Iwan Roberts: Norwich City’s keeper’s call-up reminds me of the day Rats sent me nuts in Wales camp!
We now know England will be our sole representatives in the World Cup in Russia next summer after both Northern Ireland and their neighbours the Republic of Ireland both suffered heartache in their respective play-offs.
Michael O’Neill’s men put up an heroic display against Switzerland only to be knocked out by one of the worst penalty decisions I’ve ever seen.
Unlike Martin O’Neill’s men who were well and truly embarrassed 5-1 in the second leg at the Aviva Stadium, thanks mainly to Denmark and Spurs star Christian Eriksen who bagged himself a hat-trick on the night – and all this having probably done the hard work coming back from Copenhagen with a goalless draw.
I’m gutted that Wes Hoolahan won’t be going to the World Cup as it would have been a fitting reward to a player who is nearing the end of a magnificent international career and I think that at the ripe old age of 35 this was probably his last chance to play on the biggest stage of all.
As one international career draws to an end it looks like another one might just be starting after Angus Gunn’s call-up into Gareth Southgate’s England squad for their friendly against Brazil on Tuesday.
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Not only was I delighted for Angus when I’d heard he’d been called up, but I was chuffed for his mum and dad, Bryan and Sue. I know big Gunny is as Scottish as they come, but that wouldn’t have stopped the pride he must have felt when he heard the good news.
I hope Angus wasn’t as nervous in his first couple of training sessions with the England squad as I was when I received my first call-up to the Welsh squad when I was just 18. Honestly, I was a bag of nerves as I wanted to impress everyone and show all my new team-mates what a good player I was, but sadly my nerves got the better of me.
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The training facilities in Tel Aviv didn’t help me as the surface of our training pitch was shocking. However, it didn’t seem to bother the rest of the lads... just me. I was tense, which obviously didn’t help my first touch, something that I was quite proud of most of the time being a big lad.
Balls kept on bouncing off me, I kept giving the ball away, absolutely nothing stuck and I must have looked like a kid who’d won a competition to train with the Welsh squad, I was that bad.
In the first couple of minutes of the keep-ball session, I was nut-megged by Kevin Ratcliffe, something he still reminds me of today. Not only did he nutmeg me, he even shouted “NUT!” a couple of seconds before he’d put the ball through my legs, the ultimate insult which left the rest of the squad in hysterics. I was left there standing open-mouthed with the reddest of red faces – and it wasn’t caused by the warm Israeli sunshine.
After the training session finished big Nev Southall took me to one side and had a chat with me and just told me to be more relaxed and enjoy the experience of being in my first Welsh squad. He went on to tell me that our manager, Terry Yorath, wouldn’t have called me into the squad if I wasn’t good enough and if he didn’t have belief in my ability. He went on to say not to worry about being nut-megged by Rats as that was something Kevin always tried to do to all the new boys in their first session, which made me feel slightly better.
Having lost their last four games it’s about time for Norwich to get back to winning ways, having not won at Carrow Road in their last five games.
Barnsley are in decent form, having lost just once in their last seven games, and my former Norwich team-mate Paul Heckingbottom has done a tremendous job since taking over at Oakwell. Heckie’s a great lad who I hit it off with as soon as he signed for Norwich, but tomorrow come 5pm I hope he and his players go back up to south Yorkshire empty-handed.