Chris Goreham: The 'Zehntel' is off but City still get a nine out of 10 from me
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When Real Madrid won The Champions League in 2014 they called it ‘La Decima’.
It was the tenth time the Spanish giants had lifted the biggest prize in European club football.
Norwich City were on a run of nine straight wins going into the match against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. The Canaries had looked in such imperious form that I had already started to wonder about appropriate names by which to remember City’s own historic perfect ten.
Decima simply means tenth in Spanish so the obvious option, in tribute to Daniel Farke, was to find something suitably German.
My two years of lessons in the subject at school hadn’t really prepared me for a deep dive into football statistics. I could probably ask Farke for directions to the nearest swimming pool or youth hostel but that’s as far as I got.
Who decides which phrases they teach you in school? I’ve been speaking to Daniel Farke for the best part of four years now and at no point has he asked me how many brothers and sisters I’ve got.
Thankfully internet search engines have progressed much more than my Deutsche over the past 20 years. It didn’t take much effort to find out that the German for tenth is zehntel.
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Perhaps it’s a good job that Norwich didn’t make it ten out of ten. ‘The Zehntel’ doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘La Decima’. I hope Farke, Christoph Zimmermann or Marco Stiepermann won’t be offended by that. My main issue is a football one. Zehntel sounds too similar to The Zenith Data Systems Cup. Do you remember that?
Between 1985 and 1992 teams in the top two divisions of English football competed in a third domestic knockout tournament alongside the FA Cup and League Cup.
It was called The Full Members Cup and was designed to fill the void left by the banning of English teams from competing in European tournaments. It’s a competition I should have some fondness for.
My first ever match at Carrow Road was a tie against Coventry in November 1986. I was four-and-a-half but I wasn’t the only debutant that night. Both Bryan Gunn and Ruel Fox made their first appearances for the club.
It went on to be called The Simod Cup and then the Zenith Data Systems Cup for the duration of various sponsorships. Ultimately it was another tournament for Norwich City to get knocked out of each season in my formative years as a fan and miss out on possible trips to Wembley.
Chelsea and Nottingham Forest each won The Full Members Cup twice. Even they don’t talk about it very much these days.
Ten out of tens don’t come around very often in football. Connoisseurs of match reports in newspapers, including this one, will know that ‘10s’ in the player ratings on a Monday morning are rarer than Alex Tettey goals.
I remember joking with Chris Lakey when he awarded Grant Holt 9 out of 10 for his performance against Ipswich the day he got that East Anglian Derby hat-trick. Chris argued that a full ten would have left him with nowhere to go if Norwich were to do even better in a future derby. They did just that five months later in the famous 5-1 at Portman Road. The fact radio commentators aren’t forced to mark all the players at full-time is something I will be eternally grateful for.
Nine out of ten is about right for where Norwich City are at the moment. Almost perfect but there is always room for a little bit of improvement. Perhaps ‘The Zehntel’ will come along in the future. For now, we’re left to imagine the phone calls home that Daniel Farke made after the draw with Blackburn.
Did Norwich City win 10 matches in a row, Daniel? “Nein.”
Hard to justify...
Football has a habit of not doing itself any favours. It’s something that a global pandemic has highlighted in many different ways.
On Saturday morning the news bulletins were full of stark warnings about rising Covid-19 rates in Europe. Government ministers were reiterating the message that booking a foreign holiday this summer may not be possible.
Yet our favourite sport is once again preparing to send its star names jet setting across the world for a series of international matches.
Some of them are qualifiers for a World Cup that is set to go ahead in Qatar at the end of next year. The politics behind that decision baffled many even before we knew anything about Covid-19. There is a lengthy and detailed Wikipedia page entitled ‘2022 FIFA World Cup Controversies’ with more than 18 months to go before the tournament actually starts.
There have been spells since Project Restart last summer where I haven’t felt particularly comfortable with the domestic game continuing. At the start of this year I found myself reporting government advice urging people to stay at home and only exercise locally before heading to Carrow Road to commentate on Norwich City playing teams from Yorkshire, the Midlands and London.
The argument that football provides escapism and a morale booster for fans during the most challenging of years has been enough to keep it going. There has been much more appetite for behind closed doors games than I ever thought although no-one is pretending it’s anywhere near as good as a normal season.
Thankfully the successful vaccine roll out here has made the idea of supporters returning to grounds appear realistic in time for the start of next season.
It would be lovely to think that Norwich City’s return to the Premier League could coincide with Carrow Road being packed again. What a party that would be.
Between now and then there is the small matter of the European Championships, delayed from last summer, to squeeze in. The tournament is still due to played across 12 different countries.
Daniel Farke has already expressed his concerns about the impact the current schedule is having on the health of players. We all understand the financial consequences of leagues and tournaments being cut short or cancelled. A lot of people are so passionate about football they will see beyond its many faults. This determination for business as usual during the pandemic has proved difficult to justify to those who are not fans.