Iwan Roberts: A Welsh bond that will always be close to my heart

Delia Smith with her mother Etty, who has died aged 100; Photo: Bill Smith

Delia Smith with her mother Etty, who has died aged 100; Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2011

There’s only one way I could and would want to start my column this week and that’s by paying my own tribute to a wonderful woman that was Norwich City through and through.

Like everyone else I was saddened when I woke up on Wednesday morning in to the news that Etty had sadly passed away at the grand old age of 100.

Etty as we all know was an absolute Norwich City fanatic and hardly missed a game at Carrow Road. In my seven years at the club I can probably count on one hand the amount of home games Etty missed, she lived and breathed her beloved Norwich City and she absolutely loved the players that represented her club.

From day one I always got on with Etty. She reminded me so much of my Nain (Welsh for gran) who lived in North Wales but we also had something in common that was close to both our hearts... we both spoke Welsh.

From what I gather for many years Etty lived in a little village on the west coast of North Wales called Llwngwril and the village I lived in for the first 16 years of my life was as the crow flies about 10 miles the other side of the mouth of the Mawddach estuary, so we had quite a lot in common.

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Etty and I would only ever speak Welsh to each other as it was the only chance we got living in Norfolk but when it came for her to tell me how badly I’d played which was quite often in my first season it was always in English. I remember asking Etty once why she never told me off in Welsh? Her answer was that the Welsh words she’d use wouldn’t translate into how badly I’d played!

To be fair to Etty if she was quick to tell you a few home truths about your performance she was even quicker to heap praise on you and you could just see it in the twinkle in her eyes and the width of her smile just what it meant to her when we won a game.

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Her presence down at Carrow Road will be sorely missed and things won’t quite be the same when we look up into the directors’ box and there will be an empty seat next to Michael and Delia.

These last few days I’ve managed to watch two Norwich City strikers play for their respective countries against my beloved Wales. On Sunday I saw young Adam Idah lead the line for the Republic of Ireland and on Wednesday night I witnessed Teemu Pukki play up front for Finland although he had a bit more support than Adam did on Sunday.

It was a tough afternoon for Adam – he was up there on his own against three top class defenders in Chris Mepham and Spurs duo Joe Rodon and Ben Davies. He worked his socks off in all fairness but got little support from his team mates who were more than happy to leave him isolated up there.

If the support for Adam was bad then the service he had wasn’t much better and I was glad to see him being taken off with 15 minutes left to stop him taking anymore punishment.

Two fixtures stand out this weekend in the Championship – Bournemouth v Reading in the early kick off and then Middlesbrough v Norwich. Say what you want about Neil Warnock but he knows this league like the back of his hand and is chasing an unprecedented ninth promotion to the Premier League.

Boro, along with Luton, are the lowest scorers in the top half but they have the best defensive record, conceding just five goals in their 11 Championship games, a statistic that doesn’t surprise me having worked with Neil.

Warnock’s team who just avoided relegation last season haven’t lost since their opening weekend defeat at Watford and have won three of their last four home games, keeping three clean sheets in those four games.

I saw them at the end of October when they visited the Cardiff City Stadium and I was impressed with what I witnessed and for all Neil’s long ball tactics over the years this Middlesbrough team are trying to play the right way, that’s why it’s got the makings of a classic encounter.

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