Chris Lakey: Some people have all the luck when it comes to sport
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There are few things better for a sports fan than to go to a new venue.
There is great excitement, obviously, watching your team or an individual sports person perform,
But to see them do it at a place you have never clapped on before does rather add to the excitement.
I remember my first trip to York Hall, the home of British boxing, to see Liam Walsh fight Paul Appleby back in September, 2011.
I will never forget the night (one reason being a rather unpleasant confrontation with a stranger on the local tube station platform, but that’s not a story for this page). It was boiling hot and the boxers lived up to their part of the bargain with a brilliant blood and guts fight. It was fight of the year, magnificent stuff, enhanced considerably by the venue: the yellow and green banners hanging off the balcony, the corridor leading down to the dressing room, the sweeping steps leading to the main entrance. Wonderful, atmospheric stuff.
I’ve seen sport in weird and wonderful places: international club competitions in near empty stadiums in Bangkok, Korean League football where fans were a riot of colour and excitement, six-a-side cricket and Sevens rugby in Hong Kong where the beers flowed as fast as the game. On the other hand, I’ve also been to Carlisle.
The good thing is that the venue doesn’t have to be spectacular: the excitement of sitting inside Wembley or Old Trafford, the Copper Box or the Manchester Arena is generated mostly by the sport within. You can see football matches that stink the place out, even in the most salubrious of surroundings, but I have watched classic sporting encounters at the Dog and Duck.
St Andrews Hall - now, sadly, called The Halls with its plastic signage - is fantastic for watching boxing, with its stone columns and awesome Gothic architecture. More recently Norwich shows have been held at the Holiday Inn hotel near the airport. Neither will feature in the top 20 boxing venues in the country, but they were more than suitable, and the boxing was first class.
In my job I am extremely fortunate to be able to go and watch sporting events as part of my employment... I’m not sure if those who pay for the privilege actually believe we work, but trust me, we do. And I never abuse that privilege.
On New Year’s day, while football fans headed around the country, I was one of those who headed for Needham Market, a lovely market town not far from you know where. King’s Lynn Town were playing there in a battle between two play-off hopefuls. I got there early, which was good - I was engaged in conversation with a local in the car park for a while, and then met the secretary’s dad, who was a brilliantly friendly man. Lynn were magnificent and at 4-1 up at half-time, the game was over early. Even their manager, Ian Culverhouse, admitted he was bored at times in the second half. I shared the press box – Needham have built one especially for people like me – with a good friend and work colleague from Lynn and all in all, it was pretty much a perfect way to start a sporting New Year.
A few players from each side knew each other and post-match was very convivial between players and fans of both teams.
Good sport, good people, good venue.
No malice. No tipping beers over opposing players. No spitting, no jeering no nastiness. No social media bullying and abuse. No threats. No problem.
We may have enjoyed 2018 on a sporting level but it is hard to forget that idiots still walk the streets.
Their targets are not each other, but the ‘superstars’, the national, media pundits who dare have an opinion which tiny heads containing under-developed brains cannot comprehend because it doesn’t fit in their small-minded world.
That racist abuse still exists today is hard to comprehend: unless you are one of the aforementioned pinheads.
Maybe I am just lucky with my choice of sports. Or maybe I just don’t go looking for the dark side.
So thanks to the boxers and the footballers and the speedway riders and anyone else who help make sports so much an enjoyable part of our lives.
Pink Un Magazine!
With a bit of luck, Nelson Oliveira will leave Norwich City by the end of the month.
Oliveira is surely top of the list when it comes to Norwich City’s least wanted this January (and possibly beyond).
The striker hasn’t played a minute of first team football this season and is available for transfer, loan or bar mitvahs, as long as the price suits.
Oliveira is only 27 years old and should be in his prime – and at his best, he is a quality striker. Why it has gone so badly wrong for him at Norwich is mystery to many.
Anyway, Nelson appears in our latest Pink Un Magazine which looks at the top 20 City transfer signings, and their top 20 sales – and asks whether it was a good move or a bad move. I went for bad move on Nelson. He’s in good company.
Steve Downes takes a look at some of those players City have sold and asks a very pertinent question – how good were their replacements? It’s a fascinating piece and a reminder of how difficult it can be to replace quality.
The latest Pink Un Magazine is a cracker – our brilliant City writers, Paddy Davitt, Michael Bailey and David Freezer, give their views on everything yellow and green, while the aforementioned Mr Downes also has a very funny sideways look at all things Norwich and Ipswich (hint: Alan Partridge makes an appearance).
There is also a piece I did on King’s Lynn Town manager Ian Culverhouse where he speaks about his surprise exit at the end of last season – and his even more surprising return.
You can read all the articles and loads more on the Canaries – in the latest 124-page magazine, out now priced £3.99. To order online go to www.buyamag.co.uk