Iwan Roberts: ‘Two names on the team-sheet that sent a shiver down my spine’
City’s midweek defeat at Spurs reminds me of a day I played at their old White Hart Lane ground – and learned a lesson for life.
I mentioned a few weeks ago about the time I played at White Hart Lane with a broken toe for Leicester City, which wasn't a pleasurable experience, but it was nothing compared to the first time I got the chance to play there in the Football Combination (the reserve league as it was known back then) for Watford when I'd just turned 18.
The Combination was a very good league and all the games were played at the grounds and the standard was a very high one as the teams were full of experienced pros who were on the fringes of the first team or needed game time as they were coming back from injury.
When I played for Watford reserves I couldn't wait to see the opposition's team sheet to see what big hitters they had playing for them. I'd been lucky to have played against the likes of Tony Adams and Martin Keown when we played Arsenal. When I bump into Martin these days he always says how he hated playing against me and Malcolm Allen, my partner in crime for Watford. It wasn't a case that our football caused him too many problems, but because he couldn't understand a word we were saying as we spoke our native language Welsh. Alvin Martin was another top centre half I came up against in the reserves and Chelsea defender Micky Droy was the biggest, strongest defender I'd ever faced.
Anyway, on this day at White Hart Lane, an hour before kick-off, their line-up came in and I rushed up to see who was playing for Spurs, and to my horror I saw two names on the team-sheet that sent a shiver down my spine - Graham Roberts and Paul Miller, two of the hardest, dirtiest players I've ever come across! I'd seen plenty of them on TV and knew exactly what they were capable of.
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To cut a long story short, it was a very tough afternoon. From minute one they tried to intimidate me verbally, called me every name under the sun and kicked me from pillar to post. It's fair to say it was a tough day for young Roberts as I was bullied by senior Roberts and his partner in crime.
After the game our coach, Steve Harrison, came up to me and had a word about what had just happened to me. He was bang on with what he said and it had a massive impact on my career. He simply said that if I was to make a living out of the game there would be many more days like that, so I needed to toughen up and look after myself a lot more.
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I learnt a harsh lesson that day, one that stayed with me for the rest of my career. Never again would I allow someone to bully or intimidate me like those two did at White Hart Lane that Saturday afternoon.
- GREAT TO SEE PUKKI SCORING PENALTIES
It's 6.30am on Thursday morning and I've just watched the highlights from Tottenham and it looked as if the Canaries gave a very good account of themselves down in north London and possibly should have come away with something.
But yet again, after a committed performance, City came away from a Premier League game empty-handed.
Some thought it was a good time to play Spurs, who are without their talisman, Harry Kane, were winless in the league since Boxing Day and hadn't scored a league goal since the two at Carrow Road on December 28... plus, Norwich went into Wednesday night's game by their first win in 10 games after that 1-0 victory over Bournemouth last weekend.
It was actually Tuesday night when the bad stuff started, even though City didn't kick a ball. Having closed the gap on teams above them after the win against Eddie Howe's men they saw Bournemouth beat Brighton - their first win at home in the league since November 2 - and Aston Villa scored with the very last kick of the game to inflict only the second defeat for Watford manager Nigel Pearson since he took over nine games ago.
So going into the game at Tottenham, City knew they were six points adrift of Watford and Bournemouth, and while that creates pressure, to their credit the players dealt with that and performed admirably.
A major positive from the last two games is that Norwich at long last look to have solved their penalty-taking issues, having missed so many last season. Having taken a few for Finland in qualifying for the European Championships, Teemu Pukki has put two away in the last two games - even if Wednesday night's was a bit too close for comfort it still reached the back of the net.