Chris Goreham: Details of my one-man expedition to Hull City’s KCOM Stadium
PUBLISHED: 15:00 13 March 2018
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When The Proclaimers took it upon themselves to declare that being prepared to walk 500 miles and then 500 more was the ultimate test of commitment they must have done so without ever having to experience The Humber Bridge under pressure.
The real drama had unfolded before Norwich City’s 4-3 defeat at the hands of Hull City on Saturday when the aftermath of a crash on the bridge left the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary in doubt. We were stuck in one of those long lines of traffic that all long distance travellers dread. You know it’s bad when cars around you stop their engines, this is usually swiftly followed by the drivers and passengers who smoke stretching their legs on the carriageway for a quick breath of fresh air and the panic really sets in when picnics and emergency rations begin appearing from open boots to feed restless children still strapped in their seats.
The recurring anxiety dream for football commentators is not being able to make the game.
Sitting in a car several miles from the ground at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon is our version of having to give a presentation while naked or being faced with an exam paper written in pure gibberish.
Thankfully this hasn’t yet happened to me but it’s been close three times.
Long midweek trips to Burnley and Blackpool, disrupted by roadworks, saw Neil Adams and I arrive at grounds just in time for kick-off a few years ago and there was one journey to Coventry when snow threatened to throw us off course. Thankfully we have always just about made it.
This proud record seemed in doubt at 12:45 on Saturday with nothing moving on the bridge.
Inspired by lines of people, including several Norwich City supporters, leaving cars and coaches to walk the length of the bridge I decided to join them.
So I grabbed our broadcast equipment from the boot, left my colleague Rob Butler in charge of the car and, crucially, the travel sweets and set off on a march.
It’s the closest I will ever come to feeling like a proper explorer. Rob and I had no idea when we would next see each other. We may even have hugged, I can’t remember. All I knew was that The KCOM stadium was 5.6 miles away, according to our Satnav.
A Norwich fan who later Tweeted and so I only know as @Samson71 helped me carry one of our cases until we reached the pub that was the Norwich fans’ chosen venue for a pre-match meal.
There’s no point building the tension about whether or not we made it to the match in time because many Norwich City fans will have listened to us on the radio worrying about the Canaries poor start to the match, enjoying James Maddison’s first career hat-trick and then bemoaning the inability of Daniel Farke’s side to hang on to a 3-1 lead.
So what happened in between the jam on the bridge and 2pm when we crashed onto the airwaves?
Well, in the film version of the story I crossed fields, got chased through some woods by a hungry wolf and commandeered a horse to heroically ride the last few miles to the ground, turning up battered, muddy and bruised. But this isn’t Hollywood as James Maddison discovered by hitting a hat-trick and finishing on the losing side.
The truth is that after I’d trekked about a mile the bridge re-opened so I waited in a lay-by and Rob just picked me up so we could drive to the ground together as planned.
It may not have a glamorous ending but the commitment was there and I’d like to think The Proclaimers would approve of that even if I did only walk half a mile and then half a mile more.
Man-flu can’t stop Madds
Travel issues aside, commentators are like Boy Scouts in that we like to be prepared for each match that we cover.
I spend a good couple of hours before every game doing my homework on the players from Norwich City and their opponents, trying to come up with little nuggets of information that might help the broadcast to skip along nicely.
There are some games where these notes are hardly ever used but they tend to be the most exciting ones.
Given the number of 0-0 draws we’ve endured in the name of the Canaries this season, I have been grateful to have them to fall back on in order to keep finding things to say.
The match at Hull was one of those occasions where something happened that I had not been at all prepared for.
James Maddison’s first half hat-trick was a bit of Norwich City history and not the sort of thing I had ever considered doing proper research in to.
At half-time I received an e-mail from one of our listeners, Alan Stannard, who clearly knows his onions when it comes to Norwich City.
He pointed out that Maddison had become the first ever player to score a hat-trick in the opening 45 minutes of an away league fixture for Norwich. It was the first time anyone had achieved the feat for the club at all since Ted MacDougall at Carrow Road against Everton in September 1975.
The fact these events only come round every 40 years explains why it isn’t the sort of statistic that occurs to me to keep on top of. Thank goodness for people like Alan Stannard being prepared to share such information.
The admiration for James Maddison has grown each week through the season and it reached new heights during our post-match interview on Saturday when it became clear he’d scored three times despite suffering from a sore throat that had the club sufficiently worried to keep him away from the rest of the squad in the build-up to the Hull game.
Most of us would have been curled up with a Lemsip and some dreadful daytime TV in that condition but man flu can be added to the growing list of things that can’t stop James Maddison.