City in pre-season - diplomacy, burgers and pub teams
- Credit: Archant library
Pub teams, dubious half-time entertainment and international diplomacy - the stuff pre-season tours are made of... CHRIS LAKEY reports
Norwich City’s pre-season touring schedule came to an abrupt end this summer because of the Covid pandemic.
In recent years Germany has been the preferred venue of choice for City, but to date it’s been a trip along the A47 to King’s Lynn Town plus a couple of matches behind closed doors at the Lotus Training Centre at Colney which have filled the schedule.
We take a look at some previous summers – and some of the experiences....
City headed to south-east Asia, and Malaysia, home of their then sponsors, Proton.
A trip around the car manufacturers’ factory in Kuala Lumpur was part of the obligatory commercial engagements for Nigel Worthington and his players.
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And for Worthington himself, there were inevitable questions from local journalists about possibly seeing one of their own playing English football. Diplomacy is key here – and Worthy carried it off well.
“I will be watching the Malaysian players in action during the two friendly matches against Selangor MPPJ and the Malaysian national team,” he said. “If any of the Malaysian players are outstanding then we will have them in for selection. They have to work hard just like any other player if they want to play for the club. There will not be any boardroom dealings to get players in.”
Who can forget the Italy tour, when City found themselves up against what can best be described as a pub team – a friendly that necessitated some sharp PR and an apology or two.
The first fixture had been cancelled, and less than 24 hours later, City’s next game went the same way when opponents Novara pulled out.
Somehow opponents were found for a game with local Serie D side SC Vallée d’Aoste stepping in. City won 13-0, but their opponents were not SC Vallée d’Aoste.
The Italian club denied any involvement in the game – who wants a 13-0 thumping on their record? - and even issued a statement: “The [club] denies the news, reported on some sites and football news, (of us) having played a friendly match against Norwich (at their) training camp in Saint-Vincent, Sunday, July 20th.”
The team City played were just some local amateurs who appear to have grabbed the opportunity to play with both hands. So who did Norwich actually playing against? Well, City’s website had it billed as an Aosta regional select side – and that’s how it stayed.
Scotland was an obvious choice for then Canaries boss Bryan Gunn. St Andrews was the base... the golf/university city suddenly taking on a distinct yellow and green hue for a week. They raised a few eyebrows of those whose sport comes with clubs and tartan trousers.
One game, against St Johnstone, was due to take place on university grounds – just a pitch, no stands or seating. But City fans don’t need an invitation to watch their team, and well before kick-off, a big crowd had formed. Ropes were quickly found and the invading hordes kept at a safe distance pitchside - with a few huffs and puffs from local residents who'd lost their valuable roadside parking spaces. City won the game 1-0. They won all six pre-season games. Then lost the opening game of the season 7-1 at home to Colchester.
Half-time entertainment took on a whole new meaning in the picturesque Swedish village of Ahlafors. How to describe it is perhaps best left to BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham from a column at the time...
“My limited knowledge of the Swedish language means I'm a little unclear on the details, but a man in about his mid-20's who I presume was plucked from the crowd had to run from the centre spot to the edge of the penalty area and stick six balls into the net past a cardboard goalkeeper.
“So far, so tame, but after each kick our new friend had to run back out to about 25 yards from goal and run round a cone before taking his next shot all set to the tune of the 'Yakkety Sax' tune made famous by Benny Hill. That though is just the hors d'ouevre in this interval treat.
“This supporter's next task was to sprint out to where the half-way line meets the touchline and demolish a burger and a drink provided by a well known fast food chain (Yes, they're out here in full effect as well…) while being shown in close-up on the ground's big screen. All this is being timed and just to make sure he left with at least mild indigestion, our willing volunteer then had to charge across the width of the pitch, climb into the front seat of a Volvo and sound the horn in order to stop the clock.
“Those of us more used to the polite surroundings of Carrow Road watched all this in amazement, churning over the idea of how that could be adapted for a Norfolk audience. Not churning quite as much, I concede, as a certain Gothenburg resident's stomach.”