Norwich City’s defeat to Luton a true FA Cup shock - but could it have been worse?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Carrow Road almost saw two massive shocks on Saturday. Luton Town inflicted the sort of ignominy not experienced by Norwich City fans since that 7-1 humbling at the hands of Colchester United in 2009.
Looking back now the omens were all there from the moment I arrived at Carrow Road on Saturday. I really should have seen it coming.
The snow which made the county look like the world’s biggest Christmas card over the last fortnight had made its presence felt around the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary box. By the weekend it had melted away to form a puddle a couple of centimetres deep on the floor of our little perch above the Carrow Road tunnel.
You might think, ‘So what? The world is full of people who have to work in much more challenging conditions than that. Stop being such a la-di-dah media luvvie’. The prospect of getting my new shoes wet wasn’t the only thing I was worried about.
Our broadcast set-up at Carrow Road involves a Spaghetti Junction of cables, microphones and headphones, most of which usually end up tangled on the floor of our box as the thrills and spills of an afternoon covering Norwich City unfold.
I am no electrician, but I had a feeling that a puddle of water mixed with some cables may be a recipe for disaster – the equivalent of resting a few first team regulars for a cup tie against some non-league no-hopers.
Not for the first time, I was grateful to be working with a summariser who is so well connected – in terms of who he knows, not electronically.
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Paul McVeigh, the former Norwich City player or, as he prefers to be known these days, the former Luton Town player, still has some very good contacts (again, not electronically) within the Canaries dressing room.
On seeing the pool of water he may have feared we were secretly auditioning him for the next series of Tom Daley’s Splash on ITV.
Macca quickly entered into some high level discussions which involved hollering down to any member of Chris Hughton’s coaching staff or Norwich City employee foolish enough to make eye contact.
Eventually two luxury fluffy dark blue bath towels were produced, possibly directly from the home dressing room, and Paul was able to carry out the sort of mopping up effort that suggested he could still have done a job sitting in front of the City back four and dealing with the breakaway attack from which Luton were to profit later in the afternoon.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes and hopes of a Norwich equaliser disappeared, a little bit of me longed for that puddle to return.
One quick tug on the right wire and we would have disappeared off the air in a fizz and a flash that would have had Guy Fawkes himself ooohing and aahhing in wonder. But at least we would not have had to broadcast the humiliating news no one wanted to hear.
It was good to see so many Norwich fans grit their teeth and stay in the ground to applaud Luton off after the game. It was the very least they deserved for their efforts. The magic of the cup may be alive and well, but when it is your team on the receiving end it feels more like witchcraft.
Any Norwich supporter who felt particularly let down by their team’s performance may like to take some solace from the news that at least a couple of the City players probably had to share a towel in the dressing room after the game.
• MESSAGE TO ALL BALLBOYS - STAY OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT
Losing to a non-league team in the FA Cup is the kind of result which will mean replica yellow and green shirts will be kept in drawers across Norfolk for a few days.
Canaries supporters will be lying low until the fuss dies down or something more important happens. Where is the Swansea ballboy when you need him?
The storm in the League Cup which resulted from Eden Hazard’s clash towards the end of the tie with Chelsea last week was all rather ridiculous.
The column inches and airtime devoted to an incident which was dealt with perfectly by the referee when it happened suggested it must have been a very slow news week. It didn’t make me feel like bashing out an anti-Hazard email to a newspaper or bashing the ballboy on a radio phone-in. Instead the whole sorry episode sent a shiver down my spine about the time I was given the job of being a ballboy at Carrow Road.
Getting the nod to be a glorified fielder was a genuine schoolboy dream for many.
It used to be that the arrival of a flock of ballboys sprinting to all four corners of the ground, each carrying a little stool to sit on, meant that it would not be long before the teams would be running out.
Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen now. They must smuggle the ballboys out unnoticed, or perhaps they never move and are just left there from one game to the next.
There were no tales of rubbing shoulders with the stars for me. I got the gig for an FA Youth Cup semi-final at Carrow Road between Norwich and Leeds in about 1993.
This was drawing the short straw in the extreme. Most of the players were only a few years older than me. It was like being at school and watching the bigger boys play on the field.
Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm or resentment at not doing a first team game was clear and I was stationed over on the far side from the tunnel in front of the old South Stand – a stand which was not open to fans that night which meant that it wasn’t a cushy touchline only job for me. Any ball that was hoofed into rows A to Z was also on my beat.
The game was held up on several occasions while I frantically searched under rows and rows of empty plastic seats to try to work out where the latest skewed pass or thumped clearance had eventually ricocheted to.
It was such a hapless, clumsy performance that a junior Jamie Cureton or adolescent Ade Akinbiyi probably felt like proving they were 20 years ahead of their time and dishing out a bit of the Eden Hazards.