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Friday, December 21, 2012
It’s the time of year when those who imbibe the drink, rather than drink in the bible, often find it fun to sing Christmas carols at the top of their voices at the most ungodly of places.
You will hear anything that sounds remotely like a festive song bawled out along certain roads in the fine city and at football grounds for the next couple of weeks. Some suit the occasion some don’t, but, basically, anything rousing is acceptable.
If you are lucky enough to have a player called Noel in your team, you’re made because you can guarantee he will have been “born” in whatever ground you occupy ... “born is the ki-ing of Ca-a-rrow Road/Elland Road/London Road” etc etc. .
You might think Away In a Manger and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem aren’t good - but football fans can turn anything into a terrace song, even if Jungle Bells can be a bit rude at times.
When Darren Huckerby became a fixture at Carrow Road the 12 days of Christmas ended up with one verse – the eighth. You can go from 12 to six without realising it’s being sung, but when the chorus reaches day five, out comes “FIVE HUCK-ER-BYS”
It’s has become a song that is synonymous with this time of year and Norwich City: not just as a tribute to a player who actually deserves the description “legend”, but who conveniently made the biggest festive headlines when he (finally) signed for the club in 2003 since, er, that incident in a stable.
To me, Christmas carol time at Carrow Road is very much about Huckerby. It’s a reminder of a time when he was the only story around, despite the fact that City were going great guns in the old First Division and creating headlines in their own right.
The problem was that Huckerby’s arrival, along with that of Peter Crouch and, to a much lesser extent, Kevin Harper had done so much to inspire the great feats of that season that it was all laid at the great man’s. Such was the clamour to sign him that fans even offered – demanded actually – that a fund be set up to raise cash for his transfer fee.
The anticipation wasn’t helped by his agent, Mr Smith, who suggested Carrow Road wasn’t perhaps the most suitable place for his talents. Inquiries of the “will he won’t he?” nature were so prolific that I taped a notice to the side of my desk which read “I don’t know.”
Fortunately, Huckerby ignored his agent and went ahead and signed, unveiled on Boxing Day by a beaming Delia Smith – Nigel Worthington perhaps didn’t get as much praise as he should have done for that piece of business (Worthy was also responsible for persuading the likes of Dean Ashton, Robert Earnshaw and the great Dion Dublin to move to Norwich – as well as Andy Hughes).
Before we know it, Christmas will give way to the New Year sales and managers will be trying to find a player who will do for their club what Huckerby did for City. Correctly identifying the right type of player and character, who will do what is written on the box, is a fine art. Worthington had his share of duds, but so does every manager. Who thought we’d be eagerly awaiting the return to fitness of Michael Turner, given the dreadful start he made to his time here? Even Iwan Roberts took a season to bed in, but he joins Huckerby in legendary status.
Others come and just can’t do the stuff: Zema Abbey, Jason Jarrett, Chris Brown, several of Peter Grant’s goalkeeping choices, Julien Brellier, Omar Koroma, Goran Maric, Steven Smith. The list goes on. For all of those there is a Grant Holt, a Wes Hoolahan, a John Ruddy – although, and this may be my lack of a musical ear, I can’t fit any of them into a carol without resorting to the 12 Days of Christmas again.
When a football club entrusts its manager with cash there are absolutely no guarantees that he will sign a Huckerby and give us all reason to burst into song.