By Pete Fincham
It's ten years since Norwich's incredible run in Europe, and to celebrate the anniversary of their memorable UEFA Cup run Norwich are putting on a dinner featuring a host of ex-Canary stars and Kevin Piper of Anglia Television. The evening will no doubt be one long trawl through the personal archives of Norwich City's former players and fans, on what will inevitably be an evening of considerable nostalgic merriment.
It's actually twenty years since our own sojourn into Europe, and despite my own interest in club marketing evenings being fairly minimal, I'm confident that I and some other of my Watford supporting mates would have parted with £40 for an evening with Messrs Jobson, Lohman and Richardson. In his own interests however, it would be unwise for Paul Franklin to sit on any table with Martin Owen. The thing is that with Paul Franklin, as far as mowen is concerned, there are few less deserving people when it comes to players worthy of playing for the club. Forget about the fact that he played in Europe, had featured over several seasons in Watford's only elongated spell in the top flight and has gone onto maintain a career in football over three different decades. Because mowen - who incidentally has scored at the Vic - thinks he was simply terrible; the worst!
Well-managed club functions are normally worthwhile events, as there is often a decent amount of money raised, players can meet the fans (!) and try and justify throwing water over them at reserve games, while you can often leave the events with the feeling that the manager really listened to your opinion on that 4-1-2-1-2 formation. But having consumed a considerable amount of red wine at the last such function I attended, mowen took it upon himself to talk Ray Lewington through the deficiencies of his least favourite player, someone who at the time was safely embedded in the first team. It took only a few weeks for the player to be relegated to the stiffs, and to date the player has yet to regain his first team place on a regular basis.
Now it is not as though Paul Franklin's career is going to be affected by what mowen has to say, as it is safe to say that his playing days have long since finished. But I have yet to hear of another occasion where a drunken fan has so eloquently put his case for the removal of a player from a team, and it has happened. Thus I fear for the day that Paul Franklin and mowen meet, or more to the point, the day when mowen meets Paul Franklin's current employer. Despite being a former employee of Norwich, Franklin was not part of the Norwich European tour, and as such is unlikely to be at the dinner. mowen is also unlikely to attend.
Question 1. Where is Paul Franklin now? He has been spotted at Wycombe, Norwich and Leicester, but I have lost track of him recently. (found him! - sleuth ed)
It seems that it is business as usual at Carrow Road this season, with the only change being the building of a new stand in place of the ramshackle health-and-safety-challenging pre-war issue the away fans were used to. The Canaries have got off to a cracking start to the season, with a 100% home record to boast after eight games, and were it not for their poor away form they could and should have been promoted back to the Premier League in each of the previous two years. With the exception of the Gary Porter-inspired victory of April 1996, East Anglia has not been a happy hunting ground in the last decade, culminating in the noisy capitulation there last season, and the booing by away supporters of Foley as he was sent off. With only 270 away fans likely to be inside Carrow Road, it will be a job to create any atmosphere whatsoever, so fortunately such scenes are likely to be recreated in any event.
Question 2. Have we ever been allocated a smaller amount of tickets for a competitive match? We have taken a lot less than 270, including 110 to Sunderland for GNW's debut, 224 to Burnley last season (gutted?!) and visits to Preston and Barnsley have seen away followings of between a hundred and two hundred. But what about actual allocated seating?
Having dispatched Burnley, Palace, Derby, Reading, Rotherham, Sunderland, Wimblestein and most recently Millwall at home, this will be a tricky game for the Hornets, who were excellent for the last twenty-five minutes at Forest.
In goal, Robert Green has been the keeper of choice this year, despite being one of only a handful of keepers to concede a goal to former Hornet Darren Ward. It is unlikely he will lose his place to Paul Crichton, the thirty-five year old journeyman at his fourteenth club. Crichton has made just five and a half appearances in two and a half years, and is fairly certain to be designated bench warmer on this occasion
Gary Holt is a midfielder who is ever present, but has been filling in at right back in the absence of Marc Edworthy. Edworthy was to have returned against Millwall last weekend but failed a late fitness test - he would be expected to return to the side this weekend. Adam Drury at left back spent six years at Peterborough, and has seen his reputation grow considerably since the move two years ago, making over a hundred appearances. He was last season's player of the year.
Malky Mackay arrived in Norfolk five years ago, signing from Celtic after a bizarre loan spell of three days and one substitute appearance. Described as a towering centre half, he is one of the few "talented" Scotsmen not to have been given an International cap by Berti Vogts. Alongside Mackay in defence should be Craig Fleming, who has celebrated over five hundred first team games with Halifax, Oldham and City. Having been at the club for six years, he is the longest serving player, indicating that whatever the fans think, the days of players doing a 'Nigel Gibbs' are long gone. Keith Briggs, signed from Stockport last summer, is also in contention for a defensive spot but having yet to establish himself following his summer move, he looks likely to be on the bench once again.
Phillip Mulryne is able to boast that he is a Northern Irish International, although quite who he would boast to is of some mystery. He has recently been filling in for Gary Holt in midfield while the versatile Holt does a Gavin Mahon and plays where required. Damien Francis is just one yellow from a suspension, but has made a positive impact after his summer move from Wimblestein. Featuring as another ever present, Francis has a goal scoring record, scoring three goals from midfield this year in addition to his fifteen in a hundred appearances for the team formerly based in London. Not reaching the predicted heights though is Mark Rivers, who has been in and out of the side this season and was an unused sub in last weekend's win. Signed from Crewe over two years ago - incidentally making his debut in our catastrophic 3-1 defeat at Carrow Road back in 2001 - Rivers has still scored four goals this season. But with only seven in his previous two seasons, the £500,000 price tag looks to have weighed heavy around his neck.
Former Watford "favourite" Clint Easton is still on the fringes of the first team picture, notching two goals this season, while Kevin Harper serves the second of a three-game ban for a dismissal against Derby, and so misses out against the team who wanted him earlier in the season.
With Peter Crouch also suspended for his sending off against Walsall, the striking roles are likely to be contested by five forwards of varying quality. Ian Henderson is only eighteen, and looks about twelve. But with four goals in five starts, including two against Millwall last weekend, the local lad is definitely not to be underrated and is hotly tipped as one of the bright lights for the future. Paul McVeigh is another Northern Irish international trying to keep his International caps quiet, and did more in terms of goal scoring last weekend than his country has managed since early 2002. The former Spurs trainee has often been used on the left flank, but is yet to score as regularly as he is perhaps expected to do.
Darren Huckerby is no stranger to the Hornets defence, having equalised for Forest last season during his loan spell in the Midlands. With three goals from ten starts, he is still on the books of Manchester City, despite not featuring in their first team for what seems to be a small epoch. Despite becoming embroiled in controversy last week, when his agent suggested that Norwich were not a big enough club for his client to be at on a full time basis, Huckerby seems to have put that to rest with a placatory statement of clarification on the club site; though if he really was that upset by his agent's comments, surely the statement would have concluded that he had parted company with said agent!
Iwan Roberts is another ex-Hornet on the fringes of the Norwich first team, as at thirty-five time seems to be finally catching up with him. Having scored in three of our last four visits there, he will inevitably poach one if he gets a run out as it always appears to be his mission to score against the club who released him as a promising twenty-two year old.
Slightly younger, aged only seventeen, is Ryan Jarvis who has a couple of starts to his name already, but is yet to score a goal. An England Under 17 international, he is the youngest player to appear for Norwich and described as a "precocious talent" which generally means he needs to be taken out early by the defender before the talent starts taking the piss out of the old boy in defence.
I'm sure all Watford fans will be wishing Zema Abbey well as he recovers from his damaged cruciates in his knee. Such a tremendous sportsman, both he and his brother would always be welcome at the Vic and it is really such a shame that, along with that other great character Lee Marshall, we won't get a chance to cheer him on at the weekend.
A relatively short trip, and a very tough game. Perhaps our toughest away challenge of the season before a difficult month which sees West Ham, Reading, Forest and Sheffield United all try and plunge the knife in a bit further. Saturday was encouraging, and was the first occasion away from home since 28th September 2002 that we had been behind and gone onto get something from the game. It will take a similar sort of gritty determination to get anything from Norwich, but with the players having just taken a twelve percent pay cut before that Sheffield United game, a result in South Yorkshire was equally unexpected. There's always hope, but we will do well to turn hope into something that will push us up the league.