Iwan Roberts: Early kick-off times pay no heed to needs of fans
I was passed by a good few Norwich City supporters on their way to the Midlands last Saturday morning on my way up to The Etihad to work at Manchester City v Swansea.
It was a horrendous journey as part of the A14 was closed due to an accident, prompting awkward detours all over Cambridgeshire. I heard that quite a few Canaries fans had been caught up in the same long delays as I had, missing the start of the game at Villa Park in the process.
This wasn’t to my surprise as when I eventually got on the M6 motorway at 12.15pm I was overtaken by a convoy of fans with yellow and green scarves flying out of their car windows. I had thought to myself then that they were really cutting it very fine if they were to get to the stadium and find somewhere to park before eventually getting to their seats in time for kick-off. In normal circumstances, with fans struggling to get to the game on time, kick-off would be delayed to give travellers plenty of time to make their way safely to the ground.
However, with Saturday’s game being shown live on TV this wasn’t the case, which is totally wrong in my opinion. Not for one second did the powers that be think of delaying the start of the game, not even by a mere 15 minutes to give people who were making the journey from Norwich to Birmingham the chance of getting to Villa Park before kick-off without having to risk getting three points on their licence and a heavy speeding fine.
Supporters from all over the country travel hundreds of miles every weekend and spend a small fortune doing so.
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Therefore, when problems arise like they did on Saturday something needs to be done to give fans time, ensuring that the majority see the first ball being kicked, regardless of how much money TV channels put into the game.
I’m sure the players would have been disappointed not to come away from Villa Park with the three points their performance probably deserved.They should have been ahead before Christian Benteke fired the hosts in front with a very tidy finish 27 minutes into the first half. A lot has been made of Paul Lambert’s decision to start with the Belgian international ahead of Darren Bent, but I have to admit I’m a fan of Benteke and I believe he gives more to the team in overall play than the former Ipswich Town striker does.
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It was nice to see Michael Turner picking up the headlines for the right reasons on Saturday. He hasn’t had the best of starts to his Norwich City career after joining from Sunderland in the summer and was left out of the side after some sub-par defensive performances at the start of the season.
However, he has found his form in the last couple of games, and his equalising glancing header on Saturday will do his confidence the world of good.
• GREAT TO SEE WES BACK TO HIS BEST FORM
The pleasing thing for me now is that the team is starting to create chances like they did last season.
I don’t think that is a coincidence now that Wes Hoolahan is fully fit again and firing on all cylinders.
He’s such an intelligent player, picking up some fantastic positions in the opposition half. He’s got great awareness and touch, and also has the ability to open up defences with his passing. All that remains is that he finds his sharpness in front of goal as I’m sure he’ll have been bitterly disappointed not to have scored his first goal of the season at Villa Park. Nonetheless, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he starts finding the back of the net.
In their opening nine games Tony Pulis’ men have only lost twice, but have also only won the once this season. Stoke’s problem is that they’ve drawn six of those games, and if Norwich beat them tomorrow they will leap frog The Potters. They haven’t scored enough goals, recording just eight so far, but they don’t concede many either. One thing for sure is that if City are to get anything from tomorrow’s game they will have to scrap and battle for everything. They will have to defend set pieces for their lives and they will have to be the first to react to loose balls in the penalty box. If they do they will stand a very good chance of winning their second consecutive league game at Carrow Road.
• IMAGE TAKES ANOTHER BLOW
Once again it’s been a week in which football has been dragged through the mud after the events at Stamford Bridge last Sunday.
There have been allegations of a referee using foul and racially abusive language, fans throwing missiles on to the pitch after the opposition scored, and a steward being injured and then thrown over advertising boardings – and it all occurred during the game between Chelsea and Manchester Utd.
I’m not Mark Clattenburg’s biggest fan, but I’d be very surprised if he’s found guilty of the accusations that have been levelled at him. He had a mic attached to his cheek during the game which could be heard by all the refereeing assistants during the game, so it shouldn’t be too long until the truth of the event becomes transparent.
I’ve had refs swear at me in the past, especially when I was starting my career, and they used to give as good as they got. However, it was all light hearted stuff with neither player or official complaining or making an issue of things. These days I think certain refs like to play as the centre of attention, some maybe believing they are superstars in their own right. I think everyone needs to learn from what happened on Sunday, and the investigation into the events needs to be prioritised and settled as soon as possible.