Norwich City fans suffer in fixture farce
A bottle of Tipp-Ex – whoops, correction fluid, no advertising here – is always kept close to the calendar in our house.
And on the increasingly less dangerous assumption that Norwich City will retain their Premier League status, I might just invest in a bucket of whitewash next season.
The moveable feast that is the Canaries’ fixture list underwent further readjustment this week with the announcement of three more changes to the original schedule.
For anyone who hasn’t yet seen or heard, City’s match at Newcastle United has moved back a day to Sunday, March 18, with a 4pm kick-off.
And the kick-off time for two of their remaining home matches has been changed for live TV coverage, with the game against Manchester City on Saturday, April 14, starting earlier at 12.45pm, and the Liverpool fixture on Saturday, April 28, moved to a later start of 5.30pm.
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It means there has been a change of date or kick-off time for no fewer than 14 of City’s original 38 Premier League fixtures, 11 of those changes because of the demands of TV. Nine games have been switched to different days and another five have kicked off, or will kick off, earlier or later than scheduled.
It also means that, not counting Christmas Eve, the Canaries will have had 11 blank Saturdays by the time the season ends.
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Further progress in the FA Cup seems to have been viewed by City as potentially disruptive to their Premier League survival bid, but as they have won only one of their eight rearranged league games to date, perhaps the real nuisance comes from elsewhere.
For some clubs, however, there is even greater disruption.
It was confirmed this week that reigning champions Manchester United, who visit Carrow Road on Sunday – not a live TV game, in case anyone is struggling to keep up with all this – will not play again on a Saturday for the rest of the season.
That is down to a combination of factors, partly because their Europa League involvement means playing on Thursday nights and moving league games to Sunday, and in one instance because their potential Premier League title decider at Manchester City has been moved from a Saturday afternoon to a Monday night, April 30, for Sky Sports coverage.
For those of us fortunate to follow Norwich City on a working basis, the constant re-scheduling of games is a mild inconvenience that means adjusting the office rota and the odd very long day and late night spent on Merseyside or in the North East, tapping furiously at the keyboard.
But for fans who plan their weekends, their travel and sometimes their accommodation around the Canaries’ fixture list, it must be increasingly annoying. How many who envisaged a leisurely weekend on Tyneside are now contemplating the thought of arriving home around midnight on Sunday, if they are lucky, before getting up for work or school the next day?
It has long been the case that the armchair viewer or satellite subscriber is treated better than the travelling supporter and, regrettably, while clubs continue to pick up about ��m for each live appearance, that situation is not likely to change.
The wife of a former City chairman once joked that she kept track of his movements largely through radio and TV, and while I try to keep my family better informed, there might just be an alternative solution. I could convert my garage into one of those RAF-style operations rooms with a team of WAAFs pushing the Archant pool car and a fleet of Club Canary coaches around the map.
• City goalkeeper John Ruddy can count himself unlucky not to feature in the England squad for next week’s friendly against Holland at Wembley.
It always seemed a bit of a long shot that a player with no previous international involvement should be introduced to the senior squad at this late stage, with the Dutch fixture the last opportunity to try new faces before two Euro 2012 warm-up games in May.
But since two of the three ’keepers picked by caretaker boss Stuart Pearce do not currently play in the Premier League – Scott Carson with Bursaspor in Turkey, and Robert Green with West Ham in the Championship – Ruddy is entitled to feel a bit hard done by, given his excellent form in the top flight.
Green was undoubtedly one of City’s outstanding goalkeepers, a very safe pair of hands, and if he stays with the Hammers when his contract runs out in the summer, he is likely to be in the top flight again next season. But he has not added to his 11 England caps since his 2010 World Cup mishap against the USA.
Carson has won only four caps in more than four years, one of them the costly Euro 2008 qualifying defeat by Croatia.
Perhaps in the short term, Pearce wants people he has worked with before, but a new manager might be more adventurous.