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A wing and a player – it’s excitement I want at footy

PUBLISHED: 16:36 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:37 17 August 2018

Onel Hernandez in action at Birmingham
 on the opening day Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Onel Hernandez in action at Birmingham on the opening day Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

The secret of getting bums on seats to fill a sports stadium is one all owners and promoters crave.

Turning back the clock - Darren Huckerby against Birmingham during the final game of the 2004-05 Premier League campaign Picture: ArchantTurning back the clock - Darren Huckerby against Birmingham during the final game of the 2004-05 Premier League campaign Picture: Archant

The ability to get those same bums off the seat is equally as difficult to master.

Some sports people have it, some haven’t; no matter how good you are at your sport, there is a difference between those who have ‘it’ and those who don’t. Those who entertain the fans, and those who merely satisfy.

Darren Huckerby had it: when Hucks had possession of the football, fans expected something to happen. Invariably it did, and if it didn’t, it wasn’t for wont of trying.

Huckerby had the ability to excite and entertain at the same time, which was the very point of the game of football when it first became an organised sport – to keep the working man happy. Huckerby wasn’t predictable, which was all part of the fun.

Today’s game has been so warped by money that there is a fear of the unknown: would Huckerby fit into the way Norwich City 2018 play? Would a manager want a more conservative type?

Football needs a James Milner or a Jordan Henderson, but equally, supporters need a Marcus Rashford, a Ryan Sessegnon. A Darren Huckerby.

Onel Hernandez is perhaps the nearest thing City have to Huckerby: he has pace, he loves to take on his man and beat him. He can cross, he can shoot ... and he probably can’t head the ball, but who cares?

Huckerby always looked to me like he wanted to challenge the resilience of his opponents, to test their mettle and see how far they dare go in the game of chance: Huckerby tested their willpower - which is probably why those who couldn’t cope with him left his legs black and blue.

Hopefully Hernandez won’t be shackled by Daniel farke. There are plenty who do the unheralded stuff: the Didier Deschamps water-carrying game that is vital, but not as eye-catching. Not many City fans would want to be without Alex Tettey, for example, but equally, while what he does is effective, it is predictable. It is what it is. When Tettey gets possession, bums will remain on seats – it’s when he puts the ball at the feet of Hernandez that things begin to move.

You can’t field an XI of Huckerby- or Hernandez-style players, we all now that. But it is terrific to watch the one you do have allowed free rein. When that happens, you have a player who can effect games – Hernandez has clearly had a huge effect on City’s start to the season. That they haven’t won in two Championship outings is not down to him: that they have scored in those games is. He scored both against Birmingham on the opening day, was involved in all three in the 4-3 home defeat to West Brom a week ago and also won the penalty which Jordan Rhodes wasted.

That is not a bad start to the season.

City don’t have too many issues with attendances at Carrow Road, but the presence of a player with a magic touch will go a long way to creating a better atmosphere, where fans don’t need to be prodded into action by song sheets, but will do it naturally, by having their excitement levels raised by what they are witnessing in front of them. That atmosphere has launched a thousand victories; it lifts players, it deflates opponents, it leads to great things.

Amazing how bums are so important to sport.

Common sense

I can’t say I was hugely surprised to see King’s Lynn Town lose at Kettering in midweek.

More surprising was the home loss to Biggleswade a week ago, but club owner Stephen Cleeve is right to insist it is no time to panic.

Time. That is the issue here.

Lynn have a new management team, with Simon Clark replacing Ian Culverhouse – a man Cleeve appointed, to the surprise of many on the non league scene. Clark and Cop cannot be expected to get it right from the start. Glitches will happen. New players, new style of play for all, new ideas, new methods, and, for the manager, a new set of fans to win over.

His team are a target, after last season’s exploits when they were bettered only by the Phoenix club Hereford and then lost to Slough Town in the ridiculous play-offs system (no sour grapes, I’ll be more than happy to explain why the play-off system is utterly ludicrous anytime you like). Kettering lost in the play-offs, having lost at The Walks just before the season came to an end. They are local rivals, on their home turf, and Lynn were a little more vulnerable, given the aforementioned changes.

However, the fans who enjoyed much of last season are quite rightly stirring ... Alex Street made a gaffe against Biggleswade and received some unnecessary stick for it. Street was superb last season – don’t judge him on one error.

So, back to Mr Cleeve, who tweeted: “King’s Lynn fans – please don’t panic. I have been to Kettering with three different managers and lost three times. First game we did not take our chances.

“We have the players to turn it around and need everyone behind us. Just two games in – I know how you are feeling I feel it to.

“When we come out of this patch we shall be all the stronger for it.

“I remember years ago Chelsea in old Division Two went through worse but fans actually got stronger, and when it turned, as it will with us, it meant so much more. Stay on the journey – I am doing all that I can.”

Good to see the chairman up front – he is a visible presence at The Walks. No hiding.

Lynn will turn it around, no sweat.

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