No reprieve as reserves get the chop
DAVID CUFFLEY The immediate future of Norwich City's reserve team will be decided early next month - but there will be no reprieve from the axe that fell on their Barclays Premiership Reserve League place.
The immediate future of Norwich City's reserve team will be decided early next month - but there will be no reprieve from the axe that fell on their Barclays Premiership Reserve League place.
Top-flight aristocrats Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham will not be sending their second teams to Carrow Road until such time as the Canaries regain Premiership status. Those three fixtures between them attracted more than 11,000 fans to Norwich last season.
Instead, City expect their return to the Football Combination for the 2006-07 season to be rubber-stamped in a fortnight's time.
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As proposed earlier this year, clubs outside the Premiership at the end of the season - including Norwich, Ipswich, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Coventry - have all been kicked out of the Premiership Reserve League, whose line-up will now mirror the Premiership itself season by season.
Club secretary Kevan Platt explained: “The Premier League shareholders' meeting confirmed the re-structuring of the Premier Reserve League and it will now consist only of the 20 clubs who are members of the Premier League in any given season.
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“Therefore we have applied for re-admission to the Football Combination and we have been led to believe our place will be ratified at the annual meeting on June 7.
“There was one proposal to set up a Championship reserve division, involving the same clubs our first team play, but it would make no economic sense to go to Cardiff and Plymouth for reserve games, and neither would they want to come here.
“The indications are that the Combination will continue on a regional basis and that we will be in the East Division, playing 20 to 22 league games.”
Last season, the Pontin's Holidays-sponsored Combination and its northern equivalent, the Pontin's Holiday League, were each split into three sections.
The East Division of the Combination included, among others, Colchester, Luton and Southend. Now Norwich and Ipswich are set to join them next season, with a string of local derbies the best alternative to visits from the London clubs.
“Norwich City are extremely committed to reserve team football, both as the best possible stepping stone for bringing young players through and testing themselves in a more rugged environment, and as a means of encouraging young people into Carrow Road through our Soccer PM activities at a time when space at first team matches is limited,” said Platt.
“Our average attendances last season for reserve team games were something like four times as high as anybody else. A lot of clubs don't even play reserve matches on their own grounds.
“I understand Derby and Leicester have decided to pull out of the reserve league completely and just try to arrange matches against Premiership reserve teams as and when they need them, but that's easier for them because of their geography.
“While the new arrangement is not ideal, it's better than it might have been and we still feel we can offer an exciting night's football.”