Opinion: Just another chance to relive THAT Tettey goal for Norwich City against Sunderland...
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With the opening league match at Carrow Road this season pitting the Canaries against perennial Friendship Trophy opponents Sunderland, there are plenty of perfectly valid reasons for fans to reminisce about the contests these two clubs have fought over the years.
Whilst many City fans will start to go starry-eyed and begin to relive the 1985 Milk Cup final victory at Wembley as one of their finest moments, Sunderland supporters are much more likely to look to the 1992 FA Cup semi-final when, despite being a division lower than City, they won 1-0 to book their place in the prestigious final at our expense.
Then there is the last league match between the two, which hopefully most of us have managed to delete from our memories by now. In fact, both of the last two contests featuring these sides in Norfolk have had an air of the old “relegation six-pointer” cliché about them. Last time around, Sunderland virtually relegated us in our own back yard; Sam Allardyce’s side gained revenge for a 3-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season and went on to fight another, albeit unsuccessful, relegation battle the following term. Allardyce, of course, went on to manage England in an equally unsuccessful manner.
However, cast your minds back a little further to a cold Saturday in March 2014 and the other recent relegation scrap between these two clubs. For anyone present at Carrow Road that day, the memory of what is arguably the finest goal ever to be scored by a Canary is surely worth revisiting.
Now, at this point some of the slightly older generation of fans may be screaming about Justin Fashanu’s goal of the season against the mighty Liverpool of the early 1980s; or making their case for Youssef Safri’s stunning long-range strike against Newcastle in 2005. Both of those goals were absolutely fantastic; there is no doubt. However, for me, Alex Tettey’s out-of-this-world volley against this weekend’s opponents is by far the most memorable goal I have ever seen at our home ground.
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Without wishing to sound like I’m in need of an agony aunt or bore anyone with the details, the spring of 2014 was a pretty low point in my life. Football, though, is able to lift people up in all kinds of ways and this roller-coaster sport – often such a cruel destroyer of hopes and dreams – actually managed to provide such a huge boost to me that day.
After all, if Tettey can score a goal like that then surely anything is possible right? Like many others on March 22, I made yet another dreaded walk from the car to the ground, hoping against all hope to see something that could keep my mind off of life for a few hours, but knowing the reality of watching Norwich City under Chris Hughton almost exclusively prohibited the exhibition of anything on a football pitch that fell under the category of entertainment.
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For that reason, I am eternally grateful to Mr Tettey for a rare attacking masterstroke in a season mainly built upon defensive mediocrity.
I can remember that we were already 1-0 up through Robert Snodgrass, and that the remainder of the match would be very tense. Every point from March to the end of the season mattered; or at least, it did at the time. Every pass, touch or shot in this match was therefore vital. From my seat in the front row of the South Stand (or whichever name it now goes by in any given season), I was positioned directly behind the Norwegian international as the ball was cleared into the air and looped invitingly towards him.
I know I am not the only one who, as Tettey shaped up to unleash his volley and time seemed to slow to a virtual standstill, was consumed by the importance of three points and thinking: “No! Please! Don’t shoot! Square it!”
How wrong can one man be? The noise of the impact seemed to reverberate around the stadium; a thumping echo which I can still hear to this day as the ball rocketed at warp-speed towards the net. I have never known a goal sound so good.
In these modern times of ridiculous transfer fees, wages and a gulf between fans and players like never before, it is all too easy to be cynical, frustrated and even completely miserable at the direction football has taken. That particular season we had shelled out serious money on supposedly excellent footballers, and it’s safe to say they badly let us down.
Consequently, when life gives you highs it is generally best to appreciate them for what they are and at that point in time I needed something positive to look for. How I got it.
Hopefully, there is at least one other person somewhere saying something similar, not to mention thousands more smiling at that goal. But even if not, the point is that we all have at least one moment that makes us remember why we follow this great sport and, for us only, our boys in yellow.
Over three years on and it hardly even matters that the goal ultimately meant nothing, as we were relegated anyway. It doesn’t even really matter that Wayne Rooney’s strike from the halfway line was voted a better goal, despite my repeated assertion to anyone and everyone who would listen that it clearly wasn’t. West Ham goalkeeper Adrian comprehensively failed to prevent that Rooney strike going in, despite how good his effort was. I don’t say this often but genuinely, I would have saved Rooney’s goal whereas I wouldn’t even have seen Tettey’s strike.
Football has, for nearly 30 years, been a constant factor in my life, bringing joy, pain, agony, anger, frustration and countless other emotions I could list. But some things cannot be simply explained, which is probably one of the reasons why speaking to someone who doesn’t get football can be as pointless as trying to teach Mick McCarthy that in order to score a goal, you don’t just have to hoof the ball to the big man up front.
Should anyone question how football can have an impact on people, all they need to do is look at our opponents this weekend and what has certainly been the most heartbreakingly tragic and emotional time for some of their fans recently. And people say football doesn’t matter? Okay, I admit there is a very slight chance that I may be reading too much into what was only one goal, however exceptional, in a long history of the sport, but sometimes football just means more to people.
So, if a non-football fan ever disapprovingly advises you not to get so over-excited about something that is “just a game”, I guess we have to remember that some people prefer to experience their highs and lows through TV soaps and dramas; I for one will take pity on them in the same way I receive pity from them for being a Norwich City fan.
Next time somebody starts trying to tell me everything that’s wrong with the sport I love, I will politely smile, accept that most of the negatives they say are probably true, and then point to the numerous moments of importance I have seen – and I am just one fan – that suggest otherwise.
For me, Tettey’s volley made a difference in my life. I’m sure that the vast majority of us true football fans can all think of something that shaped us in one way or another, whether we want to admit it or not.
Anyway, at least what we saw and loved on a football pitch actually happened, unlike anything in Eastenders or Coronation Street…