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02/03: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 31/08/02, 3pm
Norwich City
By Kieron Mitchinson and Howard Reed

We don't know about you good people out there, but whenever we hear the name 'Norwich City', two things spring to mind. The first is the 1985 Milk Cup Final, where a mostly superannuated Norwich team (Mick Channon, Asa Hartford, etc) beat a Sunderland side that we can't remember anything about apart from that Barry Venison was in it, 1-0. Hailing from the edges of the East Anglian region ourselves, the subsequent parade through Norwich was represented by the media as "the biggest ever football celebration in the area". Strange that: we could have sworn that another team from the region won the FA and UEFA cups a few years before that... obviously a lot of Canaries saturating Anglia television at the time (the TV company which also gave us such, ahem, classics as 'Sale of the Century' and the silver knight revolving to Handel's 'Water Music').

The second, intimately related, incident concerns the aforementioned Mick Channon, who spent the entire 1986 World Cup referring to Gary Lineker as "Lyne-iker" ('Lyne' pronounced to rhyme with 'Tyne'), or more accurately, 'Lyne-ikerrr', with the Hampshire burr that perhaps only someone who played for Southampton for 12 years, or an ex-member of The Troggs, can pull off. This we remember greatly annoying us at the time (but mind you one of us is the sort of person who wonders why the Evening Standard writes the date as '22 August', whereas in the Guardian it is always 'August 22' (and pity the sub-editor who has to make sure it's the correct way round in every single date written in the goddamn paper)). The Channon strain of i-lengthened English produces interesting results when applied to club names. Norwich becomes Norwhy?ch, Crystal Palace transforms into the more godly Christ-al Palace, Millwall becomes the completely unscaleable Milewall, and Gillingham almost becomes a relative of Des Lynam. Watford find themselves fortuitously unaffected by this linguistic quicksand, but the poor old fan-site 'Canary Corner' suffers from a related condition to Mick's, as shown by the blurb on the site's front page under the headline 'Slipped through the net : it has been reviled [sic] that David Beckham was asked to sign for Norwich... aged just 11'. To be honest, we don't know how Becks let his greatest chance slip away… inconsolable he must be.

But enough lexical frippery: let's look at the vital stats at this stage in the season - the BSaD season preview survey results. For Norwich fans, they show that 'the Ipswich White Horse' (not a pub, but in fact the Ipswich Town mascot, known I believe to the fans as 'Bluey', which would suggest colour blindness on their part were it not for the fact that he is usually wearing the club kit) is a candidate for extermination, along with the perhaps less surprising choices of George Burley, and turncoat keeper Andy Marshall.

It's likely that the turncoat's shoes (and, er, coat) will still be occupied by Robert Green, who managed to hold on to the jersey (or coat, whatever) last season. In front of him in a very settled line up so far a solid enough defence is coping without club captain Neil Emblen ("still ill", after his last season was spannered by an early hamstring) and the superbly alliterative Malky Mackay (the best named braveheart since Murdo McLeod who, if it wasn't for Berti Vogts' Jerry Lee Lewis-like emphasis on youth, wouldn't be going entirely mad thinking of an international career even at 30...but he's gotta be content with the Norwich bench at the moment). Mackay's partner last season in central defence was Craig Fleming, now with over 200 appearances: the ex-Oldham "star" is bound to "feature". You will also spot Darren "Kent" Kenton (ah, the originality of team mates' nicknames) and former Peterboro left-back Adam Drury, who grabbed the goal at Stoke on Monday, in the mix. Once-Danish international (i.e. once an international - he's still Danish, as far as we know) Steen Nedergard may also figure, either in defence or midfield depending how adventurous boss Nigel Worthington is feeling. His name is an anagram of "Tense Red Danger" and "Stranger Needed": if the game gets a trifle dull, you will be able to come up with many better, we are sure.

Another familiar name to ya alongside him is a certain Clint Easton. Easton - named after Bristol's least glamorous suburb and so inspiring in me at least visions of Dirty Harry trawling the southwest's seediest joints - bundled his way into the starting line up the 2nd half of last year, playing on the left - and has stayed there so far this term. More combative, Scot Gary Holt will likely play in the middle in a terrier-like fashion. A couple of ex-Man U have been doing business for the Canaries too - Northern Ireland international Phil Mulryne (his name already handily Channon-ised) spreading the play from the midfield, rapidly maturing, resisting the alleged attentions of metropolitan clubs and - this is a warning - on form. Though it's the bench for the other Old Trafford reject Alex Notman, who despite being able to play just in front of the midfield or "out and out" has not had too many chances to shine from the start. Yet. (A big reason for this is Paul McVeigh - four goals already and a probable starter, he also doubles up between NCFC and NI and is well worth looking out for on Saturday, especially if you're Sean Dyche). Still leading the line though is ex-Hornet (and many others) Iwan Roberts, the gap-toothed classic centre forward - think a poor man's John Charles - who is apparently nudging the inestimable (well, you couldn't make him up) Robert Fleck in the City all-time goals chart. He finished last season playing alongside top kid Zema Abbey, but has been joined so far by Mark Rivers, the archetypal Crewe-born and Gradi-bred young(ish)ster, who is delighting local hacks desperate for bad puns in his purplest patch yet in yellow and green (if you see what we mean). The other putative contenda up front is Marc Libbra, the French prodigy who muscled his way in with some serious tricksiness last season before losing his focus un peu. Also running up and down the touchline in a garish tracksuit will be Paul Heckingbottom: frustratingly, Heckingbottom's move south from Darlo denying us the chance to see the Heckingbottom / Asprilla combination that would perhaps otherwise be wowing North Eastern Div 3 punters right now. Heckingbottom's distinctly non-glam pedigree is pretty much the inverse of Faustino's... Sunderland (sorry), Scarborough, Hartlepool, Darlo, and now Norwich... he has the ability to cope in defence or midfield if he comes on. Finally, props to Daryl Sutch, who as a green young boy started with the City back in 1990 and who is still there, in and out of the squad... he was there way back when they used to roar, presumably urging their team to push up and play the offside, "Chase Out! Chase Out!"... ah, nostalgia.

Ah yes... and NCFC are another club afflicted by the internet aberration widespread across the league, "Canaries World". Yes, the chance for tru NCFC headz to mock those who merely buy season tickets, to berate the fairweathers who only tattoo their allegiance to the most intimate parts of their anatomy- for you are not a real fan unless you pay £35 (yup, a tenner more than for "Watford World") for commentaries and video streaming that would have been free last year, plus extra *exclusive* interviews with the tea lady and the YTS trainees)....

On a completely different note, Watford fans travelling to Carrow Road by rail should be aware that unfortunately, Anglia Railways, who run the crumbling 1960s slam-door wrecks that pass for Inter-City trains on the line to Norfolk, are possibly the worst of ALL the rail franchises to emerge from John Major's privatisation debacle. Yes, worse even than Connex. At least Connex ordered several dozen spanking new Swedish trains (which now sit idly at their Ashford depot because the electricity supply on the lines into London Bridge isn't powerful enough for them to work, and there's no money to upgrade it). Anglia settled for repainting their rolling stock a dull bogey-green colour and fining a lot of poor bastards whose only misdemeanour was to get on the fast train from Liverpool Street to Ipswich without realising that their tickets were marked 'First Great Eastern only' [translates as: 'use the stopping service that takes an hour longer, or else'.] The Norwich trains regularly break down and the spectacularly innovative 'Crosslink' service, designed to cater for the millions of people wanting a direct route between Norwich and Basingstoke (possibly a site for 'Franchise FC mark 2'? Lock up your football clubs!) will stop running in September when both its regular users retire. But that only serves to remind us that this preview, which has only marginally been concerned with football, (and has been successfully navigated without even a single mention of Delia S***h), has now departed the ground completely, and is currently stranded at Diss, waiting for double vodka from the buffet car... night buses are believed to stop nearby.