about Wes and Doc. Not easy – Chippy was doing a lap of the ground chain smoking. I never did catch him. 

Job number three – to grab Wes and Doc. The first part of that proved impossible – I didn’t even see him. 

So I positioned myself outside the away team dressing room, moving only when someone emerged. Until Doc did. Couple of ‘how was it?’ questions and then for the big one. And, lo and behold, Doc gave me chapter and verse. 

Norwich City v ColchesterGary Doherty at the end of a 7-1 home defeat

Gary Doherty wore the captain's armband for the opening day humbling by Colchester in 2009 and it looked like his days were numbered - Credit: Archant

"The gaffer has obviously mentioned to me that he wants to bring in his own players, but I think it is up to me now whether I want to move on,” said Doherty, who had started the season as City skipper – leading into battle for that disastrous 7-1 home defeat by Lambert’s Colchester United side. 

 "I am looking at a few options and stuff and we will see what comes from it.  

"I would rather get away, I don't know if a loan is a good idea, but I am just going to look at my options and see what the craic is, what's out there.” 

Now that was a good story. I never did get confirmation that Hoolahan was also free to leave, but we all knew. 

The postscript is that both players, to their credit, refused to give up, worked hard and performed well – well enough for Lambert to give them a second chance. 

And didn’t they take it? 

By the way, City were thumped 5-2 which my Posh leanings suggested made it a decent day all round... 

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